Battles Over Expensive Swiss Watches Becoming a Trend in Divorce Cases

Swiss Watch Easy to Hide

In many divorces, the question of who receives ownership of the family home is the toughest part of dividing marital property. Disputes over cars, investments, retirement benefits and business shares are also common. However, some high net worth couples devote the same sort of effort to battles over expensive watches.

Fine timepieces made by Swiss manufacturers such as Rolex and Patek Philippe can carry a similar cost as a luxury car. Rare collectible watches might be even more expensive, and many enthusiasts own more than one. Moreover, owners of exceptional watches often have an emotional attachment to them that goes beyond their appraised value. While an angry spouse headed toward divorce cannot easily abscond with a house or multiple cars, it is not so hard to go into a drawer and walk off with numerous costly timepieces.

That’s exactly what happened in a New York divorce, according to the husband’s attorney. He alleges that the wife took several watches from the family safe and moved them to a vault under her control prior to filing divorce papers. She still has them as the marriage dissolution process has dragged on for three years. An appraisal from a watch expert estimated that the timepieces have a total value of about $600,000.

One particular watch in the collection presents a particularly contentious asset division issue. One of the watches the husband claims to have been “kidnapped” is a diamond Patek Phillipe Nautilus, with a six-figure value. He says the watch was given to him individually by a head of state, so it should not be part of the divisible marital property.

Whether the timepiece in question is made by Cartier, Parmigiani Fleurier, Panerai or someone else, these disputes are becoming increasingly common as more women have become luxury watch enthusiasts. Even rock stars aren’t immune to watch wars. The divorce settlement of Roger Waters nearly fell apart because his soon-to-be ex-wife demanded the return of her $35,000 Rolex.

If you own an expensive watch or jewelry that might be at issue during a divorce, there are proactive steps you can take to protect yourself in case your marriage ends. It is wise to have high-value items appraised on an occasional basis. You might also want to keep detailed records regarding the provenance of specific assets so that you can support a claim that a particular asset should be classified as separate property. A prenuptial or postnuptial agreement could also address these issues.

At Bryan L. Salamone & Associates, P.C., we have extensive experience handling high net worth divorces throughout Long Island and provide sound advice on New York property division law. To schedule a consultation, please call 1.631.479.3839 or contact us online.

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