Russian secret service agents seized millions of dollars of Swiss luxury watches from Audemars Piguet in apparent retaliation against sanctions

Diamond encrusted Audemars Piguet watches.

Russian secret service agents confiscated millions of dollars worth of luxury watches from Audemars Piguet last week.Leon Neal / Getty Images

  • Russia seized millions of dollars worth of Audemars Piguet watches in Moscow last week, per NZZ am Sonntag.

  • The move appeared to be in retaliation against Switzerland’s sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

  • Switzerland departed from its historically neutral status to sanction Russia over the Ukraine war.

Russian secret service agents confiscated millions of dollars of luxury watches from a Swiss watchmaker in apparent retaliation against Switzerland’s sanctions over the Ukraine war, Switzerland’s NZZ am Sonntag newspaper reported on Sunday.

The watches were confiscated from a local subsidiary of Audemars Piguet in Moscow earlier this month, according to the newspaper. Audemars Piguet is a nearly 150-year-old, family-owned watchmaker. The brand’s luxury watches typically have an entry cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Russian authorities cited customs offenses for the seizure of the watches, but Switzerland’s foreign ministry said in a confidential memo it was most likely “an arbitrary repressive measure in reaction to the sanctions,” per NZZ am Sonntag.

On February 28, Switzerland departed from its historically neutral status to sanction Russia over its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. The restrictions include a ban on the export of luxury goods to Russia.

Russia was the 17th-largest market for Swiss watch exports in 2021, accounting for 260.1 million francs ($ 278.6 million) worth of shipments, according to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry.

Audemars Piguet and Switzerland’s Department of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment sent outside regular business hours. A spokesperson for Switzerland’s foreign affairs department told Bloomberg the country’s embassy in Moscow “is currently maintaining a very intensive exchange” with Swiss companies in Russia.

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