On Monday, at 3 a.m., a Rolex store in downtown Manhattan was ransacked. The glass windows were smashed in, a vitrine built to elegantly display the world’s finest watches was shattered, and $2.4 million of merchandise was reportedly stolen. Two suspects were detained with stolen merchandise. In the process of making an arrest, a male officer fell through a glass door and tumbled down the stairs. A police officer shared his harrowing description of the aftermath: “The Rolex store is empty. They stole like $2.4 million in Rolexes.”
Or so went the version of events reported in The New York Post on Monday night.
Except, for starters, there is no “Rolex store” on Greene Street, as the Post wrote. The store in question is the New York branch of Watches of Switzerland—an authorized Rolex dealer, but by no stretch of the imagination a Rolex store. On top of that, store representatives deny that anything at all was stolen, and report that the damage was instead very minimal. The discrepancy between the story and the denial is the subject of a tweet shared almost 90,000 times. The Post did not respond to a request for comment.
The idea that even during normal circumstances $2.4 million worth of Rolex watches could have been stolen so easily from the Watches of Switzerland store is preposterous. Before the coronavirus-related shutdown, Watches of Switzerland would remove watches from the floor and store them in a safe every night. And because the store hasn’t been open during the pandemic, there wasn’t even any merchandise in the store to begin with. Watch obsessives also laughed at the idea that Rolex, a brand with limited hard-to-find and buy watches, would have $2.4 million worth of merchandise just laying around.
In an email, David Hurley, Watches of Switzerland Group’s executive vice president, came out strongly against the story and the way it’s being used. “It’s unfortunate that at a time like this, certain media outlets have been perpetuating a false narrative regarding the incident that occurred at our Watches of Switzerland Soho boutique during the early hours of Monday, June 1st,” he wrote. “First, it’s important to note that while Rolex is a brand partner of ours, this is not a Rolex boutique. Second, the damage to the store was minimal and consisted of a few broken windows and smashed vitrines. Most importantly, and let me be very clear about this, no product was on display and absolutely no watches were stolen.”
Even the Post’s recounting of two people arrested and charged for burglarizing “in the fracas,” leaves out important details. Like the inconvenient fact that neither of the men arrested…stole anything from the store. “[One suspect] was found to be in possession of clothing believed to have been removed from other locations and [the other] was not in possession of any stolen merchandise at the time of the arrest,” a representative with the NYPD told GQ. The NYPD rep did not know where the $2.4 million figure came from, adding, “there’s a lot of misinformation in that [Post] article itself.”
(The representative also noted that the department didn’t have any record of the store or its manager filing a complaint report yet. The fact that a complaint hasn’t come in yet is not typical, according to the representative—but they added the information could be delayed “because there are so many locations that are being hit.”)
A story blaring the loss of such a gaudy amount of merchandise seems to be of a piece with other questionable information peddled to paint recent protesters in a negative light. Fox News reported on looting and rioting that left a “trail of destruction across American cities.” NYPD commissioner Dermot Shea told the outlet, when “it turned dark, it turned ugly and it turned that way fast.” Shea also tweeted an image of conspicuously pristine boxes of bricks on street corners in New York, and accused “organized looters” for strategically placing them there. (Both Fox News and the New York Post are owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.) Meghan McCain shared on Twitter that her neighborhood was “eviscerated and looks like a warzone,” later adding that she had not been in the neighborhood to witness the scene herself.
Is it possible that a police officer looking over an empty Watches of Switzerland, its windows smashed in, might believe its inventory was wiped out? Entirely possible. But without a formal complaint from the store, it’s unclear where that $2.4 million figure came from. In the end, even after the so-called “fracas” and “trail of destruction,” it’s worth noting that, despite panic-inducing reports about looting across Manhattan, things aren’t looking so grim on Greene Street: the Watches of Switzerland store was fully restored in a day and a half.