Review of the Rolex Rippers manhunt – these heartless thieves who target watches show no signs of regret.
Although Instagram and TikTok showcase materialistic wealth, and reality TV and gossip magazines fascinate viewers with images of the elite carrying expensive designer bags, the significance of these possessions lies in their symbolic status rather than their actual value. While we all desire the ability to purchase necessary items and indulge in occasional luxuries, taking a moment to reflect on the extravagant possessions of the ultra-rich reveals that they are ultimately empty and meaningless. As Hollywood producer Judd Apatow once confessed after achieving immense wealth: “There is nothing worth buying.”
The BBC’s documentary, Hunting the Rolex Rippers, does not thoroughly explore these concepts. With a duration of 30 minutes, viewers are left questioning the reasoning behind individuals who splurge on expensive watches and uncertain of the target audience for the show. The program follows journalist Tir Dhondy as she interviews young men and teenagers who steal luxury watches from wealthy individuals (only if they are valued at over £10,000). Dhondy also delves into the industry surrounding these stolen watches, where competing gangs and profit-hungry resellers take advantage of vulnerable teens for quick profits.
In a society where cash is becoming less common and many vehicles have advanced tracking systems, stealing watches has become a common way to make a fast and forceful profit. The show does not hide the violence involved in these robberies, but it’s difficult to understand the value of the stolen items. One can’t help but question if the £1.8m watch mentioned by a police officer was anything more than a display of excessive wealth for someone who had exhausted all other meaningful purchases.
The individuals who stole the Rolex watches do not view themselves as valiant Robin Hood figures. When Dhondy inquires, “Would you steal from a grandmother?”, they respond with a mercenary and nihilistic mindset, stating, “There are no rules in this game.” However, they do harbor a genuine contempt towards the owners of the watches. One teenager shakes their head and remarks, “Someone has the equivalent of a house deposit on their wrist. It’s insane.” Another takes a more aggressive “eat-the-rich” stance, saying, “I have bills to pay. These people have more money than they know what to do with.” Dhondy does not approach the conversation with political motives or her own viewpoint. Nonetheless, she skillfully guides her subjects to open up to her through a Louis Theroux-like method of questioning that allows them to feel at ease confessing their wrongdoings (although their identities are concealed and voices distorted).
Time is something that money cannot purchase, and it is unfortunately the one thing that is lacking in this program. In just thirty minutes, it is difficult to include enough meaningful information. There are a few intriguing pieces of information that quickly appear on the screen, such as the fact that one out of every ten convicted thieves of watches is a teenager. Dhondy and her team show impressive dedication as they put themselves in harm’s way to uncover this story. They even meet with anonymous sources who reach out to them on Instagram, and continue their pursuit despite being heavily armed and facing potential violence. However, when the credits roll, it feels as though we have only scratched the surface.
It is somewhat ironic that individuals who steal these watches often become so fixated on them that they begin to wear them, putting themselves at risk of being stolen from. While Dhondy’s abilities are impressive, she only has the opportunity for a brief investigation, and most viewers likely do not need to take heed of its warnings and exercise more discretion when wearing their expensive items in public. However, “Hunting the Rolex Rippers” may enlighten the wealthy minority who are unaware that they too are targets when wearing a Swiss watch. Perhaps it will encourage them to question if they truly value the craftsmanship of a limited edition luxury item, or if there are other purchases they could make instead, particularly in a time when some individuals struggle to pay their bills.
The BBC Three documentary, “Hunting the Rolex Rippers,” can be streamed on iPlayer.