Watch theft isn't exactly as rampant as it used to be, but if you're worried that someone might steal yours magician Alex Stone shows off exactly how he does it (and thieves as well) over on the Wall Street Journal.
Photo remixed from Jon Rawlinson.
As it turns out, the simplest watches to steal are the ones with buckles. The process itself is pretty complicated and requires the thief to essentially flick the buckle off, then the prong, and finally the watch itself in one fluid motion without you ever noticing. Ross also adds this note:
In magic as well as in pickpocketing, it helps to move in quick back-and-forth spurts when you want to shake off a person's focus. If, however, you want him to follow your hand, it's better to move along a smooth, curved trajectory.
Watch and wallet theft is all about distraction. The lesson is that if you're in a place where you're worried pickpockets and thieves might be stealing your stuff, then it's important to not get distracted by anyone. When your attention focuses to something like the shaking of hands, a bump of a stranger, or someone saying your name you might miss physical contact then lose your watch. Head over to the Wall Street Journal for a pictorial breakdown of how it happens.
Stealing a Watch, Made Easy [Wall Street Journal]