One of the world’s rarest watches will go on sale this weekend – but auctioneers have forbidden buyers from seeing the item in person before purchasing.
The anonymous vendor agreed to sell his limited-edition Richard Mille watch, valued at between £300,000 and £500,000, to refurbish his new multi-million pound house.
Only nine of the watches were ever made by the luxury Swiss brand
Only nine watches of the Richard Mille RM 030 Carbon Kronometry AN CA 1999 were manufactured by the luxury Swiss brand.
However, the seller is so afraid of "shotgun-toting gangsters" stealing the timepiece from Rowley’s Auctioneers, in Cambridgeshire, that he has refused to hand it over until after the sale.
Bidders will instead have to rely on photographs presented at the auction on Saturday.
The successful buyer will then meet the vendor at a Richard Mille branch in Bond Street, London.
Once the watch is officially verified by experts at the shop, the buyer will send a "pre-agreed codeword" over the phone to Rowley’s to approve the transfer of funds.
Roddy Lloyd, managing director for Rowley’s, said the cloak-and-dagger approach of the sale was highly unusual, but the only way to make the sale happen.
He said: "It’s very uncommon. It has never happened before, not with us anyway.
"It is such a vulnerable item, because it’s small.
The range of watches is popular with celebrities
"If it was a massive painting, it would be difficult to sell and easy to identify. But a small watch, limited edition, would be easy to sell on the black market and very easy to put in your pocket and disappear with.
"The seller was adamant that it was a security risk and that it might not only be stolen, but that somebody might turn up here and try to burgle or threaten us."
The seller is believed to be a "rather scruffy-looking" British man aged in his late 20s.
Mr Lloyd said the range of watches is popular with "Premier League footballers and singers".
He added: "The sale will also include plenty of other antiques and collectables but it’s fair to say that, unusually, the most expensive item will be in absentia."
Drake, the Canadian rapper, bought a diamond-encrusted Richard Mille watch for £4 million on his 35th birthday last month.