Russian agents have seized Audemars Piguet watches worth millions of dollars from a local subsidiary in the city of Moscow. Swiss sanctions against Russia early this month are strongly believed to be the reason for the move.
The banned watches represented the Audemars Piguet watchmaker's Russian businesses. In February, the Swiss watchmakers announced they were closing their two Moscow stores and suspending operations in the country.
The only reason for the move, according to Russian authorities, was "customs offenses." However, despite this formal announcement, Switzerland's foreign ministry authorities feel it was "most likely an arbitrary repressive measure in response to the sanctions."
Early this month, Switzerland broke its neutrality and imposed sanctions banning the export of luxury goods to Russia. They claimed that the ban on Russia was in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This explains why the Swiss officials believe the confiscation of the watches was a countermove.
Audemars Piguet is one of the three largest independent Swiss watch brands, alongside Rolex and Patek Philippe. According to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, Russia bought around $280 million in Swiss watches last year. The country is also the 17th largest export market for Swiss watches globally.