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Beverly Hills jeweler offers reward after losing $500,000 watch in stickup

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Jeweler Shay Belhassen had just shown a client some watches at his new Beverly Hills showroom and sat down at the posh Il Pastaio restaurant across the street Thursday when he locked eyes with three guys in hoodies coming his way.

“One of them ran and pulled a gun from his jacket pocket, grabbed me from the back of my chair, choking me and putting a gun to my head,” Belhassen said in an interview with The Times on Friday morning. “His two friends — one of them is yanking my hand and the other his yanking at my watch.”

Belhassen said instinct kicked in from there.

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“I grabbed the gun with both my hands and fought them to the ground,” he said. “At the end of the fight I ended up with the gun, and they ran away.”

The gun went off in the scuffle, the bullet grazing a woman dining at the restaurant. A second person suffered a minor injury and some planters were smashed. Police swarmed the area, taping it off as witnesses and onlookers gawked.

Belhassen said he was left bruised — and angry. Gone was his rare, high-end watch: a rose gold Richard Mille RM 11-03 Flyback Chronograph, a watch popular with celebrities and a piece Belhassen estimated is worth $500,000.

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Insurers may come up with their own figure, he said.

Belhassen said part of his anger was based on the fact that similar crimes have been happening in the area repeatedly in recent weeks — few of which have gotten as much attention as his situation — and he doesn’t believe police are doing enough about it.

Los Angeles police have noted a trend of robberies targeting high-end watches in the nearby Wilshire area — part of a broader uptick in robberies, more of which are ending in gunfire.

Belhassen said he is now offering a $50,000 reward for the return of the watch. He doubts it will hit the market quickly, in part because his robbery in the heart of Beverly Hills caught so much attention.

“It’s a very rare watch, so whoever is going to be offered it is going to know they are being offered stolen stuff,” he said.

Tennis star Rafael Nadal had a Richard Mille watch stolen from him during a tournament a few years ago.

Beverly Hills police have said they believe the robbers who took Belhassen’s watch targeted him for the timepiece. Their investigation is ongoing.

Times staff writer Richard Winton contributed to this report.

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