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The engraving in the gold watch.

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The presidential pocket watch was in an original presentation box and had been given by the then US president Woodrow Wilson to the master of the British steamship The Nubian for rescuing American seaman from the schooner Julia A Trubee. The owner of the watch said a “reward will be paid to anyone giving information leading to the recovery of this watch”.

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The inside of the stolen gold pocket watch.

In a statement the Metropolitan Police said: “At approximately 12:30pm on Saturday, December 12 a man entered the store in Pierrepont Arcade claiming he wanted to buy a vase.

“His payment was declined and the shop worker returned the vase. While this was happening it is believed the man opened a display cabinet and stole this 14 carat gold pocket watch.”

The approximate value of the watch is between £17,000 and £20,000.

PC Joshua Brown, from Central North Basic Command Unit, said: "The owners of this watch are very distressed. I would urge the person who stole it to return it as soon as possible.”

Anyone with information on this theft should call 101 quoting the Metropolitan Police crime reference number 2727707/20 or CAD 1857/15Dec or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.