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The George Bush Watch Snatch

By: Chris Welsh - Updated: 28 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
Watch Steal Magic Trick Watch Trick

This trick is an imitation of the stunt reportedly performed on President George Bush while on a recent trip to Albania. The president was visiting a small farming village, around 30 km from the country's capital Tirana on 10th June 2007, when it is claimed that his watch was stolen whilst shaking hands with enthusiastic locals.

In what is now being called the "George Bush Watch Snatch", we recreate the trick performed on the President.

A move that borders on the mystical, the magician removes the target's watch completely unawares and undetected.

The Effect

One of the hardest kinds of slight of hand moves, the Watch Snatch is considered a pinnacle of the craft. The magician approaches the target and engages them in conversation, typically something that requires a bit of thought on the part of the volunteer. The magician's hands are here, there and everywhere, moving the target around the stage as he talks, keeping both the volunteer and the audience engaged in the proceedings. Suddenly the magician holds up a shiny strip of metal that looks familiar and says, "Is this yours?" The target suddenly checks his wrist and then looks back up, stunned and admits that, yes, that is his watch.

The Secret

The secret to the Watch Snatch is a combination of direct manipulation of the target's arm and watch and the ability to misdirect like a pro.


No special materials are needed; however this trick won't work with a watch that has a slip on band. Only watches that are placed over the wrist and then fastened can be stolen with a good chance of success.


If you thought you needed a lot of practice for other moves, be prepared to work much harder and much longer on the Watch Snatch. A delicate touch isn't required, but a deft one is and it is the combination of being obvious and making the audience oblivious that makes this work.


Should you master the Watch Snatch you will rocket up the scale of perceived skill in the eyes of your audience. Stories are told of men and women who can pull this move off successfully. There are two elements to performing the Watch Snatch; the Move and the Misdirection.

The Move

  • With the right hand the magician covers the watch on the left wrist of the target. The watch face is covered by the palm of the magician. The magician's hand must be able to circle the wrist of the target or at least far enough for the fingers and thumb to reach the buckle of the watch. The magician will hold the wrist twice at two different times and two different angles.

  • The magician's hand holds the target's wrist firmly but without pressing hard. The first grip has the first finger and thumb meeting at the side of the target's wrist, so that the first finger lays along the end of the watch strap. The finger presses and pulls back, pulling the strap through the restraining loop.

  • Once free of the loop the strap needs to be pulled back to be freed from the pin. The strap needs to fold over itself to accomplish this (a little experimentation will make this clear) and here is where the second grip comes in. In order to pull the strap back on itself to clear the pin the magician's hand moves, rotating a bit around the wrist. This positions the hand for the second grip.

  • The second grip comes once the strap is freed from the pin. The magician then pushes down on the wrist a bit, with the fingers and thumb directly below the wrist. The fingers pinch together to push the pin forward, completely clearing it from the strap holes.

  • Now the magician does press down, hard, squeezing the wrist. This leaves a lingering impression of the watch that will convince the target it remains even after it has vanished.

  • Now that the strap is free from the pin and buckle, the magician palms the watch, which will stick a bit to the hand because of the previous squeeze. When the magician opens his grip to remove his hand, the watch will open and come off with the hand.

The Misdirection

  • Misdirecting the target is just as important as mastering the Move. One will not work without the other.

  • Develop a routine that gets the target's wrist in your hands. Play act that the target is a marionette, for example, or tell a story that happened to you with multiple steps that require you to place the target in various poses.

  • The key is to require the target's acceptance that you are going to be manhandling them a bit, all the while keeping their mind engaged on what you are saying and doing.

  • Do not, by any means, tell the audience that you are going to steal the watch ahead of time. Perhaps you can be so bold after ten or twenty years of mastering the Watch Snatch.

Magical Tip

Practice with a partner to get the moves down and do not perform this trick until you have mastered it!

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