About 15 men, some wielding axes and sledgehammers, burst into a luxury watch store in the heart of Paris in broad daylight yesterday and made off with a haul worth hundreds of thousands of euros.
Shortly before lunch, two well-dressed men entered the Vacheron Constantin store near the posh Place Vendome - where several top-end jewellers are located - and let in a third man who was armed.
Six others, wearing hoods and armed with sledgehammers and axes, then followed inside.
They smashed the shop windows and left with 20 watches with hefty price tags.
A single watch crafted by the Swiss watchmaker can sell for hundreds of thousands of euros. Police said the goods stolen were "of a very significant amount".
Around six accomplices outside the showroom, just metres away from France's justice ministry, used smoke grenades to allow those inside to escape on foot, police said.
Two of the men were arrested in the area and two sledgehammers and an axe were found nearby, police said.
The men, from eastern Europe, were placed in custody.
Police commissioner Francis Vincenti said the raid bore "witness to a new modus operandi" given the number of men involved and the fact that they could make a getaway in an area teeming with security cameras.
Last month, four men ram-raided a jewellery store near Place Vendome and escaped with a US$2.6 million haul.