Two men walked into a downtown jewelry store Saturday afternoon, smashed a case with a sledgehammer and walked out with $150,000 in Rolex watches.
The robbery happened at Shelia Bayes Fine Jewelers in The Shops at Lexington Center, next to Rupp Arena, at about 2 p.m.
The two men came in with the sledgehammer and without saying a word went straight to the Rolex case, broke it, and scooped up eight Rolex watches; they left the hammer behind, police Lt. Eddie Hart said..
Two employees who were on the sales floor ran to an office and locked themselves inside with a third employee. They pressed an alarm and called 911, store owner Shelia Bayes said.
Hart said video surveillance footage showed a dark-colored, older model Chrysler van dropping the men off at the High Street entrance to Lexington Center. Moments later, the robbers exited onto Vine Street and climbed into the van.
The entire episode lasted "just a matter of a few minutes," Hart said.
He said two Lexington police officers in Triangle Park arrived in less than a minute, but the robbers were already gone.
Bayes said she thinks someone involved in the robbery had cased the store before, because the robbers took the most expensive watches in the case, leaving others behind.
"You just don't expect that to happen here in Lexington," she said.
There were no customers in the store when the robbery occurred, and no one was injured.
"My employees did exactly what they should've done," Bayes said. "That's what we have insurance for."
Police released photos of the two men they say robbed the store, as well as the van they left in.
Because police think the men may be from outside the Lexington area, they asked media outlets to share the images with their affiliates throughout the region. Anyone with information is urged to call police at (859) 258-3600.
Hart said each of the watches has a unique serial number, which could help in their recovery.
Bayes said she had already been in contact with Rolex representatives, who gave her hope that the watches might be returned.
She said the company representatives told of a man who bought a used Rolex online and had it for years before sending it in to the company for repair. When Rolex found that the man's watch had been stolen from a store in California, they returned the watch to the store, Bayes said.
Shelia Bayes Fine Jewelers was open again a few hours after the robbery.
"God is so good," Bayes said Saturday afternoon. "We've had two engagement rings sold since then."
Karla Ward: (859) 231-3314. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety