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Clocks from multimillion heist recovered

It took time, but Israeli police detectives have cracked one of the country's greatest crimes – the heist of a priceless clock collection from a Jerusalem museum a quarter century ago.

The 1983 theft, the costliest in Israel's history, saw 106 timepieces worth millions of dollars disappear from the L.A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art. Among them was a pocket watch made for French queen Marie Antoinette that museum officials value at more than $30 million.

Although the stolen clocks had no connection to Islamic culture, they were displayed in the museum because they had originally belonged to the father of the museum's founder.

The heist baffled police for years, but detectives now blame Naaman Diller – a notorious Israeli thief who fled to Europe and died in the United States in 2004.

Investigators got their first break two years ago, when the museum paid $40,000 to an anonymous American woman to buy back 40 of the items, including the Marie Antoinette timepiece made by famed watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet.

Rachel Hasson, the museum's artistic director, calls the gold and rock crystal watch “the Mona Lisa of the clock world.” Also recovered were the 1819 Breguet creation known as the “Sympathiques” and a clock shaped like a pistol from the same period.

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