Counterfeits in the luxury watch industry are becoming more commonplace than you think…
Even the savviest of shoppers have been known to be duped into buying counterfeit versions of their favorite luxury brand watches. Fortunately for us, The Wall Street Journal is on top of the situation with some very useful tips for anyone considering the purchase of luxury watch. If you’re in the market, you’re going to want to read on to avoid possibly making a very expensive mistake in the purchase of your our own timeless timepiece!
TWO FACED | Rolex, Breitling and Audemars Piguet timepieces are among counterfeiters’ top targets. Here, the real things. From left: Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 40 Watch, $37,500, rolex.com; Navitimer 01 Watch, $7,965, breitling.com; Royal Oak SelfwindingWatch, $17,800, Audemars Piguet, 888-214-6858 PHOTO: F. MARTIN RAMIN/ THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Fake news you can use: The luxury watch world is worried about the flood of “super fake” timepieces that can fool even a savvy buyer. Here, how to protect yourself
Q: I’m worried about inadvertently ending up with a counterfeit watch. Are fakes a big deal for the industry? How do I spot one?
A: The leading watch brands enjoy profits, prestige and a particular sort of glamour. Like other purveyors of luxury, however, they pay the unavoidable price of that success: fakes.
Faking watches is big business—and yes, also a big deal. While about 30 million real Swiss watches are produced annually, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH) estimates that one to two million fake timepieces are seized and destroyed every year.
Two types of fake watches exist. The first are cheap fakes, priced anywhere from $50 to the low three figures. You’ll find them on the streets of big cities and on innumerable websites, where they’re often spun oxymoronically as “genuine replicas.” With these watches, the external parts—case, dial, hands, bracelet—are usually shoddy versions of authentic components and the internal movement is flimsy and unreliable. Cheap fakes look and feel like phonies; sellers rarely try to pass them off as anything else, so at least you know what you are getting.
Then there are “super fakes,” watches intended to fool people into believing they are the real thing. Here, the external parts closely resemble those of authentic timepieces, while the movements are often Chinese or Japanese clones of Swiss movements disguised with engravings and decorations. To finesse the deception, super fakes usually come in near-perfect copies of brand boxes and are accompanied by counterfeit “proof of authenticity” papers. You might think you’d recognize a fake, but these are quite craftily well-done.
While super fakes can be produced for a few hundred dollars, sellers hope to unload them for the same four-, five- or even six-figure sum the Real McCoys command. Genuine watches have internal components that fakers cannot cheaply duplicate so the duped buyer often discovers the truth only when the watch is opened up and examined under a loupe. If you think a watch might be a super fake, this is unfortunately the only way to be sure.
Watch counterfeiters often use hazardous materials like lead.
You might ask: What’s the harm in buying one if the price is right? Well, watch-faking is not a victimless crime. Apart from involving stolen intellectual property, fake watches can be physically dangerous. Counterfeiters often use hazardous materials such as lead, cadmium and mercury, which are banned in many consumer products, including watches. And super fakes often function poorly, which can become a life-threatening failure if you’re, say, a scuba diver and your dive watch malfunctions underwater.
Most disturbingly, according to a joint report by nine U.S. government agencies published earlier this year, profits from the sale of fake watches (and other counterfeit goods) fund organized crime, drug trafficking and terrorism.
If you’re the sort of person who would never buy a cheap fake, the question becomes: How do you avoid mistakenly purchasing a super fake? Regular readers of this column know I recommend buying new watches only from a brand or authorized dealer. While there are other legitimate online sellers, including individuals on sites like eBay, it’s easy to be fooled. Watch out for obvious red flags such as negative or outdated reviews on sites which include reviews. Also suspect are blurry photographs or ones that are clearly stolen from a brand’s website and don’t depict the timepiece that’s actually being sold. If contacting the site is even a little difficult, don’t buy. And while you might be tempted by, say, a Breitling Navitimer for $2,000—much less than the $8,000 to $48,000 a brand-new one usually costs—if a price seems too good to be true, it probably is. For further vigilance, always buy using PayPal or a credit card that offers protection on purchases. You may be able to reclaim some of your money if you’re duped.