Fine timepieces are some of the most coveted luxury goods out there. With big names like Rolex, Cartier, and Patek Philippe producing pieces that are universally accepted status symbols, it comes as no surprise that there are plenty of fakes in the market too. According to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH), counterfeit watches make up around 9% of customs seizures each year. This means that replica timepieces are the second most counterfeited products after textiles. Unfortunately, as demand for luxury goods continues, counterfeiters are becoming more sophisticated with the capabilities of producing top quality watch replicas.
It’s estimated that around 15% of Internet searches for luxury watches are in fact related to fake products. Here are some differences between original and replica watches to consider.
- DESIGN & FINISHING
This may seem like an obvious one, but luxury watches are meticulously made to the most exacting of standards. So details and finishing on a genuine high-end watch should be flawless. Before you make a purchase, take the time to inspect the details to ensure that everything is perfect. Take a close look at the dial, case, caseback, winding crown, lugs, bracelet, and clasp. Top tier watchmakers take pride in the products they produce.
Be wary of these red flags when inspecting a watch:
- Peeling or flaking materials
- Crooked text or sloppy font
- Unequal spacing between letters
- Spelling mistakes and incorrect logos
- Bracelet not fitting the case properly
- Cheap and flimsy bracelet clasps that won’t close
- Unsigned clasps, crowns, dials, or caseback
- Loud ticking noise if the timepiece is sold as a mechanical one
Prior to making a purchase, familiarize yourself with how the original version of your particular watch model should look by doing your homework. Then apply your knowledge to determine if the watch in question is real or fake.
Since high-end timepieces are very expensive luxury goods, only fine materials are used in their construction:
- Genuine gold, typically 18k
- Genuine platinum, typically 950
- Genuine titanium, typically grade 5
- Stainless steel, typically 316L or better (Rolex uses 904L)
- Genuine leather
- Genuine diamonds and gemstones
- Original packaging will boast top materials too
Because of the quality of the materials, genuine watches tend to be heavier than fake ones as these use cheaper materials. An exception to this, however, is when high-end watch brands use materials such as titanium in order to produce ultra-light timepieces.
A word of caution: there have been recent reports of fake watches now being produced in real 18k gold.
Luxury watches cost a lot to make. In addition to the exquisite materials, the best watches typically come from Switzerland, where the cost of living and doing business is among the most expensive in the world. It takes an enormous amount of money to run these global luxury watch brands and the prices of their wares clearly reflect that. Plus, it goes without saying that high-end watches wouldn’t really be as sought-after if they were cheap!
So with that in mind, if the price being offered on a particular watch is too low compared to its market value, it’s probably a fake posing as a genuine luxury watch. There’s plenty of demand for high-end watches today so a very low price should raise an eyebrow or two. Unlike in the past, the Internet has made it much easier to figure out the approximate market value of almost any luxury watch model today, so get researching.
It’s important to stress that counterfeit products are not only illegal, but also the fake goods industry has an ugly underbelly linked to human rights violations, child labor, money laundering, and other criminal activities. High-end watches represent not just luxury and exclusivity, but also hard work, technical mastery, and quality in terms of materials used and people behind the craft. In choosing to purchase an original luxury watch, you’re contributing to an important industry with a rich and proud heritage, so do yourself a favor and follow these tips to ensure you’re buying the real deal and not a rip-off.