Fake Patek Philippe: Three Ways to Spot One

I used to work for a guy who did estate sales. You know: buying and selling dead people’s stuff. One day, a widow tendered a rose gold Patek Philippe Calatrava. “Is it worth anything?” she asked. My boss took one look and said, “Sorry it’s a fake.” “Figures,” she said. “He bought it in China for $100.” Which brings us to tip number one for spotting a fake Patek Philippe . . .

1. Don’t buy it if it’s too cheap (a.k.a., if it sounds too good to be true, it is)

Patek Philippe watches are made by world class craftsmen using the finest materials. Their watches are rigorously inspected for slightest defect in design, assembly or finishing. All that takes time. Time means low production numbers. Low production numbers and high demand means Pateks — both new and used — cost a bomb.

If you could get one, a box-fresh Patek Philippe Aquanaut 5176A would run you $20k. Checking pre-owned prices at chrono24.com (they only list “verfied dealers”), pre-owned Aquanauts sell in the 40’s and 50’s.fake Patek PhilippeSo if someone offers to sell you a Patek Philippe Aquanaut for $10k walk. Five grand? Run! Remember: the Aquanaut is the brand’s entry level timepiece. If you’re being asked to part with “just” $20k for a Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar Yellow Gold (above), it’s also time to beat feet.

It’s easy enough to check Patek Philippe prices on the Internet. Do so. Do not expect a genuine Patek Philippe for big money off retail — unless the watch has been beat to shit. (That is not the watch you’re looking for.) Of course, a shark could try and fool you by charging big money for a fake. Time for tip 2.

2. Have a damn good look

I’m assuming you’re not a professional watchmaker, service technician or salesperson. So I’m assuming you don’t have the expertise or experience to tell a real Patek Philippe from a fake one. Given the quality of some fake Pateks and the amount money you could lose, it’s the same assumption you should make.

But as we’re here . . . [CAUTION! Lots of swear words in the following video!]

As the man in the obscenity-laced video above states, a Patek Philippe is perfect. Everything is perfect — from the case’s seamless gleam to the way the second hand moves round the dial. Everything.

So grab a loop and examine every detail. If the “Patek” has the slightest imperfection anywhere, if the lines or lettering on the dial aren’t as crisp as a freshly laundered shirt, it’s a fake. (There may be damage, but that’s not imperfection.)

It’s a good idea to spend a little quality time with some Pateks before you begin your vetting process, to get a feel for the feel of the thing. I highly recommend some online research on the model in question, so you know what to expect when you’re inspecting.

What would really help — to the point where your inspection is best considered meaningless foreplay? Have someone else do it. Someone who knows a fake from the real deal. Hence Tip 3.

3. Pay an expert to determine the watch’s authenticity before you hand over a dime

I said it above, I’ll say it again: divining a fake Patek Philippe from the genuine article is not your area of expertise. The idea that you can become an Patek Philippe expert by reading articles or watching YouTube videos is preposterous.

Even if you become an armchair expert, keep in mind the old adage that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Ever heard of a Frankenwatch? That’s a watch where some parts are genuine, some aren’t. Try spotting that one. And what about the guy who did everything he needed to establish a pre-owned Patek’s authenticity, handed over fifteen thousand dollars and walked out the door with a fake Patek Philippe Nautilus, swapped when the customer wasn’t looking

If a seller is genuine they won’t mind if you have a trustworthy expert give the Patek in question given the third degree. And expert picked by you. Paid for by you. (Paranoia saves lives.)

If the seller balks — “I’ve got a guy waiting for my call” or “I don’t want to let it out of  my hands” or “I’ve got a plane to catch” or “I’m an expert” or “I’ll give you a written guarantee” — walk away.

Not because those statements are prima facie evidence that you’re being sold a fake Patek Philippe. Because you don’t want to buy a fake Patek Philippe, and an independent expert assessment is the only way you can be 100 percent sure you’re getting the real deal.

In short, find the going rate for the Patek Philippe on offer, don’t expect to pay much less than the going rate, inspect the goods with a loop (looking for the slightest defect) and let someone who knows what they’re doing look at the watch and tell you if you’re going to be ripped off. So that you aren’t.

5 comments

  1. Recently I have purchased a patek Philippe in Pakistan it has a sea shell type of a dial,with white crystals layer inside after the numbers with no insignia on the dual,back is clear see through and I didn’t find any serial number on the back it has tightly held small pieces chain with multiple lock coming from both sides of the chain joined with narrow ss strip is it real or copy I have bought? In Pakistani currency it cost me Rs.7000/- I am very much puzzled plz guide me and tel me thanks

  2. i have grown to love Patek Phillipe. The watch is a masterpiece that can never be counterfeited.

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