Fake Watches – They’re Out There, Somewhere

Fake watches - US CBP

“Two shipments of counterfeit watches worth nearly $2 million were seized at the Port of Cincinnati over the last two weeks,” cincinnati.com reports. “The announcement [from U.S. Customs and Border Protection] states the shipments were manifested as ‘timers’ and ‘watch’ and contained a total of 54 counterfeit watches labeled as Audemar Piguet, Rolex, Cartier and Gucci.” The thing to keep in mind . . .

There are two types of fake watches: those that can’t fool you and those that can.

Fake watches - Rolex

Ridiculously cheap fakes – easy to spot both in terms of price and quality – are for buyers who don’t know or care about “originality.”

In the main, these buyers aren’t fooled into thinking they’re getting the real deal. They buy them to fool other people. (How in the world perfectreplica.to is allowed to exist is beyond me.)

The other type of fakes – really good fakes – are aimed right at you: the watch buyer who loves watches SO MUCH that your passion blinds you to possibility that you’re a sucker-in-waiting.

How these “good” fake watches appear on your radar can vary: a new Internet pal wants to deacquisition, eBay, an “unknowing” local jeweler and the proverbial pssst buddy, want to buy a watch real cheap?

We’ve already advised readers how to avoid purchasing a fake high end watch (Fake Patek Philippe: Three Ways to Spot One). The same rules provided there – don’t buy if it’s too cheap, have a good look, hire an expert – apply to any pre-owned high end timepiece.

But the recent revelation that Bonhams is peddling Frankenwatches (watches modified with non-original parts) highlights an important fact: you can’t trust anyone.

Not when it comes to pre-owned watches. And not when it comes to new watches sold by anyone other than an authorized dealer.

Watchfinder's watchmakers

Saying that, there are reputable vintage dealers and resellers. By “reputable” I mean accountable. As in you can get your money back without going to court.

To ensure that happens, always read the fine print on any buying purchase, but especially one made online. Especially – but exclusively – their returns policy.

Bonhams’ conditions of sale specifically states that they offer no guarantee that the watch is as advertised. How do you like them apples?

Watchbuys logo

In contrast, watchbuys.com. They’re an excellent dealer of some stellar German watch brands (e.g., Sinn, Dornblueth and Hanhart).

Watchbuys’ return policy is first-rate: full refund, no questions asked, no restocking fee (which can be up to 15 percent with other online dealers). There’s one extremely important caveat, that applies to any new watch arriving by post from any dealer:

No fake watches here - Sinn 936 Bi-Compax Chronograph Tegimented on Bracelet

All watches and other items must be returned with their original packaging in a brand new, unused and undamaged condition. This policy applies to boxes, papers, warranty and owners manuals and any special tools.

If any of these items are missing, damaged or modified, the return cannot be accepted and the package will be returned to you.

You know those little blue condoms that protect the dial and transparent caseback from scratches? While deciding, LEAVE THEM ON. Same for those tiny tags. Don’t wear the watch – other than to see how it looks on your wrist; the dealer will look for small scratches and any other hint of wear.

Grand Seiko box

Fair enough, right? Watchbuys and the like want to resell your no-thank-you watch as brand spanking new. How would you feel if you received a “new” watch in a creased box and/or bereft of the usual protective gubbins, tags and pristine papers?

Turning to vintage dealers, omegaenthusiastltd.com understands the dangers vintage watch buyers face: “I guarantee that the watches on this site are 100% authentic and correct. Buy with confidence!” And here’s their returns policy:

OMEGA Enthusiast logo

Buyer has a 7 days return policy (counting the day that the watch has been received as day 1). Item must be returned in the same condition as when it was shipped. Return item will receive a full refund minus shipping and $100USD restocking fee or store credit. 

Here’s an idea: take detailed pictures of your new old watch upon arrival. If you have doubts – and maybe you should – have a watchmaker give it the once-over ASAP. If there are any problems,photograph and document them. And good luck.

Back to fakes for our finale, courtesy securingindustry.com:

Fake watches - G-SHOCKs

Customs officers at San Juan in the US have seized around a thousand luxury and designer watches – including knock-offs of Casio’s G-Shock range – in a commercial shipment.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) San Juan Field Operations intercepted the shipment in transit from the Dominican Republic, and estimates that manufacturer suggested retail price (MSRP) of the seized products would be more than $420,000 had the goods been genuine.

“Fake watches do not have the quality of the genuine product,” said Leida Colon, assistant director of field operations for trade at the San Juan Field Office. “These watches are made with substandard materials that do not withstand the toils of daily use.”

CPB isn’t entirely right. Again, there are really good fakes out there. More importantly, fake watches and other counterfeit goods are manufactured, smuggled and sold by the world’s most vicious criminal gangs.

Purchasing a counterfeit watch – whether intentional or not – subsidizes a whole host of heinous crimes, including child prostitution and terrorism. Something to keep in mind.

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