“If you catch a con-artist in the act, should you involve the police?” timeandtidewatches.com asks. They pose the question in response to the “controversy” surrounding Gautaman Senivasan, a Singapore watch collector claiming to be the almost victim of a watch swap scam. I repeat, claiming. How do we know Mr. Senivasen was an almost victim if he didn’t report the incident to the police? As a Rhode Islander, my default reaction to any news news story is yeah right. What’s the real story? Especially when I read something like this . . .
Wanting to avoid a scene in front of his parents, who were also in the house, Gau took the buyer down into the basement and confronted him [about swapping a fake Patek Philippe Nautilus for Gau’s real watch and palming the original]. The man vehemently denied swapping the watches. “You can return my watch,” Gau said. “Or I can call the cops and we can figure it out when they get here.”
After 30 minutes of back and forth, the buyer confessed and eventually produced the real Nautilus out of his bag where he’d stashed it. Gau was outraged this man had come into his house and tried to swindle him. But he wanted to find out more.
[Warning! Don’t have a 30-minute come-to-Jesus private basement meeting with a person stealing from you unless you know what you’re doing (see: conjecture below). People are killed – in Singapore – for a lot less than $140k.]
The conman turned out to be a 17-year-old Korean student sent to Singapore by his parents to study. He’d bought the IWC from Gau to establish a basis of trust before trying to switch the Nautilus with a $1000 high-grade replica that he’d ordered specially for the purpose . . . Despite his understandable fury, in the end, Gau decided not to involve the police.
“If the kid was arrested, he’d be jailed and deported. His life would have been pretty much over,” he says. “I was also a kid once and I’ve also done silly things – although obviously not to this fucking level. I just wanted to make sure that he did not try this on anyone else ever again. But I don’t think I could live with ruining a kid’s life.”
Mr. Gau’s shaky “there but for the grace of God go I” justification for not reporting the watch swap crime to the cane-friendly Singapore police falls apart when he fails to explain how he ensured that the sticky-fingered scholar “did not try this on anyone else ever again.” You promise?
Perhaps Mr. Gau used some RI-style persuasion on the poor misguided youth: remove the perp from his neighbors’ earshot, whack his kneecaps with a tire iron and put a gun in his mouth. The mystery has left many – including Time & Tide’s eternally paternal Luke Benedictus – with unanswered questions.
Is there something else owed to the wider watch community? Should you let others know the person’s identity so they can avoid dealing with a known scammer down the track? It’s an enormously difficult question to answer, with many competing factors that could swing the answer in either direction. Why did they need the money? Did they appear remorseful? How likely are they to try and scam someone else again?
Mr. Gau’s comparo pictures of the fake Nautilus tells us . . . nothing. (Other than damn!) Unlike the pic of three grail watches. Who’s to say Mr. Gau didn’t buy the fake and fake the watch swap story to promote his business interests? It’s not as if “Gau is currently in the process of opening his own physical watch store.” Oh wait. It’s just like that.
Real or fake (and I call bullshit), Mr. Gau’s self-aggrandizing bullet dodged story is a cautionary tale for timepiece traders dumb enough to let a stranger paw their pricey collection in private. Time & Tide offers some sensible advice on how to avoid ye olde watch swap scam, under the fawning subhead Gau’s 5 rules to avoid getting scammed. Which Mr. Gau didn’t follow.
One more thing: if this watch swap scam story is true, I reckon the Korean student should report Mr. Gau to the police for kidnapping and stealing his $1000 replica. Just sayin’.