We don’t do public service announcements often here on Fratello Watches. Aside from letting you know about the occasional stolen watch or fake, we figure that most of the hijinks occurring on the internet or elsewhere are so obvious that they don’t warrant discussion. Today, though, and after a lot of thought, I think it’s high time that we feature some fakes that are always on eBay and coming out of California (Artesia and South El Monte seem to be the typical locations). I’ll use a name coined by @watchfred as he refers to this collection of hucksters – or is it one person? – as the “California Crooks”.

California Crooks

The California Crooks are Selling Complete Junk

It’s easy to find wrong watches, so-called “Frankens”, which often contain a smattering of good parts mixed with pieces from places unknown. Sometimes, these watches are sold with full disclosure, but more often than not, there’s a crafty seller trying to shift shady goods as fully original. With the California Crooks, though, there’s nothing original about these watches. Everything is fabricated down to the case. Now, experts wouldn’t be fooled and neither would anyone who asked a question on a forum, but the uninitiated could wind up bidding serious money for something that’s worth nothing.

California Crooks

And They’re Making Fake Non-Mainstream Vintage Pieces

Another highly concerning, but somewhat interesting, thing about the watches from the California Crooks is that they don’t focus heavily on bellwether pieces like the Rolex Daytona. No, this group offers up some eccentric watches like faux Breitling 808 Chronomats, pre-1960’s Heuers and Gubelins. No matter the seller name (and they change often), the photos are always the same – displaying serious “fisheye” characteristics and taken against a white background. No one knows the orgin of these watches – China, Vietnam, or elsewhere?  The ads remind some of those out of Australia from back in 2011, so who knows?  Whatever the case, the pieces always seem to attract a lot of bids – let’s hope they’re shills – and there’s always a new eBay seller sprouting up offering this junk. Oh, and they offer 100% no questions asked returns – let’s hope 100% of these are returned. If you like these and enjoy throwing your money away, have at them, but if you’re a newbie who may not know what to look for, consider yourself warned. Let’s take a look at but a few of these “piles”.

California Crooks

Just Some Examples of the Fakes

Above is a purely fake IWC Mark XI you can find here.

California Crooks

Would you like a fake Tudor?  The California Crooks have something for you.  What it is, though, is pure garbage!

California Crooks

Tired of looking for a decent, genuine Breitling Navitimer?  The Crooks will offer you a 100% genuine fake Navi!

California Crooks

With a decent Heuer Autavia 2446 Rindt now costing over $20K, why not spend $5500 on this pile of trash?  Someone did…

California Crooks

We love our Speedmasters on Fratello Watches, but we’d rocket away from this Sleazemaster.

California Crooks

If the Belgian air force had used this Heuer, they wouldn’t have gotten off the ground.

California Crooks

Heuer Monopusher?  More like Monobullsh*t!

California Crooks

Ulysee Nardin made some lovely watches back in the day…this wasn’t one of them.

California Crooks

Just when you thought the Crooks were done with Heuer, they strike back with this odd take on a Camaro – I dub thee the Craparo!

California Crooks

Now this is a marvelously bad Breitling Triple Calendar with Moonphase.

California Crooks

And why not go after a weird brand like Gubelin?

California Crooks

You can have your choice of awful Breitling 808 Chronomats in either white or black!

California Crooks

As vintage watches continue to gain in value and popularity, we’ll likely see more activity like you’re seeing from the California Crooks. Be vigilant and remember to ask, ask, and ask!

  • j238

    Thanks for posting this. Can you share the best indication that these are fakes?

    • See below, but these are so bad there’s really nothing good about them. I’d say that the Tudor and the Chronomat in silver are about the best renditions. The Tudor, however, looks as if toothpaste were used for the lume pips and the case looks archaic at best – not to mention what looks like a very long, cheesy crown. On the chronomat, the sub hands extend well beyond the registers, the rear engraving is hardly precise, bezel teeth way too thick, pushers & crown are wrong, Breitling “B” is printed versus applied…and we could keep going.

    • watchfred

      best would be to compare the pieces listed by the California Crooks to correct & original vintage examples.

      nothing is “correct” about these watches, not a single part – dial design and finish, hands shapes and sizes, logos, bezels, cases; nothing fits.

      here are some authentic Breitlings, you’ll notice the differences yourself easily ?

      https://www.fratellowatches.com/vintage-breitling-the-expert-interviews/

  • WatchNeophyte

    As the name suggests, I have just started exploring a long interest in watches, both modern and fake. This is extremely useful and I would love to know what other signs we should look for as buyers!

  • Judah Rosenthal

    I’d love to hear how they makes these. (Aging, darkened lume, etc) and what the movements look like.

    • Head to Hong Kong, and sadly you’ll plenty of pumpkin orange lumed models that have likely been baked…

  • Florian

    This is a useless article unless you learn your audience (including me!) how to actually identify these fake watches!
    It lacks any information; I’m disappointed.

    • Really and truly…you don’t understand why these are bad? If not, I’d start by looking up the real models on google images and compare/contrast. Between the wrong hands, blatantly incorrect dial fonts and lume, case proportions and nasty movements, each piece could take up its own article with everything that’s wrong… The Autavia is a perfect example – it’s a dog’s breakfast of parts that come from everywhere but Heuer.

      • Bill_N

        Google images is (are?) hardly edited by watch enthusiasts, and I’ve seen a TON of counterfeit photos, some even grabbed directly from those online sites that openly sell fakes. They’re not likely to fool true collectors for very long, but our hobby’s beginners will definitely be taken for a ride.
        As an example; if you’re a beginner interested in a Rolex, go to the Rolex website and study THOSE photos. Most makers have catalogs youcan download in PDF form. Some will even still mail you actual paper catalogs. And subscribe to the watch magazines,,,international Wristwatch and WatchTime magazine to name just a couple.

        • Dear Bill,

          Thanks for the tips. However, you realize we are talking vintage watches here? Rolex, Breitling etc. don’t have images of their vintage models on-line in most (all?) cases.

          RJ

    • watchfred

      Florian – listing everything that is incorrect about the shown watches is almost impossible, for the Breitlings it would include every component of the watch !

      cases, dials and hands are newly produced and artificially aged – shapes and finish are very different from the originals, maybe looking through this article will help you a bit, compare the Navitimers, Chronomat or Datora there to the ones offered by the California Crooks, it’s actually easy to tell the difference ?

      https://www.fratellowatches.com/vintage-breitling-the-expert-interviews/

  • DGS70

    “Heuer Monobullsh*t?”

    Or “Heuer Monoposeur.”