Fake Watches

Exactly two weeks ago, I was dining with a friend and we were sitting outside (one of the first days with nice weather here in The Netherlands) and next to us, there was a table with three guys. One of them was wearing a Patek Philippe Nautilus in red gold. Although, that is what I thought it was at first glance. In the evening dusk, and without my glasses it was hard to identify it correctly the first time. However, giving it a better try, I noticed this was a replica version of the Nautilus in red gold on leather strap. The edges were way too round, the strap was crappy and the bezel was too thick. Furthermore, the dial was far from refined as Patek Philippe makes them. Even though a real Patek Philippe of this caliber is only in reach for the lucky few and Patek probably wouldn’t lose a dime over this guy [wearing a fake], I don’t think it is chic to have a fake watch.

It becomes even more pathetic when people try to make other people think it is an authentic watch. I recall an interview with a famous (Dutch) lawyer in a Dutch watch magazine, that he threw his Rolex Submariner overboard in one of the Amsterdam cannels after getting remarks about him wearing an expensive/gaudy Rolex, just to impress his friends that he didn’t care about the money. It was a fake Rolex. Poor guy, caring about other people’s opinions about his watch AND wearing fake watches.

Get a (mechanical) Swatch if you want to own a Swiss brand for little money. But in most (or perhaps all) cases it’s not about the watch, it is about the brand name….

Fake Watches

Together with the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, Haute Horlogerie has a programme on counterfeit watches. Fake Watches are for Fake People.  This programme is about creating awareness about the damage that these replica products (watches in this case) are causing globally. Although I wonder what the real losses are caused by people who buy fake watches, I certainly support this anti-counterfeiting campaign wholeheartedly. The famous Dutch lawyer (probably) can easily cough-up the money for a real Rolex, the guy sitting next to me at the restaurant probably would have some trouble getting that red gold Patek Philippe (assumptions, I know, but for this illustration it will do :)).

More information about the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie and their efforts against fake watches can be found on: http://www.hautehorlogerie.org/en/the-foundation/anti-counterfeiting/

  • anon

    whilst i don’t condone people wearing fake watches, i do understand that often it is an entry point for many people to enjoy collecting watches. It certainly was for me. I have owned a few fakes, and am now fortunate enough to own a real swiss watch. But i never would have gotten so hooked on enjoying the design and engineering involved with watches without the faux-lexs that now do little more than gather dust in my sock drawer.
    At no time was a counterfeit a substitute for the real thing, and at no point did i pretend the counterfeit was anything but counterfeit. I hope the gentleman with the patek enjoys his watch while it lasts, and is able to upgrade one day. you see, counterfeit watches are the best advertising the watch industry has ever had.

  • Edward

    Language: English (change)

    I think most would agree that there is just something inherently wrong with buying a fake watch. As for those people going only for the brand and not the watch, my guess is that the same can be said for a great majority who purchase the real thing as well. However, there is still a great difference between the two. As for fakes in general, it’s the good with the bad, a bit like the global problem of grey marketing. The mere fact that fake Patek Philippe’s are popping up over the globe only goes to show how far the brand has come in recent years regarding brand awareness. There was a time when only a fake Rolex would sell. What was the purpose to have a fake Patek if nobody is going to know what it is anyway? Is it wrong? Yes. Is it immoral? Yes. Does it hurt the brand? I’m not so convinced. Another perspective is that one who wears a fake Patek probably would prefer to own a real one, they simply can’t afford it. So, is it possible that when and if money is no longer the obsticle to purchase the real thing, that is exactly what they will do? I’m sure many who wore fake Rolex’s felt pleasure in wearing the watch, but felt a bit nervous and embarrassed as well. Who wants to get caught wearing a fake? I wonder what percentage eventually plunked down money for the real thing? Why not ditch the bad feelings and keep the good, actually really good because now you have a quality watch and not a piece of junk? It is also no mystery that the explosion of fakes coincided with the explosion in sales of the real watch. It’s certainly logical that a proper person after seeing those fake watches day after day on the street corners might just take a look inside a window of an Authorized dealer just to see what all this hype is about. Upon seeing the real thing, someone who might have otherwise not thought twice about buying one is now walking home proudly with his or her new genuine Rolex.
    Again, to me, it’s like the grey market. Is it bad? Personally, while I don’t support the grey market, I think it helps the industry more than it hurts. Factories have to produce and modern consumers are just to savvy to pay retail at a fancy shop every time they wish to add a watch to their collection. Retailers have to turn over merchandise, is it really better to just sit on the same watch for years and years? What about the customer who stops in from time to time and always sees that same AP, PP, or whatever just sitting in that case forever. I’ve been there, it isn’t a good feeling and not easy to answer the customer’s query. So how is that retailer supposed to get rid of stale merchandise? Your in trouble if you discount it, so send it off to the grey market and let the exposure of the world find a buyer. So, are fakes dangerous? Yes, but mostly I believe its because of the increased quality of the modern fake. The risk is the customer actually likes the watch and sees no need to ever pay the money for the real thing. A fine watch says something about your character, one who appreciates the painstaking work, years of difficult training and love that goes into the creation of a luxury watch is part of an exclusive club. A group of individuals who appreciate art, beauty, which by itself exudes a certain level of sophistication and education. A fine watch can also be less expensive and practical, and this also speaks well of its owner. A fake shows your character even more, an emperor with no clothes. A wannabe, a loser of sorts. A person must wonder about one who flaunts such character in public, what else about you are you hiding? Rather than a severed hand and an emphasis on being fake, especially since many people feel that owners of fine watches are nothing more than fake people with money to spend, why not emphasize shame and character. I like the idea of a person dressed in clearly fake designer goods, with am emphasis on the watch looking in the mirror as though preparing for a date or important meeting with that certain look only Madison ave can create, I only see it in my minds eye and the tag line, “what else are you hiding?”

  • I equally don’t really understand the rationale behind wearing a fake watch. I would rather wear a cheaper real watch than a fake. In my experience it is usually easy to tell the fakes from the real thing.

    • CHD

      This is an old post so you probably won’t see it:) With that said….if you don’t understand the rationale behind wearing a ‘fake’ watch it’s because you’ve never seen a high quality one. There is a BIG difference between the $75 fake Panerai you buy in Times Square vs around $350 for a high quality replica. I love the style of a Panerai but I won’t spend $16k on a PAM438 in Ceramic….but I had no problem spending $350 on an identical looking PAM 438 replica which also is made from ceramic and is of unbelievable quality and which I guarantee you could not discern from a genuine without removing the movement.

  • All, thanks for your comments on this article. I think all of you have good arguments. However, Edward, although I agree on most of your points regarding fake watches and the grey market, I don’t see a link between these two. I love your line “A person must wonder about one who flaunts such character in public, what else about you are you hiding?”


  • What a spectacular Post, Robert-Jan!

    Two recent experiences really brought home to me just how much folks “don’t get it,” and thus the need for this campaign.

    The first was a client w/ whom I met. Experience similar to what you describe, the distance making it hard to tell his Rolex Submariner Date was a fake. When I commented on it, he immediately said it was a fake. Then the conversation got strange. He became very defensive and argued a moral high-ground based on the fact that he’d come clean so quickly.

    Yeah, I guess. But he’d done something morally and legally wrong in the first place; and continued to do so. Does admitting both of the above morph a wrong into a right? For him, it did.

    The second was just yesterday. In response to concerns I’d expressed about a James Bond Forum running ads for fake watch sellers (and I’m talking overt links, “Fake Rolex” in the label, he said the site owner couldn’t help what the ad server put there. It was based on key words. As if that meant the business wasn’t being promoted, the site owner innocent!

    The ad words are there to generate revenue. The owner takes that money. My guess is that some of the money is from fake watch sales. But even if it generates no traffic, he promotes it. And he takes money from a “package” of sellers that includes these illegal bums. What’s there to motivate the ad packager to drop these bottom-feeder fakers if they continue to get sites to run their ads?

    I’ve got to imagine, RJ, that you could easily run such words here (as I could on my sites). But you don’t. And that costs you. In other words, you don’t sell yourself out.

    Others shouldn’t either. Anyone who claims to have something to say about watches should be running the PSA as you have. When I found out about these folks, I incorporated their graphic into my navigation file so that it appears at the bottom of every page on my site.

    Fake watches ARE for fake people!

    Thanks for letting me way in on this.

    Dell Deaton

  • Dell,

    Thanks for your comment, I always appreciate your presence here on FW.

    I quitted using AdWord (by Google) in an early stage (2004), because of the amount of advertisements for fake watches it would let through. Also, I get a lot of offers from sellers of replica stuff (watches, bags etc) that want a banner on FW. It is a no-go.

    I think every blogger/watch site should notify its readers that they do not support fake watches.


  • Allow me to clarify. My point about fake watches and grey marketing was to beg this question as to whether of not fakes really hurt the market. The industry is up in arms about both issues, and I was trying to point out that there is an argument to be made that neither are really all that threatening.

  • I very much like Edward’s comment about people wearing fakes having to hide something.

    In my humble opinion Edward has summed up nicely the pros and cons surrounding the world of fakes.

  • Just wanted to check back in w/ you briefly here to say that I praised your stance here on my Blog today (with LINK, of course!). For those who do not know, there is a huge financial incentive associated with agreeing to have these folks’ promotions tied to sites such as ours; when RJ states that he has rejected that, it is one of the highest forms of commitment and respect a site can show to its followers.


  • @Edward: That clarifies and then I agree with you on all points. :-))

    @Dell: Thanks man! Love your articles on “Why the anger at James Bond watches?”, http://jamesbondwatches.blogspot.com/2009/05/why-anger-at-james-bond-watches-part-4.html.


  • Richard

    Interesting article. Of course, the next question could be if real watches are for real people, such that owning a genuine Swatch or Rolex makes you a genuine person. Of course that would be nonsense. A true and glorious fraud (Bernie Madoff, perhaps?) wore, I am sure, the very best watches other people money could buy. As did his wife and children. How about Conrad Black? Allen Stanford?


    So what is it then? Clearly this genuine versus fake watch issue is a great nonsense perpetrated by the larger watch companies, so that jewelry indicates a person’s worth or measure. One need only be about in the world briefly to notice the vacuous souls wearing expensive watches.

    However, what is good about the expensive watches is not how well they keep time or how long they last, which has to be about 10% of their charm. ( A cheap quartz would do as well or better.) Instead, I would propose that the best watches are excellent designs. Rolex got the Submariner right with a few tries. It is a simple enough design, but Rolex did it first. So Rolex gets to copyright it? Apparently not: none of it was really unique. There really isn’t very much new in the world, is there?

    So what does it mean? It means, as I think about it, that it is all costume jewelry. If one is in any mall or shopping center, there is always a distinction between “real” jewelry and “costume” jewelry, meaning cheap trinkets that look good. But the makers of real watches (generally European) fight like tigers to be makers of real watches, where the fakes and trinkets (which do a more than adequate job of providing information about time) come from Asia.

    What is amusing is that most cheap watches are ugly, with unnecessary numbers, lines, and conflicting elements. Even the cheap American designed watches look dismal. Copies of expensive watches actually look pretty good.

    Meanwhile, do fake Rolexes steal sales from Rolex? Do watches that look like Rolexes steal sales from Rolex? Does anyone know? Does Omega suffer from the same fate? Patek? Was that guy with the fake Patek so in love with the design that if not for the fake he would have bought the real thing? Be real: probably not. It was a joke, a toy, an illusion. Who he was fooling is another question.

    But the good watches often have, in my view, better designs. The materials are about the same: stainless steel. The odd part of this is that someone has to design the watch, and designing a good looking watch can’t be that much more expensive than ugly.

    Meanwhile, I maintain that it is all costume jewelry: that is, something worn for a purpose, as in a costume. And each morning most of us get into one costume, and in evening another. Our costume requires a certain look not just for others, but for ourselves.

    And as we put our Rolex on, we can look in the mirror and say: This is the watch that Bernie wore.

  • Mike

    I’d much rather own an original & not a replica, which come in different grades of quality, materials, movements etc. Frankly at this point I would prefer to buy a replica that I really like, rather than go pick a watch from a DeptStore display that I wouldn’t enjoy wearing at all. I would not pretend it’s authentic and I like a nice design on my wrist to buy groceries, pump gas & trips to the hardware store. I don’t need 20 or $30k to run errands or to go to the beach. However I can understand purists and I love the truth and try to live by that.
    So I might get a $500 or so Audemars-Piguet, a true replica (replicahause.com, & watchez.com) without any pretention. Money comes my way, who knows?…I own a JLC Reverso & a 1994 Swatch (authentics!!!)

  • Marcel

    Why must only the happy few weare a watch of a few hunderd thousend dollars,the normal hard workink guy ho loves watches,my only loke at it.
    And don,t forget,i like watcehes and when it is a fake,so be it.i,am not a fake,but don,t forget that those that buy the real thing are mostly guy,s that white wash many,are imbasel money,sale drug etc.
    So where a fake,your not a fake person ,mostly a honest hard working guy

  • Barney Rubble

    Buying of fakes has NO effect on the owners of the real thing. Most people that are buying replicas would never purchase the real thing even if they had the money. Hollywood dictates what is “in” and everyone wants to look like a rock star or movie star. How many people do you come in contact with every day who went on a trip to NYC or Hong Kong and came back with a “wokky”Rolex? I’ve heard this story from lots of people. There was one news anchor in Baltimore who used to always buy fakes from Market Street. Whenever the watch would die he’d just go spend 20 bucks on a new one. Everyone used to tease him about his “Folex’s”, but he was a great guy and everyone liked him. No one thought of him as a scoundrel or less of a man. If you have 10K or more to spend on a watch, I challenge you to buy a fake or a Casio and give the rest of the money to charity, then you will be a REAL person.

    • Yngvej

       Fake watches do have effect on the owners of the real thing and sales for the manufacture. I will never buy a Rolex watch, because I know that everyone will assume that It’s a fake until proven otherwise. Then Rolex loose sales and the owners of real Rolex will have to explain people that it’s the real thing.

  • SRV

    When I was young and in the military, I purchased a Submariner and paid for it in monthly installments. I have to say that it does take the cake for the “coolest” watch ever imho. A few years ago, I was toying with the idea of buying a two tone version of the same in blue or black. The first thing I discovered was that the prices have got a lot higher since I bought mine 7500 bucks for a two tone that I might wear sometimes. I scrapped the idea. My children had seen me looking at the two tones at a watch shop and also on the web. They surprised me with a two tone watch with a blue face with the brand name Invicta. Now this is not a replica, but it says it has a swiss movement but was assembled in Japan. This watch cost around 300 dollars and to be honest with you, holding both the Rolex and this watch in your hands you would be amazed at the quality of this new watch. I wear the Submariner every day, but when I get dressed up I wear the two tone watch. I guess it has sentimental value because the kids thought of me. I noticed that I get a lot of comments about the Invicta and people always say “hey that’s a Rolex!” No one has EVER commented on my Submariner. I have walked by the kiosks where they have sold fake watches, but always avoided them because the sellers always look shady so I can’t really gauge the quality of fakes. Anyway I liked the article….thoughts?

  • CR Smitherman

    This article is hilarious. Were the two snobs dining on Steak tartar and caviar, with a little smidgen of Grey Poupon? The richest guy in my town(worth millions) wears a Timex that he got from CVS pharmacy. Having these lavish things and acting like this especially making fun of people that can’t afford your lifestyle is pompous, crass and shows that you may have money, but not much value as a human being. May I suggest some charity work?

    • r2d2

      Having a Timex is okay. Having a fake watch is not. It’s not about price but authenticity.

      • superikonta

        “authenticity” is something for snobs and marketing people to get people to pay huge sums for things that can be produced cheaply. Of course brands have to charge a lot of money. They need it for thier marketing campains to get you to buy thier products.

  • Kint Verbal

    So… you are really annoyed, afraid people won’t get you’re the real thing. Buy a Rolls Royce if you need to show off, they don’t do much fake ones.

  • Mr Anonymous

    I am safe. My watch is the Casio F28w. Only $12.99! Who needs a Rolex or a Patek Philippe ridiculous expensive watches? I only want to be….myself! A simple guy.

  •  There are many fake watches out there that is why you have to learn how to distinguish them from the original. Through this, you get to have more chance of availing an authentic in case you would like to have one on your own.

  • Georgecramer

    Fakes are a huge problem since they get better and better. But I think it’s a misunderstanding that the rich buy the expensive watches. The guys around me that have high quality watches are not rich at all, none of them and the rich guys I know, drive their BMW or Mercedez,  but don’t own an expensive watch.

  • waheem gate

    Whats fake and whats real. its all in our brains and self perspectif of things which our conscience developt and create time to moment . by the end everything is a material , the cost is given on top of the value, sincerely we all are fake in our differences ,we all follow a desire ,and everything you see maybe god creation, But we made a change to this belief, THey say IT WAS but I made it , IT NOT YOURS , its Mine”.

  • ex watch snob

    Pseudo-dilettantes and would-be remnants of the long dead aristocracy,

    For quite a while, I had been an avid high end watch enthusiast, but it had occurred to me that the aura of these watches are the product of an illusion, and these companies have mastered the balance required to perpetuate said illusion. Illusions of spirit, grandeur, prestige, art, ingenuity, engineering, technology, so on and so forth. The companies have brought together key elements to persuade the buyer to believe that their “hard work” and “long established history” (relative to what? I might add) and there arbitrary place of origin has value beyond that of a fine car, reconstructive heart surgery, or in some cases, a house.

    After a long and thorough reflection on the issue, I’ve realized that a lot of the watch enthusiast crowd are a bunch of stuck up wannabe millionaires who tend to try to drill their vapid insults in to anyone who tries to destroy the mystique that is their prized possessions. I no longer want to be associated with such a crowd, one who relies on a socially constructed delusion to inflate their own sense of self worth. Is that why you’ve been feeling ill about fakes? is it because deep down, they attack the delusion you hold so dearly? that your $30,000 Jeagre lecoultre wasn’t worth the added pressure on your already late mortgage repayments? that your money actually has no power in reality other than what people believe it to be? In conclusion, I’m going to buy a replica as a result of reading articles like this pompous tripe, and tell people it’s fake, and be confident in that, because anything that destroys the delusion that your worth can be determined by your bank statement is a good thing, in which I hope to contribute to the breaking of.

    Enjoy, slime balls.



    • Steve Sparks

      It kills me when someone writes in all caps.

    • HeadphoneAddict

      I’m wearing a real Rolex with cheap shoes on my feet. What that make me?

  • William Potter

    I have a fake Cartier Tank Americaine which I love. I never pass it as “real” and it is powered by a Miyota 2035 which is one of the most reliable quartz movements in the industry. Accurate, light and simple. No apologies from me.

  • Thinking

    I live in China right now and have bought fakes that you cannot tell from the original without opening them (the glass bottom ones are easier to spot). There are a lot of bad ones but there are also some that show good workmanship. I actually feel more comfortable wairing my most expensive “real” watch, which cost about 1000 Euro, than a “fake” that cost 300 Euro (my latest Nautilus cost that), but to be honest, I should ask myself why. I think it is because of the feeling of status. It is actually astonishing because nobody around me really cares what kind of a watch I own and you cannot really buy status anyway. Either you have money or power or you don’t. But I guess status is more about self-esteem. So to sum it up, you buy an expensive “real” watch either to feel good about yourself or because you have so much money that it really doesn’t matter and you buy a fake to beat the system or to manipulate others (for whatever reason). Incidentally, all my watches are real in the sense that they tell time and are also mechanical.

  • HeadphoneAddict

    I typically don’t condone buying a replica. However, when I went traveling last December I brought my genuine Rolex Explorer II 216570 and 16570 with me, but also a very good replica of the 216570 with ETA movement, just in case I was going into a bad part of town and didn’t want to be robbed of my real one (I’d rather give up my replica in a robbery thank you very much).

    Anyway, on the one home our car was hit head-on at high speed, totaling the car and all of our legs (mine and my daughter’s), and in the process also breaking the bracelet and crown off the replica, while my real Rolex was safe in my bag in the back.

    Now, I might have to sell the real one to help pay the medical bills until my lawyer can squeeze payback from the clown that hit us. At least I know I still have several other genuine Rolex and Omega that I wont have to sell.

  • Nutty

    Just remember kids. When you purchase a fake/replica/ripoff watch, you are directly funding the Chinese triads in the Far East. The Chinese ‘watchmakers’ in their factory work 20 hours a day, 7 days a week just to make that $500 Rolex that you are wearing.

    It’s ok that the 20 hour a day watchmaker is making less than $30 a month, you are a hardworking guy and you deserve to treat yourself to a watch that you otherwise cannot afford.

    It’s also okay that the watch is made out of cheap parts like steel sprayed gold, plastic bezels made to look like ceramics with whiteout painted markers to look like its platinum filled and movements sourced directly from the back alleys of Shanghai.

    • CHD

      If the counterfeit watch industry didn’t exist those people working 20hrs a day wouldn’t have a job. Also, if you are buying fake watches with ‘plastic bezels made to look like ceramics’ then you don’t know where to look for quality replicas.

  • Anna Wilkinson

    I have a fake Cartier watch which looks the business. It also works . No watch is worth 50,000 pounds. My late husband bought an Omega in 1972. It broke in the 90’s and is NOT reparable. Later he bought another Omega which cost a fortune. The thing broke down after 3 months and had to be sent to London for repair. Although it was under guarantee, obviously, the postage costs were mammoth. After my husband died I sold the watch. It was flashy and ugly and I was glad to be rid of it. I would defy anybody to tell that my Cartier was fake unless they took the back off of it. I shall probably buy another one as well. So there!

  • Hubert

    I’m 15 years old. I can’t afford a real Hublot so I bought a fake one for a fair quality. It will obviously never be as good as the real deal but I really like it. I bought it just because I love the way the watch looks, not so much for the brand. If people ask me I always tell them it’s fake. I don’t mind wearing a fake watch and hope that one day I’ll be able to afford a real one.

  • Otaku à la mode

    I agree

  • CHD

    The luxury watch industry is an absolute joke. Unless you’re spending crazy amounts of money most of the watches are simply nice cases with rebranded/decorated internals. Think you are getting ‘quality’ for your money by buying the real thing…think again.

    In 2003 I spent $2300 on an Omega Seamaster and after 3.5 yrs it stopped working and cost me $600 to get it repaired. Yes…$600 for repairs on a $2300 watch I owned for a little more than 3 years. At that point in time I swore I would never buy another genuine watch again.

    I own numerous fakes, my latest being a Rolex Submariner (V7 NOOB) and a Panerai 438 (V6F) with ceramic bracelet. These two watches combined cost me $720…and I would bet that 99% of the population could not tell them from the real thing….they are AMAZINGLY good knockoffs. I would add that my ‘fake’ Rolex keeps better time and has better power reserve (it’s an automatic) then my $2300 Omega ever did.