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It's About Time

Luxury or Lie: 6 Common Myths About Genuine vs. Fake Watches

luxury or lie adam harris

Two things never fail to amaze me. First, when people buy luxury wristwatches from non-authorized distributors like eBay and then ask if it’s genuine or a fake. The second is the vast array of web sites by so called “experts” professing to tell ways to spot a fake watch, even if you don’t know how to spot a fake watch.

There are two types of people who buy counterfeit watches. The first are people who want the feel and look of a watch but can’t afford it. The second are the ones who are just duped or, to put it more bluntly, cheated. These are the people that I am here to help. Every year I teach a class for the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors on detecting counterfeit watches.

Think you can’t be fooled by fake watches?

It happens more often than you think. Only yesterday I heard about this expensive “Hublot” watch that was purchased on eBay as a birthday present. The seller, who had great reviews, said it was “100% authentic.” Take a look.

Fake Hublot frontfake Hublot back

I am sorry to say that this is an atrocious fake! The movement is a Chinese SEAGULL movement. If the watch were a real Hublot, it would have been a high-end ETA movement.
We might be able to instantly recognize this cheap Chinese fake “Hublot.” But the market is full of counterfeits that are much more serious. In the trade, we call these “super-fakes.” Here’s an example: this Rolex Explorer offered on eBay with multiple bids selling for $4,990.
Fake Rolex Explorer
Can you tell that it isn’t genuine?
Fake Rolex Side

Fake Watch Myths

Rolex Explorer II genuine

Genuine Rolex Explorer II

In articles to come, I will go into a lot more detail on how to identify these skilled fakes so you don’t confuse them for genuine luxury watches. But let’s start with six common myths about fake watches that may lead you to believe that you are buying a genuine watch when you are actually purchasing a fake.

FAKE WATCH MYTH #1: Fake Watches are Lighter than Genuine Watches
Rubbish! Counterfeiters today easily make watches that are the same weight. How? Well, they are using the same ETA movements as the original manufacturers or second source copies. Therefore weight is no longer an acid test.

FAKE WATCH MYTH #2: It’s Not Complicated
You will read that complications never work on fake watches. It is true that in many cases they do not. But many luxury watches do not have any complications except date, which may work on a fake watch. Therefore, the complication test is usually not helpful in separating the fakes from the real.

FAKE WATCH MYTH #3: The Date Bubbles on Fake Rolexes Don’t Magnify Enough
It used to be that the “Cyclops,” the lens over the date on a Rolex did not magnify 2.5 times on a fake Rolex. That is not so difficult to fake anymore. I have seen many fake Rolex watches with the correct magnification. I would not depend on that as a litmus test.

FAKE WATCH MYTH #4: A Genuine Movement Means a Genuine Watch
Have you heard that movements on fake watches are never the same? How wrong that is. Most watch brands today buy their movements from ETA, the world’s largest supplier of mechanical movements. The counterfeiters can now buy Chinese or Japanese reproductions or indeed actual ETA movements from secondary sources. Take a look below at how similar reproduction movements look. Which of below is authentic and which is fake? They look pretty similar, don’t they?

Panerai fakevsreal

FAKE WATCH MYTH #5: Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth
There is no such thing as a free lunch, right? The conventional wisdom is that gifts of luxury watches are fakes. Well, this may be close to the truth. But real watches are inherited and sold. If we all go around scrapping inheritance gifts, it may be an expensive error. This is hardly a definitive test for telling genuine finds from imposters.

FAKE WATCH MYTH #6: All the Watches on Craig’s List are Fake
Is this a myth? Probably not, honestly. I can’t recommend looking on Craig’s List for a luxury watch.
Twenty years ago the fakes were really fake. You could look at a watch and really quickly determine it was trash. Not anymore. As manufacturers add counterfeit measures, the counterfeiters copy them. Today we have super fakes that take experience and knowledge to detect.

Adam R. Harris is the course developer and instructor of Luxury or Lie, a course offered through the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors , Columbia, PA. For details about the next course contact or register here.
©Adam R. Harris 2015

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