6 Ways To Spot A Fake Watch, Even If You Don’t Know How To Spot A Fake Watch (Archive)
One evening while we were sipping away at his ex-wife’s stock of 1945 Pétrus, my buddy Slippery Steve and I contemplated a few of the essential questions in life, the kind that rarely find real answers. Where do I come from? Is there life after death? Can I wear brown shoes after 6:00 PM? Is my Audemars Piguet a fake?
That last pondering seems to be quite frequently asked on various watch forums and popular Facebook pages, and is normally asked by those who seem to be stressing about the genuineness of their watches. Steve shared some of his thoughts on how to spot a fake, and I’d like to share a few of these with you in what I’m going to call “Slippery Steve’s Guide to Spotting a Fake Watch.”
Your high end watch is fake if:
1. The watch was a gift.
If your watch is (or should be) pricey and it was given to you by an uncle, neighbor, grocer, etc., chances are it ain’t the real McCoy. This is the real world, guys, and the chances that someone gives you a gift worth more than $10,000 just because you are you are remote, no matter how well dressed you may be!
Rule number one does not apply if you helped your uncle Ned get rid of his nagging wife . . . but if that’s the case don’t settle for anything less than a perpetual calendar (a minute repeater would be de riguer if you helped to take out a substantial life insurance policy on said wife before her untimely, um, accident).
2. You got the deal of a lifetime.
Imagine a restaurant offering a full three-course meal of caviar, lobster, and cappuccino mousse topped off by a vintage-year Chateau Lafitte . . . all for $15. Would you harbor any kind of suspicion that what you are eating might be closer to meat from a hairy rodent (even if said rodent was called Ratatouille) than what was advertised?
The same would be true for an haute horlogerie watch! At $200, $500, or even $1,000, the guy selling you the alleged “fine watch” is getting the good deal, not you.
3. Unnecessary indications and functionless push pieces.
I know that it is very trendy to have useless, obvious, redundant verbiage on a watch dial like “automatic,” “chronograph,” “limited edition,” etc. But often on fake watches the counterfeiters are kind enough to go out of their way and actually print a virtual user manual on the dial.
So if you have a watch with “quarters,” “minutes,” “tourbillon” (well, strike that one – genuine watches often have that word printed these days, too), “repeater,” or “espresso machine” displayed on the case back or on the dial, be warned. And check the spelling of all words carefully as counterfeits are often lackadaisical regarding orthography.
And if you also have pushers that seem like they should belong to a chronograph, but the watch has no chronograph functions, well . . . yup, you got it. The watch is likely to be fake.
4. You bought the watch from Shady Eugene’s “Buy Two Get One Free” shop.
It makes the most sense to always buy from an authorized dealer or a reputable second-hand source. Like marrying your wife’s family when you marry her, always remember that you are not only buying the watch, but also the seller. If the latter has a shop downtown selling cameras, television sets, kitchen appliances, postcards, and watches, you should be in doubt.
And when he plunks the watch on the table and tells you that this “Vacheronne Constanteen is better than a Rolex,” then run from the shop, don’t walk. Run, run, run!
5. Rust and scratches are not part of high-end movement finish.
A huge part of the cost of a high-end watch comes from the manual labor performed on the movement to make it a work of art. Rust, scratches, and ugly peeling are not latest generation finishing techniques. They are just what they appear to be: telltale signs of a butt-ugly, cheap movement that has never seen a sunrise over the Alps!
6. That funky case shape and wonderfully unique dial does not mean your watch is a valuable, ultra-rare timepiece.
A. Lange und Söhne’s designers never decided to take a rectangular watch and squish its sides to make the case look like one of César’s compressions, nor did the Saxon brand ever decide to copy an F.P. Journe dial and place it on a watch. If what you’re being offered fits this description and is a “unique piece,” then check to see if any (or all) of the above-mentioned applies.
What Steve suggests, and I agree, is to do your homework first by checking the brand’s website, talking to your local retailer, or ask questions on a forum or Facebook group BEFORE plunking your hard-earned money down.
And, most importantly, if you have any doubts, don’t buy. The rule of thumb being if it’s too good to be true then the likelihood is that it ain’t true!
*This article was first published on June 23, 2015 as 6 Ways To Spot A Fake Watch, Even If You Don’t Know How To Spot A Fake Watch.