6 Ways To Spot A Fake Watch, Even If You Don’t Know How To Spot A Fake Watch
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!
For more of What Makes Me Tick’s fabulous insights and photos, please follow his Instagram @whatmakesmetick and Facebook accounts.
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This was good advice in like 1995. Now, they’re making 1:1 replicas of some seriously complicated pieces. The only way to be sure is to open up the back and get pics of the movement. Despite building very convincing cases, etc, they haven’t yet copied the movements.
What kind of movements are you talking about?
You’ve probably heard people go on and on about the “sweep” or talk about how top quality watches don’t make that tell-tale “tick-tock.” For all intents and purposes, these people are right. When you pick up a Cartier or Chopard, the tiny hand measuring the passage of seconds glides effortlessly, like a toothless hockey player. In actuality, all wristwatches tick-tock. However, in a true quality watch, the internal mechanism (the movement) is so finely tuned and so well constructed, that these ticks happen as often as nine times a second, producing a flawless sweep. This is the difference between a five-dollar movement and a movement costing hundreds of dollars.
Cartier sells quartz. They tick.
Oh, fake watches nowadays are comprised of nearly perfect copies, and the movement is not giving away the truth any more, not even to an expert watchmaker. There are close to perfect copies on every level now. It takes major expert knowledge to distinguish them. Dials, cases, movements, everything is made aftermarket. And there are fakes who know how to fake patina, how to make fake vintage dials that are barely recognizable and where even very experienced collectors are struggling to determine if authentic or not. It is not pretty is all I can say. I have seen aftermarket 18k gold watches made of real gold. It is quite shocking at times.
If the dial runs smoothly, you’re good. If it jumps- beware!
I got burnt
Looking all over the Internet but just can’t find if this Valentino White Crocodile Watch is Authentic before I make any purchase it looks real but I’m not so sure
This was useless bulls**! anyone knows all that. You should write a book on common sense idiot.
Thank you for that well thought out and carefully expressed opinion Sezzy, you are obviously no idiot.
Hi I recently found a Glashutte original watch amongst my stuff and I’m wondering if it’s real. It has the logo on the crown, buckle and it says Glashutte on the leather strap. I don’t know what it’s called so I can’t search it. I’ve even looked on replica websites and I can’t find it. Do you think it might be real?
There is no way we can comment without seeing anything, but watches stamped “Glashütte” have been around since the 1950s, so it may well be a pre-unified-Germany model. Take it to a fine watch retailer near you for more information.
are u that dumb?
I picked up a Timex on DH Gate for $30. I know DH Gate is known to be shifty, but does this sound legit?
That would depend highly on the model, but I think that $30 is entirely in the realm of plausible for a Timex.
… oh Lord – this was some expert advice …
Since there’s no secret about the dials made in Chinese factories for Swiss made brands, who is naive enough to think those Chinese watch companies, even with a contract, in the land of the piracy, are not making those perfect copies? Swiss watch industry trusted too much in a country whit no honor, and they are facing its stupidity!. There are even videos on YouTube showing the dials made for Rolex, from a supossed well known Chinese watch maker!.
I’m new to watches and can say that there are definitely some very high end replica watches out there, among some also very crappy ones. One friend even paid $35K for a PP and only found out it was a fake after some years and a new jeweler working on it. I think the very fine details, like those seen with a loupe, verifying model and serial number, as well as checking for plating on metals, etc is the only way to know.
Such a great help! Now let me try this on my g shock watch! Hope everything goes in the right way!
Hey I want to join
Yes I want to join and I think I can help you with that watches
You have written this article in such a simple language that anyone can understand it easily. Thanks for sharing and providing valuable information.
Hi! Thank you so much for all of the helpful information you write!