Are you looking for inexpensive watches on the Internet? Better think twice before making that purchase. In this in-depth article from the WatchTime Archives, we explore how sales of these counterfeit watches are hurting both collectors and the watch industry.
For some watch collectors, the temptation is just too strong. âI’ve seen quite respectable watch collectors with beautiful collections who couldn’t get their hands on that limited edition piece they wanted,â says Beatrice de Quervain, a seasoned American watch executive and more recently at the head of Hublot North America. âThey still buy from their authorized dealer, but then just for that part they broke down and went to an unauthorized source on the internet. And of course, they were burnt. They paid $ 20,000, $ 25,000. What they obtained, says de Quervain, was a forgery.
De Quervain’s comments came at a recent American Watch Association meeting to discuss the issue of counterfeit watches. AWA invited WatchTime to participate in the meeting.
The message from the gathered watch company executives and their legal advisers is that, more than ever, watch collectors need to be aware – and beware – of the dangers of purchasing branded luxury watches through unauthorized dealers, in particular watch retail sites on the Internet.
This is because of a recent spike in the production of so-called “superfakes”, counterfeit reproductions of models from popular brands, made mainly in China, which look remarkably like the real thing. âTwenty years ago, the fakes were really fake,â says Michael Benavente, Managing Director of Gucci Watches & Jewelry North America. “You looked at it very quickly and you could see it was garbage.”
Not anymore. These days, watch executives swap stories about counterfeit watches that are so spat out images of the real McCoys that brands themselves have a hard time spotting them. It is not just a matter of imitating what the industry calls âappearance partsâ (case, dial, bracelet, etc.); it is also the quality of the mechanical movements inside. Michel Arnoux, head of the anti-counterfeiting unit of the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH), quotes a counterfeit Hublot Big Bang tourbillon watch seized by Swiss customs officials. Everything about the watch looked like a real Hublot, right down to the vanilla-scented rubber strap. It was only on closer inspection that he found telltale signs of a fake: a piece of plastic in case carbon should be, a crystal that should have been non-reflective, but not l was not. But what was most striking was the movement. “It was one of the first times that I had a fake tourbillon watch in my hand, a true high-precision mechanism,” Arnoux told Swiss Broadcasting Corp. news agency swissinfo.ch. âCounterfeiters now master ultra-complex movements.
Almost all Swiss luxury watch brands are grappling with the superficial phenomenon, says AWA president Jon Omer, former director of DeWitt America LLC. âWe are now facing a new assault, which is gathering momentum. We are talking about parts sold for over $ 50,000 and $ 100,000 that are counterfeit watches. Everyone has to face it. Including watch collectors, says Omer. AWA claims that the only protection a consumer has is buying from an authorized reseller. (Counterfeit watches should not be confused with so-called âgray marketâ watches. Unlike counterfeits, gray market watches are produced by a brand, but sold outside the brand’s authorized distribution network. gray market in the United States.)
AWA and its 30 member watch companies have struggled with counterfeiters for decades. Watch companies act independently to protect their brands and branded products. Some of them spend fortunes each year in a battle on multiple fronts, working with U.S. Customs and federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, and even their own private investigators, to fight criminals who steal their intellectual property (IP).
AWA, based in Washington, works on the legislative and regulatory front. AWA is not a traditional trade association that offers a wide range of services to members. Its mission is very specific: to be the voice of its members in Washington, ensuring that the watch industry has a say in the legislation that affects it on a multitude of issues ranging from tariffs to watchband regulations. in alligator and reptile at the mercury levels in button cell batteries. look at the batteries. The association’s legal counsel is the prominent Washington, DC, Covington & Burling law firm.
In the fight against counterfeiting, AWA has played an important role. âThe association was the main catalyst for the passage of the 1984 Anti-Counterfeiting Act by the United States House of Representatives,â said Executive Director Emilio âTobyâ Collado. This act made counterfeiting a crime for the first time. A decade later, AWA led the way in drafting and lobbying for more powerful weapons against counterfeiters. âWe organized the multisectoral coalition that won the enactment of the 1996 law that tightened penalties and gave brand owners stronger search and seizure rights. “
These days, AWA is pushing through the so-called âRogue Websites Billâ (the Protect IP Act of 2011) that would help shut down websites that sell counterfeit watches. This battle is ongoing, says Collado, in the face of stiff opposition from the internet industry. “In addition, we are working with others to increase penalties for repeat intellectual property offenders and for intellectual property crimes involving gangs and organized criminal enterprises.”