Fighting replica watches with hidden laser images and nanostructuring
Luxury watch manufacturers are constantly struggling with counterfeit watches and replicas which damage the market for genuine watches in various ways. Although I have personally suggested that few fake watches are passable by experts as genuine items, there are a number of situations where it is important to be able to unequivocally verify that a timepiece is “real”. You can read more about the truth about replica watches here. Brands such as Rolex and others have been engaged in special techniques to combat replicas for years. A common tactic, such as those used by currency printers, is to produce items in the watch that are difficult or impossible to copy. A new technique for doing this uses something called CLR-LIGA to combat replica watches, and it will soon begin to be used by Swiss watchmaker Carl F. Bucherer on all of their in-house manufactured mechanical watch movements.
Carl F. Bucherer works with another Swiss company, Mimotec SA, which developed the CLR-LIGA process, which is in fact a combination of two relatively recent technologies. “CLR” stands for “covert laser readable”, which is an interesting way to hide images that only lasers can read. Basically, a laser is pointed at a particular spot where a CLR image has been produced. The hidden hidden image is visible in the reflected light, and there are special scanners designed to read CLR images which are very small and not visible to the naked eye.
Mimotec uses LIGA Laser technology to produce the small CLR images on the surfaces of watch movements. LIGA is a German acronym for a process that uses nanostructuring to shape the surface of materials at a very small level. LIGA is used to produce the CLR images, and the combination allows for an almost impossible to reproduce image which, when combined with a laser scanning device, can display a unique image that lasts forever and helps identify genuine products from replicas. It is not clear whether Carl F. Bucherer will use this technology to place individual serial numbers on his watch movements or more general “brand signatures”.
Arguably, Carl F. Bucherer is not the most replicated watch brand next to the king of copy – Rolex. Nonetheless, it’s interesting to see them investing in a technology that can help consumers feel more secure not only in the authenticity of their products (sold new and used), but as a value-added feature making its internal movements more desirable overall. As for 2014, Carl F. Bucherer will work with Mimotec to produce small parts with CLR-LIGA images on each of their in-house manufactured A1000 automatic mechanical movements. A short video showing how the CLR-LIGA works on Carl F. Bucherer watches is available here.
One issue I have with Swiss luxury watch brands focusing on these niche techniques to fight replica watches is the message they can convey to certain consumers. If Carl F. Bucherer has to resort to hidden nanostructures to fight counterfeits, it seems that the counterfeits are pretty good. It couldn’t be the father of the truth. It is true that I personally represent a more sophisticated class of watch enthusiasts, but I don’t think most people putting a real or a fake Carl F. Bucherer movement next to each other would be fooled by the model. replica. In fact, while there are some fake Carl F. Bucherer watches out there, I don’t think anyone is smart enough to copy the look and feel of their in-house made movements.
While techniques like CLR-LIGA are impressive and add value to a luxury watch, asserting their goal as safety doesn’t always seem to frame the replica watch issue as well as it could. Look for the CLR-LIGA images on Carl F. Bucherer A1000 and other caliber movements from 2014 onwards. It is quite possible that if the technique proves popular, other watch brands will also work with Mimotec and follow suit. not.
Ariel Adams is the founder and editor of the watch reviews site aBlogtoWatch.