There’s many articles on the web about « identifying » counterfeit watches. Amazon, eBay and other website that allows third party sellers to list items all have their guide about this. This is usually a good basic guide to simply telling you “hey, this might not be genuine”, but they often assume that you will come across the worst type of replica that basically anyone could spot from the other side of the street.
Fact is, replica watches factories are getting better and better and general observation doesn’t help you much to be sure that the watch you have seen for sale is the real deal you are looking for.
Some of the usual points they make look for:
Sure, a lot of bad replica you find on Canal Street in New York or about anywhere in Chinatown use a Quartz movement that make the second hand to “tick” once a second instead of a fluid movement that “tick” 6 to 12 times by seconds. This is normal, Quartz watch uses a battery which wouldn’t last long if they tried to replicate the sweeping of an automatic / manual watch.
Fact is, Chinese automatic movements aren’t much more expensive for the factory and this point doesn’t assure you anything. Worst, the Chinese did a long run in watch making and made their own replica of most famous Swiss watch movement that can run on par with the genuine.
So yes, if it ticks, it might not be real, but it’s far from an obvious tell since only the cheapest replica can be identified by that.
Again, only the worst can be seen like that. Sure, Chinese factory sometime has problem with the Latin alphabet and sometimes make a typographical error, but this is nearly never the case of the higher-end replica.
The functions of a watch often includes complication. Chronograph, power reserve, second time zone are all features cheap movement can’t do. But better replica won’t fear this.
One of the most popular watch movement in Swiss watch come from a brand named ETA SA Manufacture Horlogère Suisse (ETA SA Swiss Watch Manufacturer). In fact, if a watch doesn’t use in-house movement, they are using most of the time ETA movement or modified one of them. Rolex, Omega, Breitling, Hublot, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin, Cartier, it’s actually easier to name the brand that never used ETA movements.
Well Chinese watchmaker / factory had a great success in the last year doing their own direct copy of ETA movement. So all complication from non-in-house movement are rather easy to replicate and can’t be used as a definitive point.
Sure, if you see a chronograph watch that display date as a 31 dial, that’s an easy tell, but if someone wants to scam you by selling a replica as genuine, they will use the best they can find.
Chinese even replicated their own Tourbillon movement and use it in a replica, but also on “real no-name” watches brand. That only shows how impressive quality evolved in the last few years.
Some watches, Rolex for example, use holograms and very small engraving to make thing harder to replicate. Well holograms might have been hard to do in the 90s, but it’s clearly not an issue these days.
All genuine watch come with a box, instructions and certificate of authenticity. If the watch you are looking to buy doesn’t come with them, you should look closely. Sure, someone can lose these items and sell a watch without them, but if you had a high valued watch, would you not keep everything that came with it?
But still, this is not a sure thing. It’s not because the watch has a box and everything that it’s a real one. Shokingly, box and papers can be bought separately from China for not much money. Adding this to a counterfeit watch would surely look more genuine to a buyer. Beware of illusions.