There are many reasons to buy a luxury watch. A kind of timelessness is wrapped up in the precision craftsmanship of a fine timepiece that appeals to many people. Some are also drawn to the statement of refined elegance and taste that emanates from a classic wristwatch, while others are simply drawn to luxury timepieces as a kind of investment—an assumed hedge against economic uncertainty.
Regardless of your motivation for owning a prestige timepiece, you should always bear in mind that any portable luxury asset can be misrepresented, and perhaps none so often as the luxury watch. Spotting a fake luxury watch can save you a huge financial embarrassment, and it’s not always as obvious as avoiding the cheap-Rolex-in-the-alley deal.
Do Your Homework Before Buying a Luxury Watch
Like any major purchase, buying a fine timepiece should not be undertaken lightly. The first thing you should do to avoid buying a fake is educate yourself about the particular watch you’re interested in. Spend a bit of time getting to know the brand and model you’re considering. In order to spot a fake, you’ll have to have a good idea what a real one is like.
Online resources can be helpful for getting a general idea of what certain watches should look like, and what features different models should have. Also, the internet is a great place to learn what specific watches are generally worth, so you’ll have a good idea of what makes a deal “too good to be true.” Check the records of top auction houses like Sotheby’s and Bonham’s if you’re considering an older model watch. Not only can you familiarize yourself with photos of watches and their features, but you’ll have a good idea of what their value is.
Though the internet is a good place to start your education, nothing can quite replace the experience of handling the actual timepiece. Before considering that great deal on a vintage Daytona Cosmograph from your uncle’s friend Vinny, you should probably get your hands on the real thing. Luxury watch dealers willing to guarantee their wares are a great place to get a ‘hands on’ education. Not only are these dealers often willing to share their knowledge, but you’ll be able to see and feel the genuine article.
Make note of the material the watch is made of, as well as the feel of its weight in your hand. Most fakes will weigh substantially less due to cheaper materials, and the finish of a fake is often immediately suspect due to inconsistent color or even rust. Check for hallmarks that indicate the fineness of the gold, and note the quality of the hand’s movement. No matter how good a fake is, it will never have a movement better than the real thing.
Although it may be impossible for you to inspect the internal components, you should still be able to get a feel for how the second hand moves for future comparison. A watch’s sound is also telling. High end luxury watches are generally extremely smooth and produce very little of the ‘ticking’ sound cheaper watches make. Knowing how that Cosmograph is supposed to sound can go a long way to helping you avoid buying a fake.
Buy the Seller Before Buying the Watch
Spotting a fake watch often starts with spotting a fake watch seller. In addition to researching the watch you’re interested in, you should research the seller as well. Obviously, the bricks and mortar dealer with a solid reputation who is willing to guarantee the watch is the best case scenario, but there are some trustworthy online sources too.
Look for seller ratings if applicable, but consult customer satisfaction surveys with a skeptical eye as they can be easily manipulated. Check for reviews spaced out over years and written in various styles with informative details. Check to see if the online business is registered with the Better Business Bureau. And, at the bare minimum, insist on a written guarantee.
Spotting a Fake Watch Face
The face of any watch is usually the most prominent aspect of the piece’s overall look, and can be both the easiest and the hardest place to spot a fake. Check for the obvious first. Even if you haven’t studied the model in question, you’re likely to catch a misspelling. Also look for features or complications that don’t match the model you’re looking for, like a chronograph complication that doesn’t belong, or dials that shouldn’t be there.
Also, be sure to check the logo—some fakes don’t even bother to copy the logo correctly. The crispness of the lettering and the strength of the dial’s luminescence can also indicate that a watch isn’t what it claims to be.
Spotting a Fake Watch Case
Knowing the exact dimensions of the watch you’re looking for can help you spot a fake case, particularly the thickness: high quality movements tend to be thin, and if the watch you’re considering is thicker than it should be, chances are it’s housing a counterfeit movement. If the case is made of stainless steel, check for evidence that it is plated rather than solid, like spots worn through to the base metal or chips (stainless steel can show scratches or dents, but it will never chip).
The case can also reveal quite a bit about a watch, including the model and serial numbers. Your research should tell you what kind of model number is associated with the watch you’re looking for, and where to look for it. Some fakes will have plausible model and serial numbers, but sometimes these numbers can be out of position, etched unclearly, or they might not even be in the proper font.
Check the Movement
The movement of a watch is its internal workings, and often counterfeiters use fake movements inside authentic cases. Aside from the easily observable features like second hand movement and smoothness, detecting a fake movement is usually left to the professionals—the most reliable way to identify a fake watch is to have an unbiased professional take a look. Some contemporary ‘replica’ watches feature movements of such quality that only a professional can tell the difference by removing the caseback and examining the interior of the watch.
Diamond Estate Jewelry Buyers purchases many types of previously-owned luxury watches, including timepieces from Rolex, Patek Philippe, Breitling, Panerai, Chopard, Tiffany & Co., Cartier, and more. If you are looking to sell an expensive watch, please contact us today for a free verbal appraisal and immediate cash offer.