Real or Fake? How the CHRONEXT Workshop Detects Replica Watches


by CHRONEXT

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March 06. 2020 - by CHRONEXT

One of the main components of the luxury watch sector is authenticity with the market being flooded with counterfeits. The production and distribution of replicas which are passed off as genuine are punishable by law. At CHRONEXT, we place the highest value on guaranteeing the authenticity of your watch. We interviewed our in-house head watchmaker to learn about the processes of tracking down fake watches.


The CHRONEXT master workshop and the fight against counterfeiting

Even Abraham-Louis Breguet had to protect his watches from imitators by a secret signature. In 1934, Rolex had to defend itself against counterfeiters in court for the first time. The production of replicas has a long history and has become quite the professional business.

This costs the watch industry billions of dollars and damages the reputation of all retailers. By establishing our own master workshop, we have made it our mission to provide our customers with the highest possible level of security. How do we do this? Through trained experts like our head watchmaker,Karl-Heinz. He has been a watchmaker for 41 years and a part of CHRONEXT since 2015. In an interview, the master watchmaker tells us how he tracks down replicas and which particularly audacious replicas he remembers years later.

 

How long does it actually take to check a watch?

If I open the case and check the watch thoroughly, then 10 minutes. But some fakes are so obvious that I only have to take one quick look.

How many counterfeit watches do you come across in the workshop?

About four or five a month.

Which brands or models are most frequently counterfeited?

Rolex, most commonly the sports models. Just the other day I came across a counterfeit GMT Master.

What are classic giveaways to a replica?

There are many. Practically every component of a watch can be replicated. You can recognise it externally, by the colour of the dial, the shape of the hands, the bracelet or generally by the workmanship. Such obvious forgeries can also be recognised by anyone with an eye for watches. 

But that's not all, of course. There are now many fakes that go into such detail that they are not immediately visible until the case is opened. For example, low quality materials are used for individual components, there are missing engravings or parts are in the wrong place. 

Is it becoming more and more difficult to detect fake watches?

Yes, the quality of the replicas has definitely increased. In the past, you could recognise a fake Rolex by the fact that the second hand did not run smoothly. Instead, it jumped from one second to the next. That was because the fakes were equipped with cheap quartz movements. 

Today, there are companies in many countries that focus on high-quality fakes. These are usually only recognisable by a trained watchmaker who can open the case and knows the intricate details of the inside. So it’s not not surprising to assume that the circulation of fake watches is enormous.

What role does expert examination play in vintage watches?

Even in the vintage sector, a proper examination cannot be overestimated. After all, collectors of vintage models attach great importance to watches that are not tinkered with. Which means they are completely in original condition without processed foreign parts. Only professionals can determine that.

Is there a particular fake that stands out the most?

Bad fakes can quickly be recognised by the fact that they are lighter than the original. I once came across a particularly brazen case when I opened a Breitling. There was a small lead weight in the case, which of course a specialist would immediately notice.

Another time,  we had a Hulk come in, which was well made from the outside with the correct colour and case. After opening it, however, it soon turned out that the caliber was "made in China". 

Are the customers usually shocked by this?

Yes, most of the time they don't know it's fake. For example, we had a customer bring in a Rolex they found to us. The customer came in beaming with joy and felt like a lottery winner. But unfortunately we had to be the bearer of bad news and tell him that it was a fake worth a maximum of 200 euros.

One crazy story still comes to my mind, it must have been about 15 years ago. A customer had brought a watch from her holiday in Italy. It quickly turned out to be a fake in our investigation. The crazy thing was that the woman had paid more for the fake from Italy than the original watch cost in Germany at the time!

Can counterfeits be traced back to their origin?

No, once the fake is in circulation, it is practically impossible to find the manufacturer. The only thing you can do is to determine the country of origin. Today many replicas come from China. You sometimes hear stories of entire production lines dedicated solely to the counterfeiting of Rolex watches. Only a few decades ago, Italy and Turkey were leading the replica market.

 

Do people who bring you replica watches threaten any consequences?

Aside from our refusal to buy them, no. I also believe that most of those who bring us a fake are actually doing so unintentionally. We sometimes have customers who bring an old family heirloom. Watches that have been passed down over two or three generations. They are naturally shocked when they learn that their great-grandfather's favourite watch is not genuine.

What would you recommend to buyers to avoid falling for a fake? 

Only buy watches that either come directly from the manufacturer or from a retailer like CHRONEXT where each individual watch undergoes a meticulous inspection.

 
CHRONEXT

by CHRONEXT

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