How can you tell if you’re looking at authentic watches? Are there watch tips to help you ferret out fakes?
There are plenty of fakes out there, but of course there are authentic watches too. This is a fear most collectors face once, and maybe more than twice, in their lifetimes. You’ve found a watch you really want. Everything looks good, but you’re not 100% sure about the seller, and therefore not 100% sure you’re getting the real deal when you purchase your timepiece. That makes the first tip obvious, but not always so simple.
1: Buy from a Reputable Source
But what makes a source “reputable?” Yes, buying directly from the manufacturer is the best iron-clad way to make sure your purchase is legitimate. But that will take nearly all of the pre-owned market out of the picture, limiting your choices and raising the costs, as buying new through the manufacturer can be more expensive than through a retailer.
Don’t think a big reputable store guarantees authentic watches. We could list several massive global enterprises everyone knows and mostly trusts that sell everything from computers and bicycles to clothing and watches. But if watches aren’t their specialty, they’re probably not going to have the precautions in place to sniff out all fakes. Individual sellers can also be risky, as it could be difficult to do enough research about them to ensure everything they’re selling is legit.
To get a good price, and the reputation to back up that what you are paying for is authentic, look to the top, long-running online stores that specialize in watches. There are only a handful of them, easily found on a Google search, and they’re your best bet.
2: Beware the Frankenwatch
As you may know or can probably guess by the name, Frankenwatches have lots of parts from lots of different watches. So they’re not exactly counterfeit, but they’re certainly not totally authentic. The first whiff of a clue you’ll get with a pieced-together watch is the price. It probably seems too good to be true, and probably is.
Then things get complicated as many of the inner workings may have come from lesser timepieces. It may be a genuine vintage Rolex Daytona case and dial, but the movement has been long since replaced with cheaper parts. Or they could have swapped the bracelet out for a cheap imitation or replaced the sapphire crystal with plexiglass. Paperwork is a big help in sniffing out Frankenwatches. If a watch has been regularly serviced and records kept, you can sleep sounder knowing it is legit. Other than that, use your common sense, check out a watch thoroughly, and look to the first tip and reputable dealers to avoid the Frankenwatch trap.
3: Learn to Spot Fakes on Sight
This is more a collection of tips, but if you are going to evaluate watch authenticity on your own, there are a few telltale signs you should always be aware of.
- Check the weight. Really, put it on an electronic scale and see if it meets the manufacturer’s specs. Luxury watches often use high-quality gold, steel, and platinum that is physically heavier than cheap imitation parts. Most times you can feel the weight difference in your hand, but it can’t hurt getting the correct weight down to the ounce.
- Scrutinize the face. Just as one bad stitch tells you a handbag is fake, the slightest flaw on a watch’s face is a sign there might be trouble. Given the prices they fetch, luxury watches don’t leave the manufacturer with even the tiniest of flaws on their dials. So if one letter is off, one minute marker is just a hair out of alignment, or the engraving isn’t ultra-smooth, chances are pretty good the watch might not be authentic.
- Listen closely. Literally put your ear up to the watch and listen to it work. High-end watches are designed to function at amazingly low volume levels. The ticking you hear when you hold the watch close to your ear should be subtle. If you hear ticking when the watch isn’t right up next to your ear, move on because it’s probably a fake.
4: Compare Images
Luckily, you’re armed with information when considering a watch purchase. You can look at high-resolution images of the watch from the manufacturer and compare those to the watch in question. Often times a watch that isn’t authentic has extra information, extra this, extra that. A fake might have the word “chronograph” printed around a subdial when the original doesn’t. The engraving, the case shape, the indices — there could be ever-so-slight differences that one might not notice at first glance but will be obvious when doing a close-up side-by-side comparison with the real deal.
5: Accept That Amazing Bargains Don’t Exist
You’ve probably seen TV commercials where people brag about their online deals — “I got this big flat screen TV for 20 dollars!” “I got these designer shoes for just five bucks!” They’re stretching the truth to its breaking point. If you find a super cheap price for a watch, you can almost be sure it’s not authentic.
Authentic Watches Conclusion
That doesn’t mean there aren’t good deals and affordable watches out there when it comes to authentic watches. It just means you should expect to pay a reasonable price, no more or less. How much? That’s as varied as the watches available for sale across the planet. So it’s all about research, research, research. Look everywhere that is selling the watch you want, compare prices, make a list (actual or just in your head). Somewhere right in the middle of all of those prices that are posted you’ll know the fair price you should pay.
The world is full of fake watches and, unfortunately, disreputable people ready to take your money for them. But with a little homework and a lot of common sense, you can have some beautiful authentic watches.