Annual revenue in the replica timepiece industry is estimated to be more than 1 billion U.S. dollars. This revenue is derived from people choosing to use that money to buy a watch and then seeking the product and purchasing the timepiece.
That money should be going to legitimate businesses that sell reputable products, but it's not. That revenue is being stolen by Counterfeiters. But from whom are they stealing? The obvious answer is probably not the most accurate. Of course, Rolex and other companies are affected by the selling of watches bearing counterfeit trademarks, but there are also other Victims. Companies like Seiko, Citizen, Timex, and many others who produce watches that retail for amounts in the $100 to $300 price range are losing part of their target demographic due to the option their target market has of buying a fake Rolex.
If a guy only has $200 to spend on a watch, if their were no replica watches available, he would be forced to choose a reputable brand's product. He would be spending his money on a Timex, Citizen, Invicta, Seiko, etc., but he's not. Many times, he is buying a knock-off Rolex, Hublot, TAG Heuer, Omega, or Breitling watch. So the manufacturers of Timex watches, Citizen Watches, and Seiko Watches, as well other brands are severely damaged by the sales of watches bearing counterfeit trademarks. Not only that, but the retail stores that sell these reputable watches are having money stolen from them.
One can also make the argument that many people who choose to buy a replica Rolex, might choose to buy a real Rolex via credit instrument such as a credit card or bank financing if that person didn't have replicas available to him/her. He may choose to pay $300 per month on his credit card in order to wear the Rolex logo around his wrist. Or he may choose to save his money for awhile in order to be able to pay cash, but he's not. He's spending a couple hundred dollars on a fake.
Of course, there are also individuals who can afford to buy a Rolex; want a Rolex; but would rather not spend the money on a Rolex... maybe they would rather keep the money in the stock market. Some affluent individuals are not wired to want to spend large amounts of money on a wristwatch. Hopefully they would choose to buy a lower end watch that doesn't infringe on the intellectual property rights of others, but some do not. There are many accounts of celebrities being caught wearing fake watches. If the fakes weren't available, the celebs would need to choose between having a nice lower end brand or coughing up their money for a piece of haute horlogerie.
There are arrests happening almost every day throughout the world with regards to replica watches. We have personally posted advertisements on craigslist to inform buyers and sellers that buying, selling, possessing, and manufacturing replica watches is criminal conduct. These ads are quickly removed from craigslist. It is our firm belief that the Parties who request the removal of these ads are Cops with whom we are not currently working. We believe they look at it as a funny little feeding frenzy. "Look for the dumb guys selling counterfeit watches for a couple hundred bucks." Then arrest them. Then that guy who listed the fake Rolex on craigslist has to spend thousands of dollars on attorney's fees, court costs, time in jail, fines, fees, etc. As far as we are concerned, these individuals selling replica watches are simply looked at as sources of revenue for Law Enforcement.
We advise anybody who possesses, buys, sells, and/or manufacturers replica watches to stop immediately. The replica watch industry causes a large amount of damage to watch manufacturers of high-end and low-end watches; to the retail industry; and unnecessarily lines the pockets of attorneys and the Justice System. We are all for assisting Police and the FBI as well as law firms such Gibney, Anthony, & Flaherty in their quest to pursue the sellers of these timepieces, but we would prefer to help end the production of these watches. Then the damage caused by the replica watch industry would be curtailed.
Many Criminal are selling replica watches. Some, however, are attempting to sell replica watches (such as Rolex, Omega, TAG Heuer, Breitling, Omega, Vacheron Constantin, Franck Muller, Hublot, and others) as authentic watches and are scamming unsuspecting buyers including jewelers and pawn shops out of thousands of dollars per transaction.
Hey, do you want a replica watch? Replica watches have become more sophisticated since shady criminals used to sell them in back alleys. Now, they are so good that three men managed to trick 7 pawn shops into accepting them and made off with $104,000 in Singapore Currency. The men (of course) were eventually caught.
Chen Zhiwei, 33, who was not employed, was imprisoned for two years in October while his cohort, Lam Chan Pieu, 31, was sentenced to 3 years in prison. Another accomplice, Fong Kheng Yue, 44, was Sentenced to 18 months in August.
This all began when Chen and Lam, who had been friends for ten years, decided to con pawn shops using replica Audemars Piguet timepieces. These watches bore the brand's trademark; were packaged in boxes bearing counterfeit trademarks; and came with forged certificates of authenticity.
CONSPIRACY TO DEFRAUD
The Court heard that in January, Lam told Chen that Lam was able to obtain fake Audemars Piguet watches that could be pawned for more than $10,000 each.
Lam also stated that Fong was previously assisting in this conspiracy to defraud.
Fong would pawn the watches at the pawn shops and act as the guarantor. After watching Fong for a while, Chen was ready to see if he could pull it off himself. Lam would often drive Chen to the various pawn shops and pick up the cash after each scam.
Chen was promised 10% of the profit... the same cut that Fong was offered... with the remainder going to Lam. Between Jan 13 and 26, the men conned 7 pawn shops across Singapore of $104,000. The most cash they got for a counterfeit watch was $22,000. On at least 2 occasions, these criminals used a fake identity card to conduct the guarantee of the transaction. They also attempted to con a pawn shop in Temple Street of $18,000 on Feb 2.
Chen netted $9,600 in total and spent the money on gambling and personal expenses. On Feb 3, an appraiser at one of the pawn shops made a Police Report and the 3 men were arrested within 2 days. In October, Chen and Lam were in a District Court and were Sentenced to 2 and 3 years in Prison, respectively.
Heng Seng Pawn shop assistant Lee Yonggui told The New Paper that he and his colleagues were tricked by the con men because the watches looked authentic.
"We don't see many customers coming in with Audemars Piguet watches. We weren't as experienced in knowing how to check the watch. So we fell for it," he said in Mandarin. They now take much greater care to scrutinize each watch, he said. As an example, they will open up watches... with the customer's permission... to check the parts inside as well as get a second opinion from a watch shop, if necessary. "But pawn shop assistants are usually under pressure to close a deal," he said.
"Customers don't wait around for you to check and inspect a watch. If you take too long, you lose a customer. So we have to try our best and rely on our experience. It's not easy," he said.
Telltale signs in replicas are usually in the minor details. "Telling a real and fake watch apart is not easy," said a watch dealer contacted by The New Paper. Mr Russell Tan of HJ Luxury said: "Some of these counterfeit watches are so high in quality that you cannot tell just by looking at the casing alone. Some of them are even made with good quality stainless steel."
Mr Tan, who has been in the industry for 25 years, said he recently dealt with an Audemars Piguet watch that a customer had brought in. "After disasssembling it and spending 45 minutes checking every part, I found there were minor imperfections on some parts so I had to use my instinct and I didn't buy it," he said.
Mr Alvin Lye, who runs Monster Time Gallery, also said he has to pay attention to the tiniest of details. For example, if he were inspecting a Rolex GMT watch, he would check how the hands are stacked.
Mr Alfred Png, who runs Png Watch Dealer, told The Straits Times in July that while replicas have tell-tale signs that set them apart from genuine ones, these often boil down to tiny details - for instance, the lustre on a screw or slight difference in the dial colour.
Mr Tan said: "These counterfeit watch agents would buy a genuine one and bring back to their factories where they dissemble the watch, copy each piece and manufacture copies that can be 99 per cent realistic."
The safest is when customers produce a servicing receipt from the original watch makers. "Like our customers, we also want assurance too," he said.
Replica watches such as Omega, Breitling, Rolex, TAG Heuer, Movado, Franck Muller, Audemars, Piguet, and Hublot are illegal. The best advice we can give is to always buy your watches from authorized retailers or reputable online timepiece sellers.