Every year, I seem to pick a topic that nobody else has an interest in reading about. I usually find traffic dives when I pick up these random hobbies, as people ignore my posts in droves.

For example, when I was in school, the obsession was poker. Then when I moved here, there was a whole series on aquariums. Then piano. Then loft redecorating. Now I have watches!

In watch world, there are varying degrees of un-authentic watches. The most obvious "fake" watches are the cheap ones hocked at street corners. These usually replace the automatic movement with quartz movements - they're pretty easy to spot.

As more of the Swiss companies push manufacturing of watches to China, and as China gains more expertise in manufacturing, they've gotten really good at making replicas as well:

For somebody like me, who's never seen a Rolex movement, it's hard for me to say that this movement is fake:

I'd be willing to bet the movement on these replica watches aren't that bad - they might even last a couple years without a problem (in which case, getting a $200 replica watch would actually be a good deal in terms of value).

But let's move onto the next stage of fakes: the "homages." These are watches that are created by legit watch companies, but they are blantantly... "inspired":

Left: Rolex, Center: Invicta, Right: Alpha

This is perfectly legal. It's quite interesting to me how companies like Rolex continue to thrive in an industry that doesn't honor patents or copyright protections. Companies are free to copy these designs, yet Rolex still thrives. The power of the brand! (And the power of quality - although I'd be willing to bet the Invicta would last a long time) Perhaps there's a few lessons to be learned in the software industry...

Rion, one of my coworkers, turned me onto a whole another angle to "fake" Swiss watches. The idea is actually genius.

They create a European-sounding company, get "inspired" designs from high-end brands like Patek Philippe, get the watches made cheaply in China, set a ridiculously overpriced MSRP, then always sell at a discount. Consumers end up thinking they're getting a Swiss-made watch at a cheap discount ~$150... but what they're really buying is a Chinese watch dressed up around a story of a vaunted Swiss maker. One example is Sturhling:


You'll always find Stuhrling watches at a huge discount. I have to give them credit for turning things around on its head - they fake everything but the heritage and play off people's frugality ("I'm getting a *real* Swiss watch for $150!"). (And actually, it also highlights the ridiculousness of people paying so much for watches ... but I'm one of those people now)

Posted by roy on October 20, 2009 at 11:17 PM in Watches | 5 Comments

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Comment posted on November 9th, 2009 at 12:29 AM
oh ps. nordstrom rack often has some really nice watches at a discount. i bought a gorgeous swiss army chrono for $100 a few years ago. they're not at the same caliber as breitling, rolex or patek phillipe, but they do have some nice ones produced by fashion houses like gucci, fendi, burburry, etc. and once in awhile i'll see some movados too.
Comment posted on November 9th, 2009 at 12:59 AM
since when have you been such a watch expert?!
Comment posted on November 9th, 2009 at 11:37 AM
i'm not a watch expert... i'm a shopping expert ;-)
Comment posted on November 9th, 2009 at 11:40 PM
bah, but of course! how could i forget. how has life been?!

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Comment posted on November 9th, 2009 at 12:26 AM
at least that sturling watch has a sapphire crystal.

i refuse to pay over $50 for a watch without the sapphire crystal... it just becomes junk after 6 months, so its like buying something that is "disposable fashion". but i see soooooooo many watches that don't have the sapphire crystal... its so not worth it!