How to spot a fake watch

Many of us have already faced, at some point in our lives, a watch counterfeit. In fact, a study shows that more than one Swiss person out of five has already bought a counterfeit product.

But what is counterfeiting? How to avoid buying a fake luxury watch?

In this article, we will try to answer these questions as best we can so that you can learn more about this phenomenon.

Contrefacons horlogere

What is counterfeiting?

Counterfeiting is the usurpation of the literary, artistic, commercial, or industrial property rights of another. In other words, it is the reproduction or imitation of an object by a clandestine or known company that appropriates the products of other brands.

The “fake” industry is a very juicy market that started in the 1970s and costs the European Union 83 billion euros and 790,000 jobs every year.

The fashion sector remains the most popular for consumers of counterfeit products. Having a Louis Vuitton bag, a Hermes belt, or a Burberry scarf, for example, no longer necessarily means belonging to a wealthy social class. Genuine products are drowned in this immensity of fakes and this sows doubt among consumers of luxury products. Moreover, counterfeit products damage the image of these brands which reflect luxury but are now also associated with fake and low-end.

So why do so many people want to buy replica watches ?

Wearing or acquiring luxury items is about achieving high social status. It shows that you have the financial means to afford expensive and high-quality products. But when you cannot afford it, it is amazingly easy to turn to the counterfeit market which can cost you 10 times less…

Some celebrities do not even mind buying fake! In 2013, a blogger by the name of Fakewatchbusta was even having fun denouncing these stars who displayed themselves with fake luxury watches on their wrists.

And counterfeit products are not limited to the textile and fashion industry, but also to pharmaceuticals and innovative technologies, making it even more dangerous to buy and consume these products.

The OECD has estimated that the market for counterfeit and pirated products is worth up to 509 billion US dollars, or almost 3.3% of total world trade.

Swiss brands are among the most affected, including: Hublot, Roche, Novartis, ABB, Victorinox and the most copied brand of all, Rolex!

The Swiss watch industry is a major victim of this scourge, and its sales have been overtaken by those of its copies. More than 30 million Chinese copies (costing between CHF 300 and CHF 3000) are sold each year, compared to 25 million Swiss watches worth between CHF 4000 and CHF 250,000. Price and quality of counterfeit watches

Price and quality of counterfeit watches

Why not buy fake watches ?

Looking at the prices of counterfeit products, we could be tempted to buy them, but why not? First of all, not to mention the quality of the product which would obviously be lower, you risk a lot for your health and in the eyes of the law. Counterfeiters will try to produce watches at the lowest possible cost and do not care about safety standards or materials used. As a result, you could end up with harmful materials on your wrist. For example, Rolex took years to invent anti-allergenic steel that you will never find in a copy of the brand.

Then, buying a copy is also contributing to organized crime, to the destruction of jobs as well as to clandestine and child labour.

Finally, the proper functioning of your watch is not guaranteed in the long term and you risk exposing yourself to criminal sanctions that can be painful for your wallet.

A gauche un calibre de contrefaçon, à droite, un calibre d'une vraie montre de marque

Some tips to help you tell if a watch is real or fake

However, it happens that we are confronted with a counterfeit product without knowing it. From that moment on, it is up to the buyer to pay particular attention to the object of his covetousness.

If you have any doubts about the origin of the watch, ask to have it appraised by an official dealer of the brand in question. This is the only way to be sure of its authenticity and origin.

Here are also some tips that could help you to detect the real from the fake before you even go to the store:

First of all, comes the physical aspect. In terms of weight, a copy is often lighter than the original, especially because of the materials that are of lesser quality and less noble.

Then, the details! As Leonardo da Vinci said, “Details make perfection and perfection is not a detail.” If you look closely, you may notice some small imperfections (on the screw slots for example) that a luxury watch brand would never let show. Regarding the screws, the slot must be flat! Cruciform screws do not exist in watchmaking.

You can then check the typography and spacing of the letters, as well as the quality of the dial and the details on it such as the logo and the indexes. Each watch has a serial number that you should see somewhere on the piece.

For the movement, if you can see it, make sure it is the original calibre. Many copies will use standard calibres such as Swiss ETA movements, or even Chinese movements.

Also, analyse the second hand (seconds). It should move linearly and quietly. If it moves jerkily, it is probably a quartz (battery operated) movement and is therefore probably wrong.

Finally, if you notice that your watch is leaking or has condensation marks on the inside, it means that it is not waterproof and could be a fake. Indeed, as long as a watch is stamped waterproof, it must be water-resistant.

Nowadays, replicas are more and more faithful to the originals and the tips mentioned above may not be enough to unmask a fraud. In this case, only the professionals will be able to make more thorough expertise and detect the counterfeits.

To conclude, by buying a counterfeit, the quality will be lower and not guaranteed. At Initium, we are committed to working with quality components and tools in order to guarantee you an exceptional watch: yours.

For more information on our goods and services, please browse our website or contact us directly at [email protected]

A real Rolex watch (left) versus a fake Rolex watch (right)


Fédération de l’industrie horlogère suisse. (s.d.). Vous vouliez acheter une contrefaçon ? Dommage !. Consulté le 17 mars 2022.

Talos, C. (2017, 27 mars). La Chine copie toujours plus les produits suisses. 24 heures. Consulté le 17 mars 2022.

Maillard, S. (2020, janvier). DANS LE LABYRINTHE DE LA CONTREFAÇON HORLOGÈRE. Europastar. Consulté le 17 mars 2022.