THE PERILS OF COUNTERFEIT WATCHES
Counterfeiting is the act of making or selling lookalike goods or services bearing fake trademarks.
Recently, I traveled from Spain to the United States carrying the tools I need to conduct my “luxury or lie?” seminar/course. This is a trip I’ve made at least twice a year for past two years, most recently for the national association of watch and clock collectors.
Reaching border control and challenged about the feather in my “vintage” (1960) Stetson hat, on informing the border control agent, that it was a peacock feather, I was marched off, and spent the next 45 minutes having this endangered feather seized!
Not content to that, the agent then searched my bags, finding my genuine Rolex that I was wearing, and my bag of counterfeit watches. No amount of explaining, would help convince them that these pieces were my own, not for resale BUT indeed to teach others the “perils” of buying counterfeit.
Three and a half hours later, not just the 28 counterfeit watches were seized but also my genuine Rolex’s and Breitling’s – well they surely could never tell the difference between a “genuine or a fake”
The fact is slightly confusing, some lawyers imply it is legal to enter USA with one piece only of counterfeit, as long as it’s not for resale, but “Border Control” do not always admit to, therefore you enter with your own “peril”. That said, I doubt any Border Control agent could tell if the watch you were wearing was made by Rolex or by someone in China.
So what started with a peacock feather lead to a $2,100 import duty for my genuine watches, and 28 counterfeit watches seized!
The good news is 3 days later, I got a call from Border Control, asking me to collect the “peacock” feather – they had NO idea why it was seized! Go figure!
Counterfeiting is a form of trademark infringement. It’s the act of making or selling lookalike goods or services bearing fake trademarks. For example, a business deliberately duplicating the Rolex trademark on watches is guilty of counterfeiting.
By copying (stealing) a luxury goods item’s trade mark – the counterfeiter’s primary purpose is to confuse or dupe consumers.
It’s still counterfeiting even when the people buying and selling the merchandise are aware that it isn’t from the real source. That’s because even when a buyer knows that the product is a fake, the product can still be used to deceive others.
So what exactly are all the “perils” of counterfeit watches? We all know as a seller it is highly illegal, with certain seizure, fines and possibly imprisonment for selling counterfeit items.
And it’s not just the manufacturer that is liable; an offer to sell counterfeit products can also trigger counterfeiting liability. Proof of actual production or sale of watches is not necessary to prove counterfeiting.
Selling “counterfeit” or “replica” (same thing, different word) items is surely illegal and fraught with costly pitfalls, however buying and owning counterfeit items, also has its dangers!
Although my discussions are about wristwatches, it is safe to say that I’m also referring to all trademark or counterfeit items. But I will leave handbags, clothes and shoes to others to discuss.
Firstly let’s define what constitutes “counterfeiting”. Basically a “trademark” is a word, name, slogan, or symbol businesses use in order to distinguish their goods or services from those of others. By registering a trademark, businesses can prevent others from using their name, image, or catch phrase to sell products.
Look-a-like or “homage” watches that do not bear the symbol or “trademark” of another company, cannot be termed “counterfeits”, however as soon as you put the name or logo “Rolex or Omega or Panerai” anywhere on that watch it becomes “counterfeit”
As counterfeiters get better and better at reproducing the external characteristics of watches, the movement is becoming even more valuable in determining authenticity.
Gone are the days when quartz movements were put into automatic watches and the action of the second hand was all you needed to consider – today’s counterfeiters make mechanical movements, complete with complications. Copy movements cause problems for external identification because the dials will be in the correct position and the functions will work correctly.
However, fakes are made to a budget and that means they are hugely inferior in quality and reliability. Remember, a Rolex has a warranty of five years. Try finding the fake Rolex man on the beach fifty minutes after purchasing that knockoff! Buying counterfeit watches even at the $200 price point, steals sales away from legitimate brands such as Bulova, Seiko, and Citizen that sell watches at these price points. This is very bad for the overall industry.
For my Luxury or Lie? class and training I own dozens of “fake” watches by all manufacturers, most last about as long as a prawn sandwich before failing – and you have no comeback to the clandestine Chinese manufacturer. (One final strange anecdote – I could not bring my pieces into the U.S. for purely training purposes, yet I could easily order a package of six replacement “replica” watches from China, on two separate occasions. Seems only Chinese companies can import counterfeit items into U.S. Again – go figure.)
The fact that is fakers can only give the “appearance” of quality. There has been no research and development, no stress testing, no chronometer (COSC) tests, no waterproof tests. What you have is a cheap Asian movement pretending to be an expensive, highly developed and tested timepiece.
They cannot produce the substance or the functionality of the real thing. However, counterfeiters are getting very close – and it is scary. Remember that the genuine piece comes with a name usually gained by years of good reputation, stemming from quality and reliability. And that comes with a price.
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