I'm not going to get into any kind of judgement here, if you buy one of these knowingly, depending on what you paid for it, you might not want to cross an international border with it.
Horror stories abound.
The guy who paid 5 grand for a fake Rolex Submariner, or the lady I met in Calgary who had a solid gold Rolex that was an undetected fake for 40 years.
Rolex is not the only brand that gets faked, but it is at the top of the list. I've seen fake Seiko Tunas and Apocalypse models, but also perfectly pedestrian ones.
Sometimes I just wonder......Why?
I'd expect to see High end Seikos getting faked, but so far I have yet to encounter one. For those that may not follow Seiko that closely, you can pay over Fifty Grand for one, so they aren't just that cheap watch brand everyone knows.
The long and the short of it is, know your seller. There are a lot of fake goods online, and if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. A Qualified watchmaker can often determine the authenticity of your watch. There are exceptions. The most common faked watches are easy to spot, but I've seen Cartier and Breitling watches that were not easily verifiable. Basically this is because these companies have models that use fairly common movements, and a highly decorated (chronometer grade) ETA with (fake) Cartier engraving looks just like a Cartier- produced highly decorated ETA with genuine Cartier engraving. Ditto with Breitling. Put either of these into a quality Stainless case with a good looking dial, and you have a high quality fake.
Keep in mind a lot of these authentic high end watches have cases and bracelets made in China.
Yeah, you heard that right.
Beginning in the late fifties, a lot of Swiss companies used cases made in China and Hong Kong. This takes advantage of the definition of 'Swiss made.' At present the term means that the watch has a Swiss movement, which was cased in Switzerland, and Final Inspection in Switzerland. The case, bracelet, crystal, etc. can be made anywhere else and often are. Very few watches are entirely Swiss made, Rolex comes the closest, with their own Gold foundry on site. Patek is another.
However, (and this is where it gets interesting) the sheer number of fakes and the public awareness of them contributes to the opposite sometimes happening.
I was at a Cash Converters where the owner was telling me one of his junior staff took in a 'fake Rolex', gave the guy 20 bucks for it, and put it in the showcase for $100.
Aaaand- of course this time it was an authentic, 18k gold Rolex, and it was purchased a few hours later. This all happened while the boss was away, and no one would have been the wiser, except that the guy who bought the watch came back a few days later with an appraisal in his hand.
He basically waved this at the hapless store owner, and mocked him for having sold him a $20,000 watch for $100.
I don't know why he thought this was necessary, but lesson learned, suffice to say.
Pawn shops are a whole other world, you could probably make a tv show out of one..........
--Just an update here. Recently a very experienced customer told me he sent a watch in to Rolex service to get it regulated, as it was running a tad fast. (Rolex Canada in Toronto, @50 St. Clair Ave W.)
Well it turns out the watch was a fake. I had a look at it after it was returned, and although great lengths were taken to make the movement look like a Rolex movement, the fit and finish was suspect, and the balance bridge was fake, not to mention the movement was not free sprung.
Cosmetically it was very good, and came with box and papers, all fake. The papers were made out with the name of a legitimate (and well known) Rolex dealer, but said dealer had nothing to do with this watch, I should add. Now I say I have never met a fake I didn't spot, but that means I looked inside. That is where the truth invariably lies. Exteriors are getting so good they are almost indistinguishable. Metallurgically they are usually different, especially in the case of Rolex's special steel alloy.
I'd like to note here that Rolex service Toronto did a full examination of the watch and returned it to the customer. He reports that the level of customer service was excellent, and at no time did he feel that they were dismissing or talking down to him because of this. They spoke with him directly and explained all the salient points of the identification, which I am not going to get into here, so Kudos to Rolex Toronto, your customer is happy and well informed. (For anyone wondering, it looks like the customer will in all likelihood get his money back.)
--And for those wondering where the watch was purchased, it was NOT from an A.D., but a very popular auction site. Nuff said?