We previously wrote about how replica watches hurt the industry, which went into details about how replica watches devalue authentic pieces, cause headaches for consumers and brands alike, and even fund organized crime.
However, most of what was written there relates to knowingly purchasing replica watches, and unfortunately, buyers can’t always tell when the piece they’re considering isn’t authentic.
Even seasoned collectors sometimes buy replica watches thinking they’re the real deal and it can wind up being a very costly mistake.
The good news is, you can protect yourself and your investment if you perform a few diligence checks before you make your purchase.
Use the steps outlined below to help ensure your next watch buying experience is everything you hope it will be.
1. Do a Price Check (But Don’t Shop by Price Alone)
If a price is extraordinarily low for a piece, there’s a reason for it.
Sometimes it’s due to wear and tear or damage, while other times a scammer reduces the price enough to make someone want to jump on the piece without asking too many questions.
Before you make a purchase, identify what the normal price range for the piece is, and if any given piece sits outside that range, find out why.
Bear in mind, lower prices don’t always mean the piece is fake, nor do higher prices mean a piece is authentic.
Here at Value Your Watch, for example, we don’t charge sellers individual listing fees or commission fees, so they generally charge buyers less.
If you see prices that are a bit lower than normal, that’s to be expected given the platform, but this isn’t true of most marketplaces, so it’s important to do your homework on pricing.
If the cost of an item differs drastically from others like it, identify why it’s different.
2. Examine the Piece for Defects
You’ll find all sorts of street vendors and websites that make a point of catering to those who want replicas.
The pieces they sell tend to be obvious fakes. The lettering may be off or there may be misspellings. Some outfits use stickers instead of paint, while others don’t do much beyond slapping a fake logo on an item which only loosely resembles an authentic piece.
That said, there’s a specific niche of replica watch sellers who don’t make it clear they’re crafting and selling fakes.
For them, the goal is to make a piece look as authentic as possible to get it by the discerning eye of a collector and get top dollar.
Even still, you’ll probably catch other inconsistencies or marks of poor quality if you do side-by-side comparisons. One common issue with even well-done replica watches is the buckle.
Few make the buckle identical to the original, and even when they do, latching issues are common.
3. Check the Details
Many vintage pieces feature painted numbers and hour markers, but brands largely moved to using alternate materials to create contrast some time ago.
For example, you’ll see gold and steel hour markers on some authentic pieces now.
Many replica watchmakers don’t catch this detail and simply paint the dial markings instead. A quick check of the manufacturer’s specs and cross-reference of the piece you’re looking to buy will weed this one out.
The same is true of coloring and font details. If you’re buying in person, weight may also be a key indicator.
Also pay special attention to the features. Does it have chronograph push buttons with no chronograph features?
That’s a dead giveaway. While examining a wristwatch in person, you may catch non-working features as well, such as buttons that don’t push or do nothing when pressed.
4. Look for the Numbers
Savvy replica watchmakers will still etch serial numbers onto pieces, and sometimes even in the exact same spot the original manufacture does.
The good news is, many brands will let you know if a piece is authentic if you provide them with a serial number.
Ask the seller for a photo of the whole watch with the serial number in view and run your checks before moving forward with the purchase.
5. Do a Reverse Image Search
Applications like Google and TinEye can help you uncover other instances of the seller’s photos online.
Finding duplicates isn’t necessarily cause for concern, as the seller may well have his or her piece listed on more than one watch selling site.
If the seller information and details on the piece match up, it should provide a measure of confidence.
However, if it returns results of the exact same image with different seller details or the stats on the piece don’t match up, proceed with caution.
It’s also worth noting that sometimes a search engine will outright tell you it’s an image of a replica watch.
If you get this message when you run a search, verify the data, as the tech can sometimes make mistakes.
If you’re unfamiliar with how to run a reverse image search, see Google’s instructions.
6. Ask for Documentation
All new luxury watches should come with a box and papers.
There’s really no excuse for them not to. However, the box and papers do not always accompany a vintage piece.
Sometimes this is due to the watch passing hands, but there was a time when the box was simply discarded there in the jewelry store upon purchase as standard practice.
In fact, some people still do this. In these situations, you can ask for any kind of documents related to the piece, such as servicing records or receipts.
Bear in mind, a crafty con artist can create fake papers with relative ease, so it’s not a definitive check, but is helpful when used alongside the other steps outlined here.
7. Grab a Loupe
Replica watchmakers save cash by using simpler processes and older machinery to create pieces. Sometimes, this leaves telltale signs behind.
Instead of smooth polishes, you might have rougher edges. Instead of clean brushstrokes, you’ll see blotches and mistakes.
Engraving may be of lower quality or you may catch debris in the case/ on the dial.
A luxury watchmaker would not let a piece leave the factory with these issues.
8. Give the Piece a Listen
Even luxury watchmakers who don’t make their movements in-house still choose their movements carefully.
They’re made with absolute precision and are generally pieced together by hand. That means they’re incredibly quiet or even silent.
If you hear the mechanisms working, chances are you’ve got a replica watch.
9. View the Movement or Have it Checked Out
If you know the type of movement that should be inside the piece and have a reference to compare it to, it’s worth checking it out.
However, your best bet is always to take it to an expert.
10. Opt for Pre-Owned
While it might seem like pre-owned watches have a greater chance for being replicas because they’re not coming from an authorized dealer, that’s not necessarily so.
Replica watch sellers who are trying to pass their pieces off as the real thing want to get the most they can out of each sale and disappear, so they usually sell their pieces as if they were authentic and in new condition.
The concern with pre-owned usually comes about when the owner of the piece believes he or she has an authentic piece and unintentionally passes it along.
In those cases, the other tips on this list will help you catch the unintentional replica sale.
11. Purchase from a Reputable Seller
It’s important to get to know the seller before you buy. If you’re purchasing from a friend who could unintentionally sell you a replica watch, ask if you can have it checked out by an expert before purchasing it.
If you’re purchasing from an “unknown” entity, as you might on a platform like Value Your Watch, pay special attention to the reviews and ratings previous buyers have left.
In the case of Value Your Watch, we add in an extra layer of transparency by giving you all the details about the vendor up front. It’s displayed alongside the watch specs.
That way, you can run your own diligence checks on any seller before so much as contacting him or her and will know if there are any issues in their track record on any site before you purchase or reach out for information.
If you want 100% guaranteed you should always use an Escrow and Authentication Service.
Avoid Replica Watches: Get Your Next Timepiece Through ValueYourWatch.com
Value Your Watch is a marketplace created by and for luxury watch enthusiasts.
We understand the challenges buyers and sellers face when searching for authentic pieces, so we’ve eliminated barriers which exist on other platforms.
Our sellers don’t have to pay us commission fees or individual listing fees, so their prices are usually lower.
We also provide you with vendor information on each listing and have our own internal rating system, so you can learn from the experiences others have had.
In taking these measures, it’s easier than ever to avoid replica watches and get a great deal on a fine timepiece too. Explore our selection of watches for sale now.