It is very common to see fake high-end watches, such as Rolex, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet and many more brands. What you probably don't know is that entry-level brands, such as Seiko and Orient have replicas too.
It is important to know how to differentiate the real deal from a fake model. This is even more true if you plan on buying a second-hand timepiece. This article will help you make you sure you buy an authentic affordable watch.
Why are affordable watches also replicated?
It might be a shock to you that affordable watches are also victim of the counterfeit market. It is easier to understand why someone would buy a 100$ Rolex replica instead of the 20 000$ real model.
It gets a little harder to understand why someone would get a fake Seiko watch, when you can get it for a few hundreds of dollars. The problem is, most of the time, people who buy fake affordable watches aren't aware they are doing so.
Counterfeit goods sellers will do about anything to make a few dollars. This often means sticking well-known logos on generic watches to sell them easily.
What to look out for
When you get the chance to see and handle the timepiece before you buy it, it usually is pretty easy to spot a fake model.
Your first reflex might be to look at the strap, but this might not giveaway a fake. Some counterfeit sellers will use the same manufacturer as original brands, which means they might have the same quality of band.
Looking at the dial is one of the easiest way to spot a fake watch in person. I will give a few example of things to look out for, but you should avoid any watches with unusual dial elements.
source: Amazon / watchuseek user halfapie
Above is a great example of a fake Seiko 5. On the left, you see the real model, while the counterfeit one is on the right. At first glance, you can't really see any difference.
To notice the counterfeit model, you have to read the very small characters at the bottom of the dial. The fake one reads 7009, a caliber that wasn't ever used on this particular Seiko 5 model.
Unfortunately, you need to be a watch geek to know this fact, and 90% of consumers won't notice this kind of trickery.
source: ebay / reddit user owemeacent
Above is a much more obvious example of a fake dial. The counterfeit Orient Tristar, on the right, has a very sketchy logo.
Even if the picture is a bit blurry, you can clearly see the lack of detail in the lions holding up the banner. Also, the tips of the crown don't have the same quality of details.
Another dead giveaway is the date display, which doesn't even show the day.
There are several elements to look for on a watch case back to spot a fake model. The first is the material. Most watches these days use stainless steel for the case. Some fake watch manufacturers will use different materials based on availability in their region (often China).
source: Watchuseek user halfapie
For example, the fake Seiko case above is engraved with the word stainless steel, but upon further analysis, the owner realized it is actually made of chrome plated brass.
source: Youtube user Just One More Watch
In some more extreme cases (such as the one pictured above), fake manufacturers won't even go through the trouble of replicating the engravings on the case back, they will simply leave the stainless steel blank.
Without a doubt, the movement is the easiest way to know if a timepiece is fake. Manufacturers simply can't replicate in a perfect manner the in-house movements developed by Seiko, Orient, etc..
Instead, they try to make a new one that resembles the original caliber, using cheaper pieces, and therefore, being much more fragile.
source: Watchuseek user halfapie
Above is a prime example of a cheap replica automatic movement. To the untrained eye, it might look like a perfectly normal movement.
Experienced watch collectors will instantly notice the lack of details in this movement. First of all, Seiko is known to stamp almost every piece with their logo.
Below is a real Seiko 7009 movement with all the markings. It is easier to notice the differences when you have both movements side by side.
The images below represent a much more obvious example of a ''Feiko'' movement. This one uses extremely cheap parts, such as the plastic outer rim. These manufacturers hope that you won't ever open your watch, as anyone could tell this is fake.
source: Youtube user TTINKOGNITO
After the movement, misalignments are the second easiest way to tell a watch is fake. You need to be cautious though, because some authentic watches will sometimes have small misalignments such as uneven hour marks.
This doesn't mean your watch is fake, what tells you if it's a replica is the presence of multiple misalignments and uneven edges.
I don't really have a picture to prove my point, since you need to look at the timepiece really closely to notice most unaligned elements. It also helps if you can see and touch the watch in person, as it will be the easiest way to feel the uneven edges.
Youtuber ''Just One More Watch'' does a great job at showing different misalignments and sharp edges in the following video.
Most common misalignments are hour marks, day-date features and bezel. Uneven edges can often be noticed on the bracelet, deployant clasps, lugs and case back.
You can't tell a watch is fake only on the basis that you've never seen a similar model before. There are several instances where watch collectors gathered several unused parts from japanese watch factories to create custom timepieces from original parts.
This happens most of the times when brands such as Seiko or Orient close several factories and leave the remaining parts in the abandoned buildings. The enthusiasts then raid the place and take every single piece they can.
source: Watchuseek user Boltz1976
As long as they are disclaimed as frankenwatches, these timepieces are perfectly fine and some are even collectible. The difference between a fake and a frankenwatch is the latter will only use original parts.
When you're buying a watch online, it is nearly impossible to know if you are buying a real model by looking at the images. Often, counterfeit sellers will use photos of a real watch to sell their replicas.
The best way to know a watch is fake online is by studying the average price at legit retailers, such as the watchmaking company, or Amazon and such. If the price you're getting is much lower than that, you're best bet is to steer clear.
The phrase ''too good to be true'', really applies here. If you see an ''incredible'' deal on a website that's not well established, you simply can't be sure it will be authentic.
This also goes for websites such as Wish or eBay. you need to be very careful and vigilant when buying timepieces on these platforms.
To wrap up this article, I must say that the best way to avoid fake watches is to stick with legitimate retailers, even if that means paying a bit more.
If you have the chance to see the watch before buying it, you should take your time to manipulate it and look at every elements very closely before taking it home.
I encourage you to share any bad experiences you've had with fake affordable watches, or even mid-range brands. If you have any other tips to detect replicas, feel free to leave a comment below!