This posting is a brief guide in an effort to help others avoid some of the pitfalls when buying into the fake watch market. Fake Swiss watches are on many shopping lists for many coming to Thailand on a holiday and expats making their annual pilgrimage back to the homeland to visit the family.
Some people will object to this blog posting entirely. And I understand.
The right thing to do is to always buy authentic Swiss watches. They are an investment that is likely to retain or even increase in value. Having anything less than authentic is not being completely honest. It is, however, being realistic. This posting will take on this realistic approach and assume that the only Rolex or Omega or Tag Heuer or Audemars Piguet Watch most of us will ever own will originate from somewhere in Asia (Note: if you have moral or ethical issues against others buying replica products, please do not read this report — there are plenty of other articles on the internet that can you give you reasons not to buy them which may be a better suited for you.)
Young, upwardly mobile professionals should wear a great watch. A Rolex on the arm demonstrates excellent tastes, an appreciation for the best things in life, and earning an income that supports it. If I bump into Tom Cruise, for sure he is wearing a terrific authentic Rolex, not one picked up in a back alley of Hong Kong. However, for the rest of us, buying an authentic Rolex or other status Swiss watch is not something we can even consider. Very few of us have an extra $80,000 or more to pop for a quality timepiece, no matter the value or the investment potential, so we take advantage of “replicas” to project a good image. We may not all be overpaid hotshots from San Francisco’s Financial District, but we all want to make that powerful statement in the boardroom or on that important sales call.
Fakes (or now euphemistically called “replicas”) are sold on the internet, and many of us get spam/scam emails promoting them in their junk mail almost every day. Remember, a picture of a product can be manipulated in many ways, and that great looking watch may not be as terrific when it is delivered. There are sellers of fake stuff that guarantee your satisfaction and provide customer service (from some village in India), but you will pay for this, and there can be an enormous “hassle factor” in getting distributors to live up to their guarantees. A fake watch is also a personal item, and it is important to feel it, see it on your arm, look at the movement, and see if this is going to make the right statement for you. My preference is always to have the watch in my hands before handing over my wallet.
If you find yourself in Asia, you are getting close to where good fakes are produced, so it is a great opportunity to pick up one and maybe a few extra watches for the folk back home (or the guy in the next cubicle that might give you a little profit in the transaction). It is absolutely illegal to sell fake designer brand name products in the USA, but I would be remiss if I did not mention that there are a lot of people in the US that make a tidy little income selling good fake Swiss watches they purchased in Asia. Just be sure to never promote a fake watch as the real thing and try to stay away from the real junky fakes.
In Thailand, you will find plenty of fake Swiss watches for sale, and lots of sellers will want to talk if you make your purchase plans public. It is important to have your head on straight with a little fore thought in order to make a good purchase.
Step one is to go and look at the real thing before you venture into the world of fakes. This may require you to put on a tie and some clean trousers and maybe even shave the day you do this. Go into the fine Rolex shops before your trip to Asia, and familiarize yourself with the real thing. Feel how heavy it is, and look carefully at the intricate points of a quality timepiece. Take close notice of all the elements that make this an investment grade watch, so that you will prepared to get as close to the real thing as possible when you are in the fake marketplace.
When you get to Asia, spend some time with the replica seller, ask a lot of questions and do a lot of close examination. If you hurriedly buy a fake on the street, you can count on it ending up not being up to your expectations. There are sellers in Asia that sell quality fakes and a lot more that sell junky fakes. A quality fake will typically cost somewhere from $100 to $200 or sometimes much more, and a junky fake will cost $50 or less. The medium level fakes are in-between. Like anything, you get what you pay for.
From my experience watching others make some money back in the US on fakes (not me, of course), I have found people that can buy an Asian fake that looks halfway decent for about $15-$30 (found in the right places) and resell them in the US for around $50-$60. The high quality fakes can be sold in the US for closer to $500 or more.
All Rolex watches and other super quality Swiss watches have a sapphire crystal (the glass face on the watch) which are scratch resistant and feel better than crystals made from other materials. Some suppliers in Asia will tell you their watches also have a sapphire crystal, but they are lying to you. Even the best fakes — the Japanese made grade A models from Miyota — use a mineral crystal, but not sapphire. So if your Asian seller tells you it is sapphire, you know that you cannot trust him. Cheaper fakes have no minerals in the crystal at all and will scratch over time.
The best quality fakes in Asia are 21-jewel movement. If you run into a seller in Asia that tells you his are 25-jewel movement, or 27-jewel or 31-jewel, they are lying. The Swiss originals are 25 or 27-jewel movements.
One of the biggest deserved criticisms for a fake Swiss watch is the quality of the gold. Authentic high quality Swiss watches are gold filled or gold wrapped. Fakes are gold plated (and if any seller tells you differently, they are lying). All gold plated watches will begin to fade, starting with inside of the band and underneath the watch. Better quality fakes will last a longer time, perhaps 8 to 10 years of regular use. Some cheaper fakes will begin to fade in a couple of months.
Many sellers of good fakes will tell you that your replica watch is water resistant to great depths. They are lying about this, too. Please do not believe them or you will end up with a dead watch. Take a fake watch off before a shower or a jump into your Olympic-sized backyard pool.
Despite these intricate differences, quality fake Asian watches are continuously getting better. The average Joe or even the mildly sophisticated won’t be able to tell the difference. The old days when fakes had clunky movement, imperfect fonts or poorly made logos are gone. Most fakes now use quality mechanical movements with near perfect components and often have transparent backs so you can see the wonders of copied Asian horology. If you shop for your replica watches in the border markets of Cambodia or Myanmar where sellers may be a bit shady, you will still find some low level watches that have the obvious flaws that dominated the market in the past. But now if you shop in the upscale Hong Kong or Bangkok replica markets, you will find fakes that will suit most aspiring American movers and shakers, and give us a good decade or so of use.
Years ago, when OJ Simpson was on trial in civil court for damages from the family of his deceased wife, the TV news media zoomed in on the obviously expensive watch OJ was wearing when on the witness stand. The family at the end of the trial had the bailiff immediately seize OJ’s watch to apply against his judgment, but it turned out that OJ only wore Asian replica watches. He didn’t even own an authentic Swiss watch.
Where to buy Fake Swiss Watches in Thailand
In Bangkok, one of the most reliable places to purchase is in the huge MBK Mall. The sellers will be there later if you need to return and try to get your money back. Some well established ones are on the 3rd floor.
There are plenty of street sellers in Bangkok on Sukhumvit Road between Soi 3 and Soi 12 in the evenings.
On Saturday nights, the old Klong Tom Market in Chinatown is a good source (the original “flashlight market”). You can also buy some excellent knockoff CDs and DVDs along with your watches.
On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the gigantic JJ Market has sellers of everything, including fake watches. These sellers work for the most part in permanent selling stalls, so are somewhat reliable. The downside with the JJ Market is that it so huge, you it is sometimes difficult to find the sellers of any particular items.
If you go to the night markets near night club entertainment districts (i.e., Patong), expect to find poor quality fakes at higher prices. Don’t fall out of a bar somewhere a little inebriated and onto a sellers table and expect to find a good deal (I tried this and it doesn’t work).
The place in Chiang Mai to find fake watches are temporary stands around the Night Bazaar. If you see just a few watches on display, simply ask for what you are looking for and they will come out.
Traveling with your Fake Designer Watch
It is technically illegal almost everywhere in Europe and the Americas to have fake designer branded product, and a more serious offense if you are in the business of selling them.
If you take a small quantity into the US from a holiday, it would be very unusual to have any problems. If you travel around the world with your watch on your arm you won’t have a problem in most countries, HOWEVER, DO NOT TAKE A FAKE SWISS WATCH INTO SWITZERLAND (that would be obvious for some people). Also, you should not wear the fake watch into France, Italy or Denmark, where they tend to be very sensitive about fake designer products (and may arrest you). Back home in Dubuque or Detroit, Denver or Dallas, you are not likely to ever encounter a problem.
DO NOT TAKE A FAKE ROLEX WATCH INTO A ROLEX DEALER FOR REPAIR (another almost obvious observation).
DON’T SELL A FAKE WATCH AS BEING AUTHENTIC. Even in America, they frown on fraud. And even if you sell your fake watch as a replica, try to be low key. Offer it to acquaintances and avoid things like ebay or craigslist. Don’t be complacent just because you see others doing it.
So now armed with this info on fake Swiss watches, I hope you can find the right one(s) that will elevate your status and maybe make you some money when you go back to the USA. It is fun finding ways to fund your holidays here.