Conversation surrounding replica watches has been divisive, with strong opinions on both sides of the debate. What draws people to fake recreations of brand-name luxury items, despite the fact that it’s illegal and morally questionable? Partly because it makes otherwise unaffordable pieces affordable, partly because of the sense that buying a new luxury watch is a money-losing endeavor (to which we’d suggest looking at pre-owned).
Truth is that buying a fake watch–while it may save you some money–hurts more than just the big Swiss brands. It funds the shady (and frankly illegal) counterfeit market that employs cheap labor to produce watches that range from very poor to very good. There are a lot of high-quality replica watches out there in the world, we can’t deny. But there are also smaller brands out there making equally good watches at the same affordable prices as counterfeit operations—they just aren’t trying to make their money off someone else’s good name.
Of course, it’s still a matter of opinion. People have their reasons for buying fakes, and you can’t really stop them. But as a business that works exclusively in the pre-owned market, we do see our fair share of fake watches. None of them are all that great quality, but we can’t help but take a look and compare when a fake watch comes across a watchmaker’s desk.
This time around, it’s a Breitling Super Avenger Blacksteel on the chopping block. It’s a relatively uncommon occurrence to see a fake watch that isn’t a Rolex, which is why we had to take it apart and see.
The First Glance
The dial is a common giveaway for a fake watch. While the arrangement can be a pretty exact match, the printing quality won’t be as crisp or as clean as the real thing. Same with paint on the hands and markers—look for clean edges. It’s sometimes the little details that give away a fake.
Sometimes, finishing on a replica watch won’t be as nice or as thorough. The replica Blacksteel had a coating on the case, which was a dead giveaway. Not that all replica manufacturers will cut the same corners, but on watches with specialty materials, it’s something to keep in mind.
The case back was another detail our watchmaker caught. A real Blacksteel has a titanium caseback with printed text on the back and on the inside. The fake used low-quality steel to mimic the text, but wasn’t able to properly replicate the font with whatever stamp it used.
Casebacks are generally a good way to tell a real from a fake. Do your research, make sure the type of caseback is right to the model of watch. We’ve seen some really weird combinations (like an exhibition back on Rolex).
Always open up a watch if you aren’t sure—the movement will tell a watch’s secrets. And if you can’t tell the difference, trust an expert to be doubly sure. The fake Blacksteel had a replica 7750 movement, but the finishing quality was not up to par.
With Breitling, the same serial number will appear on the outside of the watch, and on the movement across the bridge. Not there or the numbers don’t match? Then you have a fake in your hands.
Buying a watch is an exercise in buying the seller. If you’re in the market and not sure who you’re buying from, do your research and know what to look for. That way, you won’t get burned.
To check out other information on spotting fakes, visit our Real vs. Fake Watch Roundup.