eBay says it will authenticate high-value watches

Online retail giant eBay has launched a post-sale authentication service for watches costing $2,000 or more in the US to try to curb sales of counterfeits.

The new Authenticity Guarantee programme will provide an inspection and verification service by independent experts, and will also provide escrow payment for watches that cost more than $10,000, with funds retained until the authentication and other terms of a purchase agreement are met.

eBay says it is one of the biggest marketplaces for high-value timepieces in the world, but the platform is also a known source of counterfeits. Some of the those are sold cheaply and are obviously fake to a discerning purchaser, but there have been reports of sophisticated fakes being sold at high ticker prices.

For a would-be purchaser, the new scheme means that they can browse items on eBay that have been badged as having an Authenticity Guarantee.

After purchase, the piece is sent to a third-party authenticator for assessment. Once verified, it is then shipped from the authenticator facility to the customer. eBay says it will cover the cost of authentication, as well as the shipping from the third-party authenticator facility to the buyer.

This isn’t the first time eBay has introduced a system to try to protect buyers of goods on its platform from being scammed.

In the summer, it forged an alliance with PROVA Group and its founder Emmitt Smith – a former professional American footballer – to provide authentication services for sports memorabilia.

In that instance, items sold on eBay are authenticated by PROVA, and a SmarTag certificate with authentication data stored in the cloud provided to the buyer.

“eBay’s Authenticity Guarantee verifies the authenticity of the watch and confirms the watch is exactly as described in the listing,” said James Hendy, general manager of authentication at the online marketplace.

“Our number one goal is to bring more trust to our marketplace for our entire eBay community, making sure no one receives a fake watch.”

The third-party authenticators will confirm an item is consistent with the listing and carry out a physical inspection focusing on the crown, bezel, dial, case, clasp/buckle, hands, end links and serial number. A security tag will also be attached to the watch.

eBay says it sold over 2m watches in 2019, 54 per cent of them pre-owned, adding there are around 165,000 daily live listings on average for luxury watches.

Rolex accounts for 40 per cent of luxury watch sales on eBay, but it has also become a major seller of other brands like Omega, Patek Philippe, and Panerai.

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