Looking for a luxury watch? How to avoid fakes

Getting your hands on a luxury watch is not easy or quick, leading to increase demand in the second-hand market. So how do you shop with confidence when splashing a lot of cash to purchase one of these highly sought after pieces?

We speak with Marion Siamou, a certified FGA DGA gemologist with experience in diamond and precious gemstone liaising, who works at one of the UK's leading luxury resale sites, Cudoni.

Below are Siamou's top five giveaways when spotting a fake designer watch online:

1. Obvious Mistakes

First of all, look at the font, as this can be the most noticeable giveaway. Counterfeits can struggle to replicate the exact font making theirs look bolder, slimmer, squished together, smudged or discoloured. Carefully read over the writing on the watch, including the dial and the side, case, packaging and the description to see if there are any spelling mistakes - this is an obvious red flag.

Also, look at the quality of the watch to ensure there are no obvious signs of wear and tear. If you're buying second-hand, there may be some minimal damage. But watches made of gold, silver or other heavy metals shouldn't tarnish.

Tip: Get the seller to send you a video of the watch. A high-quality watch shouldn't tick as it's built with impeccably-crafted moving parts.

2. Do Your Research

You should become an expert on the watch you want to purchase before you buy it. Look around to see the price of the same or similar models. If the price tag seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Get to know the brand and familiarise yourself with any trademarks, including the bracelet, clasp and logo. Research images of a legitimate model and compare this against the one you are buying to spot any obvious mishaps.

Tip: If you are still unsure, you can see an appraiser who is a certified person that can independently verify if the watch is genuine or not. They'll also be able to tell you if you're getting a good deal.

3. Picture Perfect 

If a seller has a lack of images, the images are small or grainy, of a celebrity wearing it, or they're unable to send you a video of the watch, it is most likely a scam. You want every little detail, flaw or otherwise, shown.

Tip: Some counterfeits use photos straight from the brand, which can mean they don't actually have the watch in their possession. Look for a range of high-quality photos taken by the seller.

4. Count the Numbers

Not every vintage watch will come with a certificate of authentication, but when it does, it certainly helps. Ask if the seller can send you a copy of the authentication papers.

You can also identify a fake by comparing serial numbers as well as the model number. For Rolex, the serial code is usually one or two letters followed by four to eight numbers. However, after the autumn of 2009, these numbers and letters are in no particular order.

If the watch is real, the serial number on the watch case and bracelet should match up. Tally these numbers to differentiate between a real and fake watch. Sometimes, the serial number is also placed on a sticker behind the dial of the watch.

Tip: Having the correct paperwork will also help you down the line if you do decide to re-sell it.

5. Know the Marketplace

Look into the marketplace that you want to purchase your timepiece from and ask yourself these important questions:

  • Is it reputable?
  • What is their returns policy?
  • What have other buyer experiences been?
  • Do they have an authenticity guarantee or qualified authentication specialists?
  • Does the watch come with a warranty?
  • Has the watch been serviced recently?

Another factor that sellers of fake watches have been improving on is how they are viewed online. The listing is created to look just as professional as the brand's own. Counterfeit brands will also use SEO tactics to ensure they are ranking on the first or second page of Google, providing a false sense of trust.

Tip: Never purchase a luxury watch through social media. With the option to buy directly on these platforms, it's much harder to keep a trail on your transaction with the seller.

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