More than 23m fake watches are in US market; study

A new study has suggested there are more than 23 million counterfeit watches circulating in the US market alone, and almost one in 10 Americans (9 per cent) have purchased one.

Those are the main findings of a survey by Watchfinder & Co, which specialises in the resale of pre-owned watches. Of all the luxury watches sent to Watchfinder over the last year, at least half of those identified as fake or containing fake parts were Rolex.

The survey also found that almost half of the fakes purchased cost $500 dollars or more, yet the majority of Americans (58 per cent) said they would still prefer to pay more for an authentic item. Meanwhile, 15 per cent of fake watches broke after only a small amount of usage.

New York topped the list of US cities where the most counterfeit watches are circulating today, accounting for around 20 per of the total, followed by Los Angeles (15 per cent) and Chicago (11 per cent).

Watchfinder says it is on a mission to campaign against fake watches, urging “pre-owned traders, retailers and marketplaces to clarify and publicly declare their authentication policies, processes and credentials.”

Its survey found that 59 per cent of respondents said they found it challenging to buy legitimate designer items beyond dedicated brand retailers.

“Scammers are now able to make replicas look more convincing than ever before thanks to developments in, and accessibility to, tech including 3D printers and CNC machines,” said the company.

“This, combined with the wealth of knowledge fake manufacturers have accumulated over the years, means ‘super-fakes’ are being produced with increasing aesthetic accuracy.”

Watchfinder’s own authenticators were able to easily spot around 80 per cent of fakes at first glance just five years ago, while now the situation is reversed, with 80 per cent needing close inspection.

Game launched to help consumers

To help customers spot counterfeits, Watchfinder has launched an interactive online game designed to help them identify fake luxury watches, asking them to distinguish between genuine and knock-off timepieces.

There are three types of fake watches to watch out for - completely fake watches, legitimate watches that are made up of partially fake parts - mainly bracelet or links, dial and clasp - and finally the ‘frankenwatch’, where the parts are all real made up of different watches of the same type.

Frankenwatches accounted for one in five fake watches purchased in the US, and recently hit the headlines when to a franken-Omega which sold for $3.1m at auction, and Maroon 5 lead vocalist Adam Levine who is thought to have been fooled by a fake Rolex Daytona.

“Sadly, it comes as no surprise to see how many people are being tricked into purchasing fake goods, especially as spotting them isn't as easy as you would think,” said Watchfinder’s chief executive Arjen van de Vall.

“What's equally concerning is how the rise of counterfeit goods is casting a shadow over the pre-owned sector. Our research showed that 54 per cent of Americans that have been conned with a fake, now say they will never purchase pre-owned again.”

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