Fake Buster – How to Spot and Understand Fake Watches | Watch Trading Academy

Fake Buster – How to Spot and Understand Fake Watches

As a luxury watch consultant, my clients should always feel very comfortable with their purchases. Part of that comes from assuring and ensuring that I will never sell them a replica watch. 


The world of fake watches is misunderstood, for starters. There are certain things that will allow you to discern a replica from a genuine watch, and there always will be. Super clone manufacturers do not live and sell in secrecy. For the most part, these are large, Chinese operations that may spend over a million dollars to design a super clone. As such, they want to move a lot of pieces, and they market them to a large audience. They are never meant to be sold as real. You can even find super clone manufacturers comparing and contrasting their pieces with the real deal. Their websites are in Chinese and hard to come across for most Americans, though. 

Additionally, the myth that the clones will always get better and better until they are impossible to determine is simply false.  There’s probably a lot of AD propaganda out there for the sole purpose of scaring people into paying a major premium for 100% security.  Again, the clones are not meant to be sold as real, but rather as a substitute for people who want to pretend they have the real until they can afford it (paraphrasing the clone manufacturers). This Breitling fake, for example, will not be made much better than it has been. They do not have a customer base for a fake of this Breitling for over $400, so they will never make a substantially better, pricier clone.

Beyond really familiarizing yourself with every watch under a magnifying lens, the best thing you can do is buy the seller before buying the watch. This super clone Breitling was sourced for a client from a retired dealer with 40 years of experience, and his watchmaker regulated it without saying a thing. 

I knew it was off, and I instantly sourced another from a reputable source so that I could compare. This is something that I am willing to do for my clients–even if it eliminates my margin. I have a goal to NEVER deal a fake on the sell-side. I always do the most due diligence I possibly can. Still, being human, if I miss one at some point, I would swiftly take care of my client and make it right.

Because I bought the super clone from a reputable seller, after proving it was fake, he took the return and refunded me without hassle. As such, I have no reason to slander his name. I would hope for the same mercy if I made a mistake and made it right. 

The exception is that of fakes that use real parts. So-called Frankenwatches are not produced in mass quantities. These one-off “fakes” may cost someone a few grand to put together something that can be sold as genuine and worth a few more grand. These slimy individuals are the ones selling fakes as real, and they are the ones you need to watch out for. Luckily, these watches make up a minuscule proportion of the watches in circulation. The other scammers who sell ordinary replicas as real get weeded out through due diligence and vetting the seller.


Things To Look At

This Breitling may be deceiving at a distance, but it doesn’t stand a chance against the real deal. In the photos below, the real is left, the fake is on the right. They are similar but clearly different. Before getting into specifics, here are some general side-by-side shots.

The Bezel Pip

The bezel pip on the fakes can be off-centered, dull, and so forth. This one is positioned well, but the color is clearly wrong.


Finish Quality and Bezel Scalloping

The real watch has a better finish than the fake. This isn’t a perfect way to tell, as watches can be refinished poorly by amateurs, but it is just another tool. While I am not too sure if bezel scalloping is the proper term, it’s close enough. Basically, the real bezel had wider indentations than the fake. If you pull up images of the model online, you can look closely at a stock photo and compare the edges of the bezel.


Missing Key Engravings

Know the engravings that should be on your watch. Newer, real Breitlings have an engraving between the lugs. This one tells us the watch was made in the 41st week of 2015.


Check the Movement

If you do not have the proper equipment and experience, have a watchmaker open the watch for you. The super clones with a closed case back will still have significant movement differences. The fake lacks the jeweling (swirling finish), the N overlapping the G on Breitling is not something that Breitling would design so sloppily. The fake has a cheap Seagull movement from China, but the quality and design are not far off from the ETA movement in the genuine. The quality of the stampings and rotor finishing is also important to look at. The jewels should also be more of a deep, bloodier purple color, while fake jewels tend to be a lighter pink. Look closely at the escapement, regulator levers, and balance wheel are too. 


The Logo

The logos of most watches are more carefully crafted than you might think. A ton of work tends to go into some of them. The real logo is perfect and has contrasting, matte and gloss finishing, while the fake does not have the contrast. The fake also has some imperfections (the little bumps between the bottom of the anchor and bottom of the B. It can be hard to tell, but there is a difference in the text too.


The Markers

There is a difference in the thickness and application of the lume on the fake. The fake also has some little air bubbles and shape imperfections. In general, the fake markers and real markers will have subtle differences. Just find good pictures on google with which you can compare.


The Weight

This is not as good of a tool as others. First, you have to know the weight of the genuine model. Also, the weight can be extremely close on super clones.


The Date Font

There are clear differences in the date font and quality of the date window’s frame. Some people might say the fake’s font is real because it is bolder, but they would be incorrect. Make sure to compare with images on google as best as you can.


Small Screws and HE Escape Valves

This is another tough one to discern without the side by side but the screws and escape valves are not the same sizes. The Fake also has a larger gap between the screw and escape valve parts.

The whole thing

Now that you have an idea of some of the key details I look at when spotting fakes (there are more things to look for on different watches), it should be much more apparent. The fake on the right is solid overall, but when we get into the specific details, it doesn’t stand a chance.


Final words

This was the first time I ever bought a fake. Fortunately, I bought from a good person who made the issue right and refunded me. In general, fakes are not as menacing as people think. If you can be diligent in verifying your seller and then checking the watch closely, you can nearly eliminate the risk of accidentally trading a super clone. When in doubt, ask the community, take it to a watchmaker with tons of experience in higher-end watches, or ask someone who you know had the watch previously. The odds of you getting something designed to be misleadingly sold as real are super low and meaningless in the long run.

Alex M

I’ve been in the watch business since 15, but discovered WTA and became a luxury watch consultant as a freshman in college. I’ve always had a preference for self-reliance and self-employment. My career as a luxury watch consultant and trader has been a thrill so far, and there’s always another exciting timepiece to experience and another interesting client to meet. The business has taught me so much and opened so many doors for me, and I plan to stick with it! Feel free to reach me on my Instagram @TheMarinVault

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