I have hundreds of people ask me every year if a watch is real or fake. And before I even investigate the watch or the listing, I ask them this vital question first … “Who’s the seller and where did you find them?” This is the most important question you’ll want to answer to ensure you’re safe.
The world of watch trading can be seem pretty daunting if you haven’t been doing it for years. Especially when it comes to making sure you’re buying timepieces that are authentic. A big fear is not wanting to get burned.
Time and time again, I tell traders there’s not as much to worry about as they think. Identifying scams and fake watches isn’t just about knowing all of the watch models inside and out. It takes years of knowledge and a very keen eye to do that. Also, the fakes these days can be so good, they can trick even the most experienced in the industry.
So what can you do to protect yourself from getting royally screwed? The #1 thing you should focus on is buying the seller. What does that mean? In the watch industry, reputation is everything. Your word and the rapport you carry can make or break your career. No one who is a legit business or private collector/trader will risk their reputation to make a quick buck.
So when you do research, and determine that the seller you’re buying these watches from is legitimate and will back up the deal with their reputation, you can proceed buying and trading without having to worry about getting fucked over.
You may be saying okay that’s great Cal, but how do I determine if the seller I’m buying from is legitimate? After all the age of the internet makes it so people can hide behind false identities, and move information around in a manner that is manipulative.
There are a few security checks I like to use whenever I’m dealing with a new seller (and even buyer) I don’t know. This can help you get comfortable with the counterparty on the other side of the computer. It may seem like common sense (and it is). It can save you a world of pain though, and somehow people still miss these easy checks.
- Connect on Social Media
- People who have nothing to hide, have nothing to hide. Today it doesn’t matter if you’re 9 or 90… you have some sort of presence online if you want to do business. Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Company/Personal websites, Google Search. If you’re working with someone to do a watch deal, and you ask to connect with them in order for you to get comfortable with the transaction, they should 95% of the time say that’s fine. Their information should all match what they tell you about themselves across any platforms they are on.
- Does Their Lifestyle Match and Make Sense?
- Often times people will ask me if a watch looks real and I’ll ask them to send me a link or picture of the seller. There are certain stereotypes and lifestyles that apply to protecting yourself from getting scammed. For example, if the person selling the watch is able to be easily found on different social platforms, they have expensive cars, watches, and every bit of their info matches up. If they look like they have money and can afford a $10K watch, then that’s a good sign.
- If the person looks like they can’t afford a shack to sleep in, looks poor, doesn’t have any sort of characteristics or traits that match what someone who would sell a high-end luxury watch is, then it’s best to be cautious. I’ve seen 50 year old ladies who have nothing on their profiles that show they have that level of lifestyle try to sling watches and guess what 99% of the time it’s a scam. I have seen guys with their pants down below their ass who are holding guns in profile pics and smoking blunts with no money claiming to sell these watches and 99% of the time it’s a scam. I’ve seen people with only one social profile with no profile picture or pictures of anything but themselves up trying to sell watches and 99% of the time it’s a scam. The point is, if the life these people live does not make sense regarding them selling you a luxury watch, it’s best to perform more research, and take extra steps to protect yourself
- Ask for a Call
- When getting comfortable with a new seller, a majority of the time I’ll jump on a phone call with them. It’s not too much to ask to get them on the phone to discuss details. If someone is selling a watch in the thousands to tens of thousands of dollars range, they’ll be fine doing this to get the deal done. 99% of the time scammers will not get on a phone call because they are afraid you’ll be able to identify and track them. They’ll get angry or state a million reasons why they can’t do it. I prefer to do a FaceTime call so not only can I see the person I’m dealing with but also see them holding the actual watch in their possession. This is a great way to determine if the person is the real deal or not. Again, 99% of the time people who are selling fakes or have something to hide will do anything and everything to avoid this very reasonable request.
- Scammers and sellers moving replicas often have stories. Their uncle, cousin, distant relative brother sister, dog etc, is traveling or in a different state, or handed them down the watch and it has no papers or box. They want you to do 5 different things to get the shipping done and have it re-routed to another person. They want to write you a novel as to why the watch came into their possession and why they’re selling it. They want you to pay every single sketchy way possible and provide extra info not needed.
All of this is a distraction and a ploy to get you to stop paying attention to what the important factor is in the deal. The fact that they are a con-artist and want you to do a dance so they can get you to do things their way. Remember, sellers who are legit don’t need to give you their sad stories and crazy antics to get shit done. They will be a straight-shooter. They will give you the details and facts you request without going into detail about why they can’t do XYZ. And they will be open to proceeding with payment and shipping in a way that protects both of you, not just one that gives them all the power.
- Check Their Reputation
- When people do good business, they want others to know that. When people don’t do good business, they don’t want to be known at all. It’s okay to ask for references from the seller as long as you plan to actually buy the watch from them, and call those references. You can also Google search them online to see if there’s been anything in the news or online about them previously (good or bad). If they are a watch dealer, wholesaler, or trader, they should have references on some of the watch enthusiast groups or forums as well that you can check out that correlates to their username.
- It’s okay to ask the seller if they’ll take the watch back if you get it authenticated and something it fake about the watch. Pay close attention to how the seller reacts when you ask them this. If they are very negative about the comment or say “absolutely not” it’s a yellow warning flag. If they say something like “sure thing I only sell authentic watches and will take it back if it’s not 100%” then that’s good. They may ask for some level of proof you didn’t change out the watch on them as they don’t want to be scammed either but the point here is you don’t even need to get to this level of pursuing this option. You just have to read their reaction to know if they’re legit or not.
There are a few other security measures you can take as well when trading watches, but the main point here that I want you to take away is to remember that anyone who has something to hide will hide it. Anyone who is legit will be fine making you comfortable with the deal and that their watch is authentic. So always remember, even if you’re not 100% sure of the authenticity of the watch, you always have the reputation of the seller to back it that can solve 99% of the issues. As a final note, it also helps to have someone local to you who can verify the authenticity of your watch as soon as you get it. That way, you can determine this ASAP and resolve any issues with the seller immediately.