Watch Expert Explains Authentic Watches in Grey Market

When we are talking about Authentic Watches what do we mean?

Watch manufacturing is a huge business with many different and competing brands whether that’s fashion branded designer watches or manufacturer branded watches. Our aim is to look at both Fashion Branded Watches and Manufacturer Branded Watches and advise on the best quality and value products on the market to offer watches at discount prices, but not forgetting to ensure that discounted prices do NOT mean substandard quality.

We’re going to look at what makes a genuine authentic watch when comparing to the Homage, Fake and Grey Market products, how and where these markets fit in and why they are prospering in the first place.

Firstly, let’s first outline the watch market in the simplest terms. It’s big! It’s really really big! Just to give you an idea of the size of the market says that the number of watches sold globally per year is 1,200,000,000 that’s 1.2 billion units, of which 29,200,000 are Swiss brands.
But wait, the number of watches produced in China per year is 663,000,000 and Hong Kong 354,000,000 and this very reason BAW is here to try make sense of it all.

It’s important for anybody looking for top quality watches for sale should be aware of the pitfalls of buying a authentic branded watch, so we will take you through the different markets such as homage, copies, grey market and fakes, and how to spot a the ‘rotten apple’.

So if you’re spending too much time trawling the net looking for the perfect authentic watch at the perfect price we want to be your ‘One Stop Watch Shop’ offering a guarantee of authenticity and discounted prices on many Manufacturer Designed and Built time pieces as well as Branded Fashion Watches.

With the product guaranteed you know you’re getting 100% new and authentic watches with warranties, but at prices you will never find with ‘Bricks & Mortar’ establishments in the High Street.

What’s the difference between a fake and the authentic product?

What might seem like a daft question can open up into a lengthy subject but for the moment just bear in mind that regardless of your budget or preference you may still need to consider the prospect of coming face to face with a fake, homage or grey market product in your search for a genuine product. There are ways to know if you are dealing with one of these which we can look at shortly.

The fake market is littered with poor quality products made in factories using second rate materials, machinery and labor.
Essentially the difference is quality and price. The fake will be produced with substandard materials, the movement will not be anywhere near close to precision built, the design will be poor with the markings lacking definition, and you will be lucky not only for it to give the correct time, but to continue working until lunch time.

A nice analogy I read on this subject likened a fake watch to buying a kit car that looks like a super car, but lets make it even simpler using something that we can all relate to.

You have heard expressions like “Anything worth having is worth fighting for” and “Nothing worth having comes easy”, well, let’s add to this with “Anything worth having will always be copied”.

The cheap option

Let’s say I am looking for a smart phone perhaps an expensive brand like an iPhone for the sake of argument. Now $600 or possibly more is a big chunk of change to spend on a phone right? So I login into an online shopping channel and search for the cheapest iPhone. Pretty soon I find a product which looks like the iPhone but costs a fraction of the price. Hmmmm, the specs almost align with the real product so what do I do?
That’s right….I buy it thinking I’ve saved some cash.

When the product arrives it’s shinny and looks just like the real thing but you notice the ‘iPhone’ branding simply reads ‘Phone’…ok, so what, everything else is good right? And nobody will notice that detail.

One week later I now see that the casing has scratched and the glass has cracked, my signal and calls are constantly lost. Not only that be the touch screen requires more and more finger pressure to make it function and all I want to do is send it back…ok, so here is the next problem! You guessed it, I find the guarantee isn’t worth the cheap paper it’s written on.

On the second week the phone no longer functions as anything other than a paper weight and I have to visit my local phone shop for a replacement that although isn’t my first choice, at least comes at a price doesn’t hurt too much. Then I sulk for a few days learn a valuable lesson and probably don’t want to tell anyone that bought a fake product.

This is the world of the fake products, it’s a business that relies on ones weakness for a shinny bargain and it’s a business model that will not go away as it’s been estimated that up to 30% of internet searches for watches have been searches for replicas or fakes.
This brings me to an important point when it come to a distinction.

Think fake, think replica, think copy what do you have? You have a poorly manufactured watch made of inferior materials and workmanship that will never operate as the real thing, and by the way, will never pass as the real thing so don’t kid yourself.

So what’s the difference between a Fashion Branded Watch and a Manufacturer Branded Watch?
This is probably the easiest question to answer and it’s likely you know all about these products but let’s walk through it anyhow.

A fashion branded watches or designer watches are products you will find in both high end designer outlets such as Gucci or Cartier but also high street stores such as Guess or Emporio Armarni for example. These products are manufactured by genuine watch manufacturers in bulk, stamped with the fashion house’s logo to be sold in store as an addition to principle purchases giving the consumer a complete brand experience.

Manufacture branded watches on the other hand are the names you’ve heard of but thought you could never afford. We’re talking about names that are synonymous with high end, high price such as Rolex to name the most obvious example. Other names you will be familiar with are Breitling, Philippe Patek, Breguet and Maurice Lacroix. These high end products are generally of Swiss origin designed and built by long established watch makes, who boast decades or perhaps a century of quality precision watch making giving their product high value and status, with a reassuringly high purchase price.

What is the Homage Market?

The homage product is very close to a fake or copy but with sufficient differences that by law it’s not seen as a direct copy. Essentially it’s a product paying homage to the original item as the producers would argue. With limited protection in the law many elements can be copied without infringement which we will look at shortly, allowing the homage market to take ground.
While the trademark protection law prevents this market from direct copy the homage market makes subtle changes to the protected elements to stay within the law and remain legal. But again, these products will never live up to the high standards of the genuine products. So who is buying the homage products?
The homage market is said to be used by collectors although in my personal opinion this would defeat the object of collecting. Who in their right mind would become a collector of fake or copied products? I am afraid I have say that if I can not afford the real thing, then I can not hope to become a collector.

What is the Grey market?

The grey market is as the name suggests is not quite black or white. It is not an illegal market and the products are genuine, however, when you are buying in the grey market you will not be buying from an authorized dealer so you will not be getting the paperwork or the services associated with the genuine product from a genuine authorized dealer. Who is buying from this market?
This is the market used by those how don’t want a fake and understand the value of the genuine product but can’t quite stretch their finances to purchase their desired watch.

I must confess to having some sympathy for this market and I sit squarely on the fence when it comes to people buying in this market. It strikes me that the only loser in this situation would be the consumer because they are not dealing with the authorized dealer, but if they can accept this risk then I guess it’s ok. You may feel differently about this and I am open to your arguments either way.

Copyright protection

As it was touched upon in a previous section the protection of watch makers against fakes, copies and homage is shockingly poor, allowing the illegal and homage industry to thrive. It may surprise you to learn watch makers have no copyright protection on the design of their watches, the only protection they have is over functionality protected under patent law, which are only granted for a term of 20 years. This of cause means all but very new designs have no protection. Sadly, the only thing under protection is their name and logo, which is where the fakers fall under the bus legally.

So the homage market can copy everything but make slight changes to the logo and name to avoid legal ramifications, the fakes on the other hand make exact copies so are in direct violation of the copyright protection law. Lastly the grey market are supplying genuine products via unauthorized outlets, so it’s difficult to really take these dealers to task.

What you get with an Authentic Watch

This is really simple to answer it’s just taking into account the story of the fake iPhone. With the fake or homage you are getting a poor quality product produced using substandard materials, tools and workmanship.

Your authentic watch will have superior materials, workmanship, precision movement, accuracy and longevity. You can gaze at your timepiece everyday and marvel at the detail and craft. In addition you will have the paperwork, guarantee and just as importantly, you will have the knowledge that the time piece on your wrist is the genuine article with a rich history behind it, making it an investment because those that know, know that authenticity is a valuable commodity.

What does the authentic watch industry think?

Some years ago a consortium of Swiss watch makers made a concerted effort to attack the counterfeit industry and made a media spectacle of it. Working with customs they confiscated large numbers of fake watches and in front of the camera rolled a steamroller over the watches. With that statement made, it was also admitted it was a drop in the ocean simply due to the huge numbers of fake products flooding the market. By the very nature of the luxury product that the industry is promoting there will always be a demand for copies by those how can not afford the real authentic luxury watch.

How common are fake watches?

The issue of a large fake market is not going away and you can see evidence of this every time you go on beach holidays and open air markets. Most of the time we don’t even think about it because we subconsciously already know to buy one of those will just make us look silly. I would prefer to wear my Citizen rather than fake Rolex that cost me €20 or €20 or £20 any day.

How do we know the difference?

Sadly if you are looking to buy an authentic watch in the high end watch market the chances are that there are fakes waiting for you, so what are the rules for a safe purchase?

Online shopping:

*Feedback: If you are shopping online always check the seller’s feedback.
*Descriptions: Look out for slight discrepancies in the description like the use of the word ‘style’ which can indicate it’s in the STYLE of the original watch.
*Photos: Inspect photos and confirm the images are clear and focused with detailing, then you can compare to known genuine items.
*The Price: As always, if the price is too good to be true, it probably is!
*Question the seller: Ask the seller about the item, if they can not answer your questions walk away.
*Paperwork: Don’t touch anything without paperwork. Run away!
*Guarantee: Personal guarantee without any feedback is a bit suspect, can you trust them?
*Payment: Always pay using secure payment method.
*Happy: Only make payment when 100% happy or just walk away.

So, if you’re looking for the perfect Watch at the perfect price, from a trusted source, you know it can be a
stressful experience, with the right help and advice, you too can find your dream timepiece. As I’m considered an expert in my field and I write for other publications like Wrist Review I know you’ll benefit from my experience and avoid the pitfalls.


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carl scutt
carl scutt
Carl's the founder and editor of His background's in Technology and Internet Marketing. He currently lives in southern Spain. Learn more about him here, and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+.