“Aided by the Internet’s communication and trading facilities, counterfeiters have seized this opportunity to change their strategy and that is without counting the growing demand for luxury products and high-grade watchmaking.”
– Fabrice Gueroux
To get an idea of the range of watches that are counterfeited today, you have to take a look of the overall economic development of the watch market in the past few years.
Watch counterfeiting was already proving to be n issue before the 2000s and the two or three flagship brands of the Swiss watch industry were beginning to feel the adverse effects of the phenomenon. Although the revenues generated by the counterfeiters were far from today’s figures, it should be pointed out that various tourist markets and flea markets had already been invaded by people selling fake watches.
In those days it was already worth going to the markets in Morocco, Hong Kong or even Ventimiglia which were the cradles of counterfeit distribution.
To give you an example, I remember going to the flea market about 20 years ago to investigate the subject. It was no less than two hours before a seller took from his coat a watch that from a distance might look like a Rolex Datejust in gold and steel. The price asked for this copy was as shocking as its total lack of quality. For the equivalent of 200 euros, the salesman was asking me to blacken my wrists with a corrosive watch. It was not at all convincing.
Unfortunately, two factors played into the hands of the counterfeiters in the ensuing years. The first is the development of the Internet, which added to open borders, has complicated the task of the customs services. The second is the expansion of the Swiss watch industry both in terms of the turnover from imported products and of the varieties of brands that were hardly talked about until now.
In 2001, nearly 30 million watches were produced in Switzerland for a turnover of around 10 billion Swiss francs. The figures stayed about the same with a drop in 2003. Another billion in turnover broke a record in 2004. Sales grew by another billion in 2005 to set a new Swiss industry record. The following year saw a surge in demand for luxury products. It didn’t stop there, because in 2007 sales grew by another 2.2 billion.
Note that revenues for 2012 amounted to 21.4 billion francs and these results have remained constant since. It is clear that the demand for Swiss manufactured products has not ceased to grow, giving rise to what we are witnessing today: the return of many brands that are today classified as luxury watches.
Aided by the Internet’s communication and trading facilities, counterfeiters have seized this opportunity to change their strategy and that is without counting the growing demand for luxury products and high-grade watchmaking. The growth curves have followed the same trend as the Swiss watch industry, and if you consider that the production of fake products is at least 40% higher than that of the original items, you begin to get an idea of the collateral damage. Ten years ago, we could observe that the counterfeit market was invaded by fake Rolexes (more than 80%). Today such products as the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak are copied with unparalleled ease. One can clearly state that practically all watch brands are copied.
From 2012 it became apparent that some of the high-grade luxury watch brands were being counterfeited. From time to time I came across a counterfeit model, which although quite easy to identify, was astonishingly well made. One example was the copy of an IWC Portugaise F.A. Jones, with a slightly complicated movement visible through the caseback. Previously, counterfeiters worked only on the visible parts of the watch and the decorative parts of the movement.
During my latest investigations, I wasn’t surprised to find fake Patek Philippes but also a massive presence of counterfeit Richard Mille or even Roger Dubuis brands.