A few weeks ago a video made the rounds by Watchfinder & Co. In it they presented a Rolex Daytona ref. 116500LN and compared it to the best fake that they could find. What made this video go viral was that the fake presented was a state of the art Chinese counterfeit that costs around $1,000. The two watches where so shockingly similar to one another that I am sure that if presented in isolation you could even fool a Rolex AD with it. Even the movement, which used to be the last resort for any questions of authenticity, was copied piece for piece. Only a side by side comparison with good lighting and a magnifying glass would allow you to spot the fake.
Even more shocking than the quality of the knock-off however were the responses to the video. Next to people asking where they can buy this watch, most were praising the Chinese producers. Convinced by the “value” of the fake the comment section started to slam Rolex for its mark-up signified by the 10x price difference. The most delusional of these comments where those who called for the Chinese to produce their own brand watches, completely losing the plot in my eyes. Most of these arguments just make me shake my head at the stupidity and ignorance of people who will never buy the real nor the fake. There was one comment though that really jumped out at me: “If everything is the same then its a real one.” Is it, though? Seeing as we have reached what has to be near the peak of what counterfeiting can achieve I felt now would be a perfect time to reexamine the factors that differentiate authentic products and the effects of buying fakes.
While my personal stance on this subject is quite clear (I despise buying fakes and have no respect for those that do) I should give them a chance, even though they do not deserve it. One of the biggest misconceptions I hear when this discussion is brought up is that the fakes steal revenue from the original manufacturers. I do not believe so. Those that want to buy the real thing do not contemplate getting the fake to save money. Conversely those that do buy the fake usually do so as spontaneous purchase in foreign countries or through some specialised website catering to that niche, never having had the intention of getting the real thing in the first place. An argument could even be made for counterfeits pushing the visibility of the brand in question and feeding the “Keeping up with the Jones” effect for those who want to buy the authentic good.
Then there is the fear of getting called out for wearing a fake. Sadly I’ll have to be honest and tell you that the fear is exaggerated. If you wear a decent fake from a brand that you could reasonably be expected to afford and don’t post it on Instagram trying to flex you most likely will get away with it. Fakes having reached the level that the video showed cannot be identified just by a glance on someones wrist. Simple tells like a bad cyclops, a ticking seconds hand, or even invented models like a tourbillon submariner with a GMT bezel are a thing of the past. With the advances in technology reducing barriers to entry, fooling somebody with a fake watch has never been easier. There is one person however who you will never be able to fool (well maybe two if you include @fakewatchbusta) which is yourself. You can tell me what you want, but wearing a fake watch will never give you the same feeling as the real thing does.
This is because the luxury market in general and the watch market specifically is not about logic. If it were it would have already died years ago when the Quartz crisis hit and again when smartphones came along. Watches are a highly emotional product. People tend to buy a watch to act as a bookmark for their life highlighting major achievements or stepping-stones. The high price that regulates their exclusivity is a part of that appeal whether you like to hear that or not. From that perspective alone a counterfeit falls short. Ask yourself this, if a Rolex would cost $200 a pop would it mean as much to you? Would its purchase hold the same amount of significance, and would each acquisition create a memory so vivid that it gets embossed in your mind?
Maybe you do not care about all this emotional mumbo jumbo. Maybe you are a rational kind of guy. You really like the look of a Rolex but either due to the financial burdens or an atrociously long waiting list you see a counterfeit as a logical alternative offering better value for your money. Rolex is such a big brand with so much money, it is unfair that they restrict their goods as they do and purposefully make them hard to get. Is it, though? I will not say that Rolex doesn’t have a fat profit margin and I sure wish they would crank out the new GMT and only sell it slightly above cost, but am I in the right of demanding it from them? They are no public institution, and the brand is the results of the hard work of all of its employees.
What is also often misunderstood is that the high prices are not just made up of material costs, but also research and development, marketing, and supporting events and individuals like young artists or expeditions to the bottom of the sea. It is easy to de-humanise one of the biggest brands in the world with more money in the bank account than you could ever spend. But that brand is nothing more than the result of many individuals working together and giving money to those who steal their ideas without any creative effort of their own is like spitting in their faces. Maybe I am exaggerating, but if something ever got stolen from you then I am sure you can understand where I am coming from.
I purposefully left aside arguments on how fake watches are most likely produced under horrible conditions, and that for the price of a high-end fake you can already get a decent watch from a manufacturer not using theft as a basis of their operation. If you really want to buy a fake watch then this blog will probably not stop you, and with enough effort from your side no one will ever spot it. But don’t try to convince yourself that this will ever be as good as the real thing, or even better due to its cheaper price. Blame Rolex for high prices as much as you want, but its pointless and you could save your energy for more constructive venues. At the end of the day it is like they say: fake watches are for fake people. Do as you please with you money, but don’t try to justify yourself for giving in to your lower urges. Or in other words: If taking the time and effort to get a real watch is like courting and dating a girl and going to bed with her for the first time, then buying a fake is like fucking a prostitute. Meet whores as much as you like, but don’t make a fool of yourself acting like she is your girlfriend.