Avoiding fake/replica watches

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1. It should be shockingly heavy... far and away a hunk of metal like no cheap watch you've ever worn.

2. The crystal should be absolutely perfect and flawless... or darn close. Saphire is nigh-unscratchable, so a modern luxury watch should not show any wear to the crystal. If so, the owner should probably recall the incident with horror. A 'banged up' crystal is probably not saphire and thus the watch probably not genuine, unless the watch has suffered EXTREME abuse, in which case, run.

3. Set the watch crystal-down on a smooth surface, and gather the bracelet up on top of the caseback... give it a spin. The watch should spin like a top on the domed crystal... for a long time, due to it's weight and the tiny contact point. If it doesn't spin at all, it's a flat-ground crystal, and not a genuine Omega. An experienced eye can spot the difference in the reflection from the domed crystal, but it's not a skill for the novice.

4. Smear the crystal with water. The density, surface tension, and extremely fine smoothness of the saphire will cause the water to draw together quickly into a single mass (it's actually rather neat to watch), whereas it will stay completely diffused on a plastic crystal, and more or less completely diffused on a lower-quality mineral glass crystal. I've tried this with a number of watches with consistent results. The effect on a genuine saphire crystal seems almost magical.

5. Check the quality of the bracelet construction; The bracelet links should be machined out of solid steel, finished perfectly, with the edge of the bracelet polished to a mirror shine; They should NOT be made out of rolled steel or aluminum, or appear to have been layered and pressed; Many manufacturers hide this cheaper construction by peening/buffing the edges of the links to make them appear solid (For example, Fossil). Others, even moderately priced watches ($150+) use solid links very similar (though far less substantial) to the Rolex Oyster (Ex: Swiss Army), but most fakes are BAD fakes, and won't even bother with that. Modern luxury watches should use Solid end links (SEL) in the bracelet -- although there are a lot of better fakes out there with solid end links (the bracelet end link that contacts the case and through which the spring pins pass) -- it should be machined out of a solid piece of steel. Cheaper watches, including non-luxury types, and bad fakes of all kinds will have rolled and formed, completely hollow end links. This obviously doesn't apply to vintage watches, as even Rolex used these 'way back when,' but generally all modern luxury 'tool' watches (Rolex, Omega, Breitling, Tag Heuer) use solid end links.

6. Check for general wear. Luxury watches are made of sterner stuff than cheaper watches (including imitations); Wear in the bracelet should be VERY light and slight. This is very subjective and highly dependent on the age and amount of use the watch has endured. Generally speaking, a modern luxury watch, even with daily wear should look FANTASTIC for it's age... nearly new.

7. Dial, Printing & Engraving

A. This may be subjective, and you may need to be familiar with the genuine article to spot this, but quality can't be faked. A £4000+ wristwatch with a chronometer grade movement will have the same intense and unwavering attention to detail that one would expect in this range. And that means total perfection. Invest $3 in a 30x-magnifying jeweler's loupe, and scrutinize every detail of the dial, from indices, to patterns, to hands, certifications, trademarks, signatures: In the £3500+ range, every feature will display total crispness and absolute perfection and clarity, even at 30x magnification, AND even as applied over the wave pattern on a Seamaster dial. There should absolutely not be any trace of smeared ink, fuzzy edges to fonts, wavy borders to shaded areas, even on the miniscule 'SWISS MADE', and no included dust or other particles on the dial. Any of these displays an inattention to quality control that would horrify the quality control inspector of a fine swiss watch company.

B. The same applies to the caseback engraving (Hippocampus logo, Signatures, boasts of being the 'first and only watch...'); On a high-end watch, it will be crisp, perfect, and accurate, owing to the processes and quality controls used, usually machining or high-pressure stamping, whereas casting or lesser-quality stamping yields lower resolution, sloppier results. This is harder to tell without understanding the processes involved and their differing results. Suffice it to say that a fake Hippocampus or other relief caseback detail has a cheap and under-finished look to it.

8. Consistency in fonts and indices - It's well known that lots and lots of fakes still use old, plentiful counterfeit Rolex fonts on their date wheels, so a quick look at the '4', '6' or '9' can spot a cheap copy. Omega's fonts are quite different and unique. Also, Rolex-fonted, styled and indexed bezel inserts and Rolex styled applied indices are super-common in low-end fakes and counterfeits. This might not be the case for watches designed from the ground up to be accurate 'REPLICAs.'

9. The movement -- Even without opening the watch (which even I have not worked up the nerve to do yet), there are some things that you can tell about the movement inside. The quality and precision fit of the movement's functioning will set it apart.

A. First, look at the date window -- it should appear to mate flushly with the back side of the dial, without any gap, space, or clearance. The same for the dial -- it should be precisely fitted, flush and tight to the interior diameter of the case.

B. Unscrew the crown... when it clears the last thread, it should pop out solidly to the first position... with some force; These movements are far more sturdy and robust and than imitations, and the spring action should feel firm and solid when pressed in. Wind the watch, and even wiggle the crown ever so gently and apply sideways leverage. In a cheap Japanese watch (like an Invicta Pro Diver 'Submariner Clone' that I own), the movement and dial are so loosely fitted in the case that winding or setting the watch (or levering the crown) causes the dial to wiggle and twist a few degrees against the direction I turn it. That indicates a huge lack of precision that won't be found on high-end watches.

C. Set the time; The movement should be smooth and slick, without much play at all, and should not feel sloppy (or have the gritty feel of a cheaper watch). It should feel solid and smooth, not tight and stubborn (bad fake), or super-loose (bad fake), and SILENT, except when winding or when clicks are indicated.

D. Set the date -- this is a great way to tell a fine swiss movement from a cheap Japanese or chinese movement. In the second crown position, the date should snap crisply, smartly, and satisfyingly into precisely the correct place, centered in the date window; It should not slowly, smoothly and lazily roll into the window, and should never be at an odd or variable alignment, or require you to wind and wind to winch the next date into the window. A Seamaster date (using the quick-change feature - crown position 2) will roll quickly and firmly almost into position, and then snap crisply and audibly into the correct alignment -- you only have to do 80% of the work. Alternately, rotate the hands past midnight, VERY SLOWLY, and watch how the date changes; On a cheap movement, the date will take a long time to change (for example, some take several hours to roll over to the next date. I owned a watch that took from 10pm to 4am for the date to change. Using my Invicta Pro Diver as an example again (which surprised me with it's quickness), it took from 10:20pm-11:55pm for the date to slowly roll over, ending with a final click. Do the same with an Omega (or Rolex, for that matter), and the date will wait until the last possible moment, and then snap firmly to the next date, almost all at once. My Seamaster starts to change just a bit at 11:40pm, and holds slightly out of alignment for 20 minutes, before snapping crisply to the next date at the stroke of midnight. Believe it or not, a quick (preferably even INSTANT) date change is not a random variation of different movements, but is considered a luxury feature of a fine movement. The same applies to the Seamaster GMT and Rolex Explorer/GMT - the hour hand adjusts in precise 1-hour hops, with a crisp and satisfying snap.

E. Hacking second hand -- Better movements stop the second hand when the crown is pulled out for time setting. This allows the time to be synchronized to the second. A cheap movement's second hand will continue to run for as long as it is wound, so there is really absolutely no way to get it set spot-on to the second -- there is also no reason to do so, since they run so erratically and imprecisely that setting to the second is silly (since they'll be as much as a minute off in the first day, anyway). I actually tried to do this with my Invicta by letting it run completely down, and then setting it a minute ahead and then madly winding it as the correct second approached... it didn't work well. In any event, there are low-end movements with hacking second hands, usually 'military' styled or themed watches, but these aren't so very commonly available in mechanical versions these days, although there are lots of vintage ones around (I trust everyone can tell at a glance the difference between a mechanical and quartz movement). In any case, as stated above, this is more of a disqualifier -- it will tell you when a watch is NOT a fine swiss watch, but not when it IS one.

This guide was added as a response to a promotion from Bzzagent 
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