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Thread: Warning: epidemic of much better fakes that have fooled many in the trade

  1. #1
    Master
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    Warning: epidemic of much better fakes that have fooled many in the trade

    Posts about fakes usually bore me but I thought members might appreciate this alert.

    In the last six months the UK trade has seen a significant number of fakes which in many ways are much closer to the real thing than anything that has gone before. Mostly it is the desirable Rolex sports classics like Date Submariners, DeepSeas etc, but a number of businesses have also lost thousands of pounds on fake Audemars Piguets, typically complete with very high quality booklets and documentation. Just before Christmas I was sent two of those APs for my written appraisals. The Rolex commonly come with unique, matching warranty cards (fake), a mix of real and fake boxes, booklets, swing-tags etc, and well-crafted background stories that allow the sellers to claim ignorance if caught. The coincidence, wide geography and careful orchestration of the set-up suggests it is a well-co-ordinated, professional scam. Members here are exposed perhaps to direct sales of these items, but also if they buy them unwittingly from jewellers and others who have themselves been duped. We all know there are many in the trade who really haven't much of a clue, including some otherwise respected names.

    This afternoon Beaker from The Muppet Show (or his incarnation in human form) tried to sell this watch to one of my companies:



    The warranty card was a good effort.

    While I could see that the font of the unique elements wasn't quite correct, it was close:



    The back tries hard, but perhaps a little too hard. Have you ever seen one from Goldsmiths stamped thus?



    However, the fake card completely failed my UV light test (decent UV torches available circa £15 online are also useful for checking bank-notes, discovering what is illustrated throughout your passport and exciting-young-children-at-bed-time-when-you-were-supposed-to-be-calming-them-down-dear).

    This is what you should see when a UV light is shone on a genuine card of this type:



    The movement displayed great effort on the part of the bad guys. Its appearance was very much that of a correct 3135 Rolex calibre, having authentically coloured and placed metal / plastic wheels and plates marked up as a 3135 with all text ostensibly correct in size, placement, orientation etc. I opened up my personal Sea-Dweller 16600 with its own 3135 and compared them side-by-side. It then became clear that the fake's text was filled with inferior quality and "dirtier" yellow ink. The deepest movement plate lacked some vital detail and the finish on the plates generally was not as good. While it was obvious to me with considerable experience and a control exemplar next to it, the fake 3135 would, I am sure, have fooled many. I wish that I had taken some photos, but was busy showing a gaggle of interested colleagues my findings as I went.



    The watch felt a little light overall. The bezel clicked authentically but just a little less robustly than the real thing. You can see the crown-guards and hands for yourselves, but each "tell" will slowly be improved upon. The dial itself was very well done, as the better fakes typically are in recent years, and the inner rehaut script accurately reproduced, with the correct letters corresponding with the relevant hour markers. Lasered coronet - check, and much better than on previous fakes, but crucially omitting the one, final security feature which is so hard to reproduce. The bracelet was in some ways superb. The attention to detail and alphanumeric markings on the end links were troublingly close. The clasp was less convincing but, as with my comments on the movement, I'd rather hold some detail back so as not to help the baddies. Case back interior markings were impressive.

    This generation of fakes has already proved good enough to earn the crooks many thousands all over the country. They will continue to fool the unwary and will of course continue to evolve further. The method of delivery, with accessories correct or faked, is well-conceived and shows considerable knowledge of what buyers may be looking for in both the seller and what they are offering. Ebay's going to see a tonne of these.

    What more can I say about Beaker?



    I do wish I could share his photo with you.

    Not the sharpest screwdriver in the box, this one. Expensive-looking suit and brusque manner, demanding a cup of coffee before it was offered - what image was this to convey? While he waited, he spread some very important-looking papers over the desk to study, clearly relaying the impression he was a respectable businessman. However, the grubby and worn hands of a labourer, their knuckles scabbed as if from recent fights, did not support the impression of life near a water-cooler. The shaky meltdown when told the watch was fake and questioned about it was classic. "So, tell me now why you didn't want us to take the back of your watch at any point, even if we agreed a price. That's it, just smile for the camera while you're at it. So, who's the crook, you or the guy who sold you the watch? You said you knew him; shall we call him now?" etc.

    Be warned, everyone: attention to detail, replicative technology and "setting up" the sale of these fakes have all improved to a point where this isn't funny any more.

    H

    Edited to add the case number of this specific example, so that it will show up in web searches
    : FAKE! 33R5R903 - model 116610LN
    Last edited by Haywood_Milton; 15th January 2018 at 16:31.

  2. #2
    Master
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    Wow, that is pretty scary.

    Dave

  3. #3
    Master
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    Amazing the length they go to now and thanks for the info and effort for putting this post together. I would have loved to see the movement.

  4. #4
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    Very informative. Thank you.

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  5. #5
    Grand Master
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    that is pretty frightening, i wonder how many of these are already in the hands of unsuspecting buyers....
    ktmog6uk
    marchingontogether!



  6. #6
    The scariest part for me sounds like the movement.
    Last edited by watchcollector1; 13th January 2018 at 03:14.

  7. #7
    Master
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    Rather disconcerting to say the least.

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    Grand Master markrlondon's Avatar
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    Wow, this is quite shocking. It's very worrying.

    Quote Originally Posted by Haywood_Milton View Post
    Not the sharpest screwdriver in the box, this one. Expensive-looking suit and brusque manner, demanding a cup of coffee before it was offered - what image was this to convey? While he waited, he spread some very important-looking papers over the desk to study, clearly relaying the impression he was a respectable businessman. However, the grubby and worn hands of a labourer, their knuckles scabbed as if from recent fights, did not support the impression of life near a water-cooler. The shaky meltdown when told the watch was fake and questioned about it was classic. "So, tell me now why you didn't want us to take the back of your watch at any point, even if we agreed a price. That's it, just smile for the camera while you're at it. So, who's the crook, you or the guy who sold you the watch? You said you knew him; shall we call him now?" etc.

    Be warned, everyone: attention to detail, replicative technology and "setting up" the sale of these fakes have all improved to a point where this isn't funny any more.
    Did you get the impression that he was there working on behalf of someone else? I.e. Likely to earn a commission rather than it being his own sale, so to speak.

  9. #9
    Master kaiserphoenix's Avatar
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    It often makes me wonder, where these fakes are even made. It appears that to manufacture something like this does take some decent technical capabilities and perhaps is not as difficult as swiss watch companies make it seem. In this case, I wonder if had they produced their own watch, at this level of quality, maybe they may have had a beter chance? Haha

    Regardless the level of quality fit and finish of this fake is really amazing and puts many "legit" watches to shame!

  10. #10
    Were the police involved or did he head off on his merry way to take the watch to the next jeweller?

  11. #11
    Craftsman
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    Is it only a matter of time before they start putting ringers into sales jobs at high end jewellers and swapping originals for high end fakes before they even hit the retail customer? It's gotta happen surely. You would never know until service and then you would be the swap suspect.

  12. #12
    Master KavKav's Avatar
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    For some years the quality of fake watches has been steadily improving, in spite of this I had fancied for a long time that I could spot a fake Rolex. This conviction had steadily become less certain in recent years to the point that I now do not consider with any confidence that I can spot a modern clever fake. If this applies to me then it will apply to many others, the whole scenario is very scary indeed and Haywood_Milton here has done us all a valuable service in highlighting just how easy it is to be fooled nowadays.
    Last edited by KavKav; 13th January 2018 at 08:02.

  13. #13
    Was the bezel ceramic? If so, that would be quite impressive and worrying. I understand manufacture of ceramic bezels is particularly difficult. The slightest defect and the bezel will shatter under normal fitting and operational use

    - - - Updated - - -

    Was the bezel ceramic? If so, that would be quite impressive and worrying. I understand manufacture of ceramic bezels is particularly difficult. The slightest defect and the bezel will shatter under normal fitting and operational use

  14. #14
    Thanks Haywood for such an informative post.
    I was not aware of the UV test on the warranty card.
    Another strong plus why you should buy the seller not the watch!

  15. #15
    Craftsman smalleyboy1's Avatar
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    I wonder how many buyers, even with a real watch to compare the offered fake against, would have spotted it. This is a worry as every time someone is duped, a fake watch enters the second hand market. Eventually a respected member of a forum such as this, may end up with one and unknowingly it could end up on SC. It will have good providence and people will continue to spend significant sums of their money on what is a fake. If this continues, then the only way not to get caught will be to buy from an AD or a respected dealer such as Milton.

  16. #16
    Craftsman sish101's Avatar
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    Thank you for this post. Clearly there is no way the Average Joe would be able to spot this as a fake and if bought from eBay wouldn't give the buyer a chance to see the seller as you had.

    I'm reminded of an edition of Air Crash Investigation where they examined Airforce One and discovered a number of counterfeit parts which had somehow made their way into Boeing's spares supply chain.

  17. #17
    Grand Master Raffe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kaiserphoenix View Post
    It often makes me wonder, where these fakes are even made. It appears that to manufacture something like this does take some decent technical capabilities and perhaps is not as difficult as swiss watch companies make it seem. In this case, I wonder if had they produced their own watch, at this level of quality, maybe they may have had a beter chance? Haha

    Regardless the level of quality fit and finish of this fake is really amazing and puts many "legit" watches to shame!
    This. Why not try to earn your money honestly when you are going through so much effort...?

    HM, thanks so much for sharing this.
    #Basta

  18. #18
    Master
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    Warning: epidemic of much better fakes that have fooled many in the trade

    Well done Sherlock Milton! Great work to spot the small incongruities like his hands, and the slightly over-played impersonation of a businessman - and hilarious that they assume a Rolex owner would demand coffee before it was offered!

    Thanks for the PSA - while fakes aren’t generally discussed here, there’s a clear public interest in being warned about these, particularly considering the movements and documentation. Were the AP’s (I’m assuming Royal Oaks?) equally hard to spot?

  19. #19
    Journeyman
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    Great (scary) reading


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  20. #20
    Grand Master Andyg's Avatar
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    Many thanks Haywood. Scary but informative.

    Whoever does not know how to hit the nail on the head should be asked not to hit it at all.
    Friedrich Nietzsche


  21. #21

    Warning: epidemic of much better fakes that have fooled many in the trade

    Thanks for this.

    You said the watch felt light- how reproducible is the weight? Obviously one not re-finished, head only or with all links. And what about the serial numbers, do you think they’ll all be unique?
    Last edited by Kingstepper; 13th January 2018 at 10:00.

  22. #22
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    Many thanks Haywood for sharing your scary findings, another great informative post with 2 fingers stuck up for the bad boys

  23. #23
    Craftsman
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    Maybe the factory in China where these are made has started knocking out a few extras.

  24. #24
    Craftsman
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    Many thanks for posting. Very worrying.

  25. #25
    It looks in the photo as though the rehaut engraving does not line up with the minute markers?

    I assume this is just perspective/camera position as I doubt they would go to great lengths on everything else and forget something as visible/obvious

    Thanks for posting Haywood

  26. #26
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    Very informative post, thanks.
    Years ago knock offs were laughable when you saw them, not now!!
    Somebody could loose alot of money, makes me wonder how anyone has the bottle to buy off such as ebay.

    One question I've always wondered if anyone can answer.
    When you see an advertised watch and they say "willing to meet at an AD to check authenticity"
    Hows this work?? Do you just roll up at a AD and say " check this out pal" must be a charge etc, always wondered.

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  27. #27
    Very scary post, the social engineering element is an interesting slant. Strange that the scammer believed s Rolex owner should be a “business man” rather than a builder. Most of the builders I’ve met aren’t short of a few quid.

    Gives me a (weak) excuse to order a uv tourch though:)
    Last edited by Barton Red; 13th January 2018 at 10:33.

  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barton Red View Post
    Very scary post, Gives me a (weak) excuse to order a uv tourch though:)
    Just thinking how many uv torches have been bought this morning.🤔

  29. #29
    Master
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    I assume the police were called, as this was a clear attempt at fraud? Otherwise the guy is free to continue trying to dupe other dealers. Certainly, it seems unlikely that any normal person could spot such a clever copy. How would they ? And that includes us.

  30. #30
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    Not sure what can be done but to buy direct from an AD. Seeing some responses here about rehaut misalignment, UV warranty card - surely these are just minor obstacles and a matter of time before they are overcome. Be very very wary when buying used..

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  31. #31
    Thanks for this, although it does bring me back to the well worn video about modern machining:

    (Start at about 24.45)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VrO1fx7l0Yc&t=840s

  32. #32
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    The seller had not done his homework, stupid to try and unload that on Milton. I am sure others would have been fooled.

    Did you call the Police?

  33. #33
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    Thanks for posting that - very useful, if scary.

    I've seen knock-offs that are surprisingly good, but that one looks on a different level - even with a passable knowledge of what to look for, and how a real one should feel, it's getting to the point where I would have little confidence in buying a second hand model unless it really had a comprehensive background. If you bought that one online, you'd have no chance of spotting any issues.

    If even a high value, rare item like the recent fake 'solo' Daytona can make it into a 'Phillips' auction sale, then how easy must it be for a Chrono24 seller, for instance, to pass off a fake?

    Most Rolex owners aren't Forum watch nerds - how many of these fakes must be sitting with unsuspecting owners?

  34. #34
    Quote Originally Posted by Montello View Post
    The seller had not done his homework, stupid to try and unload that on Milton. I am sure others would have been fooled.

    Did you call the Police?
    Indeed, I would have thought a pawn shop would be the obvious place to try and flog these. Although maybe he wouldn’t have got a free cup of coffee in those places.

  35. #35
    Master PipPip's Avatar
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    Warning: epidemic of much better fakes that have fooled many in the trade

    Great information and scary reading for a layman like myself. It does reinforce my view that I would only ever buy a Rolex new from an AD or used from a very trusted member on here. Would never buy on eBay or similar.

  36. #36
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    Buying a sub is a long term plan for me, but my budget will mean used probably without box n papers etc. If such fakes can fool some people in the industry (op excluded) and others with far greater knowledge than myself it places huge doubts in my mind as to whether it I worth the risk.

    Such valuable posts for someone like me with limited knowledge, it really does make me think is it worth the risk and I should perhaps lower my watch acquisition goals.

  37. #37
    Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raffe View Post
    This. Why not try to earn your money honestly when you are going through so much effort...?

    HM, thanks so much for sharing this.
    Because you can buy a genuine Rolex without papers and then get a really good set of fake papers for bugger all money and add £1000 to the price when you sell it.

    Not much effort there.

    Everyone checks the watch but few check the papers.

  38. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by Topcat30093 View Post
    Thanks Haywood for such an informative post.
    I was not aware of the UV test on the warranty card.
    Another strong plus why you should buy the seller not the watch!
    Your final point is well made. The problem that I see however, is that the seller you buy from, may himself have been duped. So although the seller is genuine and decent, the buyer ends up holding the baby.

    For me, buying from an AD is the only option, unless its a bricks and mortar seller, and the moment I buy, its off to Rolex for a service. I think this caveat is only for Rolex, PP etc.

    For something in the hundreds rather the thousands, then I might be prepared to take a punt, and of course, still buy the seller.

    Scary post indeed Mr Haywood. Did you call the police? Certainly, if video footage was taken, then the police should be informed in my view. Afterall, if you had taken it in good faith and later it was discovered you had sold it on, your reputation would be severely damaged...

  39. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by fierbois16 View Post

    Such valuable posts for someone like me with limited knowledge, it really does make me think is it worth the risk and I should perhaps lower my watch acquisition goals.
    Or save up for a new one

  40. #40
    Excellent work Haywood and it is certainly worrying for anyone a buying second hand Rolex from dealers who handle high volumes of such watches on a daily basis (we know who they are). Are their checking systems as tight or are they an obvious dropping off point for these watches. Buyer beware has never been more true.

    Very reassuring that my only Rolex came from Haywood's shop, I hope it was checked thoroughly.

  41. #41
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    You said it felt light


    If the ADs where given the exact weights of head only watches could that be used as another check?

  42. #42
    Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Topcat30093 View Post
    Thanks Haywood for such an informative post.
    I was not aware of the UV test on the warranty card.
    Another strong plus why you should buy the seller not the watch!
    Buy the seller means nothing here.
    As Haywood has said well respected dealers have been conned with this and you could be buying from plenty good guys who don't know they have a fake.
    Thats what makes it so scary.
    The other comment about going into an AD with the seller of a Rolex.I just can't see that being a thing they would be prepared to do unless it was an AD you knew well and even then will their guy give you a cast iron guarantee without opening the thing up?
    I would be interested in how good the bracelet was Haywood? Was it of comparable quality where you wouldn't know the difference?

  43. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2012 View Post
    Or save up for a new one
    The war chest would currently allow for a new black bay, doesn't seem such a bad option now or is that just accepting second best? 😊

  44. #44
    That is scary to be fair wow average Joe public like me would get duped

  45. #45
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    Excellent and informative post.

    It highlights just how much of a risk you are exposed to when buying a second hand Rolex - sounds like you may not be safe even with bricks and mortar stores, unless they really know their stuff.

    Before buying my first Rolex from the AD i toyed with the idea of buying a second hand one, but given my lack of experience and knowledge, I didn't think it was worth the risk particularly as the price differential between new and used isn't that much. Clearly isn't an option for older models though.

    Reading this post, i think the safest option when buying second hand must be to focus on reputable and experienced bricks and mortar stores, or to buy models which have been recently serviced from Rolex - or can evidence of the latter also be faked easily?

  46. #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by kermorvan666 View Post
    Reading this post, i think the safest option when buying second hand must be to focus on reputable and experienced bricks and mortar stores, or to buy models which have been recently serviced from Rolex - or can evidence of the latter also be faked easily?
    That's a good question. The only watch I've had serviced by Rolex came back with a rather flimsy warranty card. Is anyone aware of these being faked? I'm looking at birth year watches just now and hadn't given this a thought before.

  47. #47
    Grand Master JasonM's Avatar
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    Sad thing is, many of these fakes won't come to light for years, possibly the first service time.

    Getting a AD to check a purchase is pretty meaningless unless they have the experience and knowledge.
    Cheers..
    Jase

  48. #48
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    Thanks for the post. Very interesting - and not a little worrying.

  49. #49
    Master
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    I was feeling glad about mainly preferring vintage pieces until I realised how much easier it would be for them to knock up a maxi dial 5513, a nice 1016, or a Red sub, that’s so much simpler and has none of security features. Hopefully this is a much smaller market and under a lot of scrutiny, and so not worth the bother for them, but it’s a worrying thought. With improving technolog anything will become possible.

  50. #50
    Thanks for the warning with this, Haywood, I have shared your information with my colleagues. The devil is very much in the detail

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