Friday, March 25, 2011

Another day, another fake...

As you may already know, the ultimate reward for a watch dealer is the 'discovery' of an unworn sleeper: a watch which is 30 or more years old, yet in unworn condition.

Last Monday we received a call from a young lady who wanted to sell a “beautiful and unworn gold Omega watch”. Unfortunately the Omega Geneve in 18K solid gold case accompanied with the "original" receipt of purchase (dated 1972) turned out to be just another fake. Yes, the movement cal 601 was an original Omega movement, but everything else - the case, bezel, case back and bracelet - was unfortunately after-market production.

The dead giveaway was the shape of the case. And even more so, the inscription found inside the case back:

While it could fool an untrained eye, for an expert this case back was a painfully amateurish attempt to deceive. The logo type, the engraving, the style - in fact, the lot - was just wrong.

In this particular case, the engraving was done by hand using a sharp engraver (Omega case backs are stamped, not engraved). The quality of workmanship was pathetic too; each and every letter was engraved out of line, and even the Omega symbol is out of shape.

The second line was even worse: it looked to me like it had been engraved by some old half-blind crook working by candle light. I almost feel sorry for the poor bastard!

Ironically, the middle case itself was nicely done. It was highly polished and would appear attractive and even desirable to anyone whose best watch had been a Russian Raketa or Poljot.

The "original" receipt was issued in Italy and printed in both Italian and Serbo-Croatian. No doubt, the intended market for this forgery were cashed-up Yugoslav customers who flooded Trieste in early 1970’s.

While I had to politely decline to buy this watch, it certainly has brought back some memories from my early days as watchmaker-apprentice from my father's workshop. Very often, "new" Italian watches were brought to my father's workshop and he was often left with no other choice but to break the bad news to gullible buyers.

The world of forgery knows no borders and when it comes to watches, this trade has been alive for at least 500 years. Back then, the master con artists were the Brits and French, followed by Spaniards and citizens of New Colonies. Italians, Russian and Romanians had their run in 1970’s until global trade took off in China, Vietnam and Korea.

Today, thanks to the advancement of Internet, there is practically no country that is not involved in some form of watch scam, fraud or forgery.

Another day, another fake...

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