Tuesday, July 20, 2010

ROLEX: Don't mess with us Mr. Tran!

"Can we speak with Mr. Tran?"
"Tran speaking!"
"Rolex here. You owe us $2.2 million".

7,000 fake Rolex watches are steamrolled in Philly

(AP) – Apr 27, 2010

PHILADELPHIA — A steamroller has crushed about 7,000 fake Rolex watches in Philadelphia under the orders of federal authorities seeking to deter would-be counterfeiters. Customs officials staged the destruction Monday to highlight law enforcement's role in protecting intellectual property rights. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say the watches were seized from Binh Cam Tran, who pleaded guilty last year to charges including trafficking in counterfeit goods.

Tran is serving six years in federal prison. He has been ordered to pay more than $2.2 million to the Rolex Co. Authorities say Tran fabricated hundreds of thousands of fake Rolex watches in his home near Philadelphia. Officials seized about 24,000 counterfeit watches and enough parts to create 1 million more.

Time to move on

After nearly 35 year behind watch repair bench, I think I am ready for downsizing. Servicing 'all brands, all makes, all models' is no longer practically possible. Swiss manufacturers refuse to supply spare parts to independent watchmakers and with no spare parts there is very little I can do to fix your timepiece.
I've started apprenticeship in my fathers workshop at age of 12. I clearly remember times when we could get almost any spare part shipped in no time. Swiss spare parts dealers were bending backwards to get our business!

Unfortunately for watchmakers, time has changed. Small, independent, highly skilled and experienced watchmakers are now seen as 'pain in bum'. Big brands wants all the repair work done 'in house' which allows them to act like any other monopoly. They charge what they want, they give no options.

In all fairness, if you are perfectionist then you should have nothing to worry about. Your watch will be serviced/repaired/restored to factory-new condition by it's Swiss maker. Yes, such service is expensive and will take for ever but quite frankly no independent watchmaker can provide service that can come even close to factory standard.

Since I have run out of most spare parts for most brands (except for Rolex for which I am still able to source spares from overseas supplier) as of this month I am providing repair service for Rolex watches only. More precisely for makes and models manufactured between 1960 and 2005. This includes all Datejust, Date, Precision, President, Submariner, GMT, Explorer and other sports and standard models. The only exception is Rolex Daytona, Tudor and OysterQuartz line.

Focusing on one brand will allow better turnaround time and hopefully better overall service. It will allow me also to step away from work bench and spend more time sourcing, buying and selling other fine timepieces and to finally commence restoration of vintage Rolex watches from my own collection. It's time to move forward!

Who the *#$% is Jackson Pollock ?

Before you jump on me for using a profane language, let me clear that above sentence is actually the original movie title. But more about that later.

Suppose you have choice of buying a 1 year old Rolex 16613 and the same model watch, but 3 years old. Which one would you go for? Well this is no brainier; while the younger watch is an obvious choice, you would make the right decision only in case that said younger watch is also in significantly better overall condition.

The key word here is the overall condition.

Unfortunately with vintage watches, overall condition is less important. The predominant factor is ORIGINALITY. You don't really want a watch in your collection which is a marriage of bits and pieces. Such watch may keep time, but the time keeping in vintage watches is even less important than overall condition.

Lets expand this bit further. You are a keen collector, knowledgeable buyer, ready to part with rather large sum of cash on an extremely rare piece. What would be the predominant factor that you'll be looking for in a watch now?
The overall condition? Originality?
Price? Resale value? Investment potential?

All of above, of course, but to a degree.

To tell you what the key point is would be too easy. And if I do so now, you will have no reason to watch one of the best documentary movies I've ever watched
on this topic!

The movie is called "Who the *#$% is Jackson Pollock".
It is available at your local video store.
Rent it tonight and watch it because the key point or moral of the story is so brilliantly presented - it will change your understanding of rare, valuable and unique objects (and the way they are they traded) forever.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Aussie websites cash in on counterfeits

[Jeweller Magazine, July 2010]

Jeweller has discovered that Australian-based websites are openly selling counterfeit watches and jewellery from well-known brands under the guise of “replicas”.

Investigations by Jeweller have established that a local website – www.***Replica***.com.au – sells exact copies of well-known brands including Tag Heuer, Breitling, Omega and Rolex.

The website is registered to a company called Brantley Pty Ltd and Australian Securities and Investments Commission records show the company as having two, Sri Lankan-born, directors; Kristiaan Martenstyn and Peduru Jayalath.

The registered address of Melbourne-based Brantley Pty Ltd is Unit 1508, 18 Waterview Walk, Docklands and the website lists a telephone number as +61 414 015 405 and makes the following claims; “We are Australia’s #1 Replica Watch Retailer, 1 Year FULL Replacement Warranty, 7 Day Risk-Free Money-Back Guarantee.”

Last week Jeweller contacted Martenstyn, who confirmed that the company had been operating for two years but claimed his actions did not breach any Australian or international laws. He went as far as describing his business as operating in a necessary industry because consumers demand the product.

“I wouldn’t call it counterfeiting,” Martenstyn said, adding that his products were “high-end replicas” produced in Geneva, Switzerland. Interestingly SwissReplicaWatches.com.au states, “We say NO to dodgy ‘fakes’ from Asia.”

According to intellectual property expert Lisa Egan, a senior associate at law firm Middletons, assessing whether product is counterfeit is quite straight-forward.

“If a business is using brand names without any authority [form the brand owner] then it’s likely to be a trademark infringement,” she said, adding that selling exact copies could also be a “design infringement”.

Egan confirmed that the term “replica” was incorrect – copies carrying a brand’s logo are classified as “counterfeit” goods.

Martenstyn justified his operation by claiming the website “helps” the watch brands.

“People who buy from us, they are not going to buy the original, so it doesn’t directly affect the trademark owners. In fact, it helps them,” he said.

Egan said the only reason the site could remain online was if none of the affected brands had taken action.

“It’s up to the owners of the brands to take action against it and have that content removed,” she said.

Martenstyn claimed he had never been contacted by any of the brands featured on his website.

“We’ve never actually had any issues at all. If we were to have any sort of issues with the trademark holders we are happy to work to meet a resolution,” he said.

The blatant nature of such operations raises questions about why the websites are allowed to remain online in Australia, given the potential damage caused to the brands’ reputation and integrity.

Interestingly, Rolex managing director Richard De Leyser said he was aware of the website.

He refused to comment on the matter any further, but said: “We take any infringement of our copyright very seriously.”

Martenstyn said he would continue operating the website for as long as his business was profitable.

“The reason we are in business is because consumers demand the products,” he said, adding: “The day that consumers no longer wish to purchase such goods, that’s when we wouldn’t supply them any longer.”

Rather than taking a low-key approach, further investigations reveal the company appears to be ramping up its operations, having recently advertised for two customer service representatives.

“We are looking for two new members to join our dedicated and friendly team that specialises in supplying high-end luxury goods such as jewellery, timepieces and paintings,” the online advertisement reads.

Egan said there is a number of steps companies can take to protect their intellectual property from online counterfeiters.

“The first port of call is to send a letter to the operator of the website,” she said, adding that Google can also be contacted to have a website excluded from search results.

“If that’s not dealt with appropriately then court proceedings could be issued.”

Egan said responsibility lies with the brands to protect their own copyright.

“I think brands need to be really vigilant in monitoring these websites. It’s really about the brands taking a proactive stance and making sure they’ve got their brand appropriately protected,” she said.

Martenstyn stressed that he had not been contacted by any of the brand owners about his website and added, in an interesting twist of logic, that he believes that his business activity is legal because no one had contacted him to say it wasn’t.

He added that his legal advice is that he is not in breach of the law.

In addition, a disclaimer on SwissReplicaWatches.com.au states that the brands “cannot prosecute any person(s) affiliated with this website”, citing code 431.322.12 of the Internet Privacy Act.

Many more online stores display similar disclaimers, all citing code 431.322.12 of the Internet Privacy Act.

Another Australian website, DesignerWishlist.com.au which offers Tiffany and Gucci labelled jewellery cites the same code, stating: “Any person representing or formally employed by any of the brands offered cannot enter this website. … If you enter this site and do not agree to these terms you are in violation of code 431.322.12 of the Internet Privacy Act.”

Apart from the fact that a broad disclaimer like that would not be accepted by a court, Jeweller’s research could find no evidence of the existence of the, so-called, Internet Privacy Act. It appears to be a disclaimer used by many counterfeit websites in an attempt to deter legal action.

Jeweller emailed Martenstyn asking, “The Terms & Conditions section of your website refers to the "Internet Privacy Act". We can find no such Act, can you direct us to it?”

Martenstyn was also asked whether he agreed that the product his business sold was counterfeit given that it carries the logos of well-known brands.
At the time of publication Martenstyn had not replied.

Legal advice obtained by Jeweller indicates there is no law that prohibits legal action against a website. Any information obtained from these sites may be used by the affected companies in court proceedings."

Epilogue: July 6, 2010.

After reading the above article I was literally in an overwhelming state of disbelief and shock.
Is it really possible that someone based in Australia would display such
arrogant disrespect for Australian Commercial Law?

Or could this be just a late April fools day joke?

So I've decided to ring the above mentioned mobile phone number in order to
find out what is really going on here.

- Hi, my name is Nicholas Hacko. I am a watch dealer.
I've just visited your website and wonder if you also wholesale watches?
- Hi. Well I am just a watch dispatch person you need to talk to my boss.
- That's fine. However, it is important that before we enter into any business transaction, I want to make sure I am not breaking any laws...
- What do you mean?
- Well you guys do sell fake watches, right?
- No, not fakes. We sell replicas.
- Replicas, fakes, same thing...
- No, no. Our replicas are NOT fakes!
- Oh sorry, my misunderstanding. So you actually do sell genuine Rolex watches?
- No, no. You don't understand the difference with fake and replica...
- Huh?
- ... not genuine Rolex, just Rolex replica. But definitely not the FAKE Rolex.
- OK I see. You sell REPLICA Rolex!
- That's exactly right. Genuine replicas which look identical to real Rolexes.
- Very good. So would you be able to accept payments in replica money?
- What do you mean, I don't understand???
- You know, the replica money. Money which looks identical to real money but it is just replica. Like the stuff I can print on my printer...
- [laughter...] I don't know, I am just a dispatch worker. You really need
to talk to my boss [more laughter...]
- OK - let's say that I do come into agreement with your boss and he does accept my replica money for his replica watches - which sounds like a perfectly fair deal to me - would you accept that replica money as your wages?
- [upset voice] Are you serious??? I don't work for fake money!!
- No, no, no - it is not FAKE money, it is just REPLICA money, mate ...
- Sir, I am busy, if you have any more questions please send us an email.
Our email address is info@Replicax.com.au .
Thanks for calling. [phone hangs up]

So there you go. I never thought that my newsletter would provide
a link to REPLICA ROLEX website, but this bunch of clown dummies
actually deserve as much publicity as we can offer.

Is there a lawyer in the house? Can we get free legal opinion on this one please :-) ?
(What a heck - we'll even take REPLICA LEGAL opinion from FAKE lawyers)

Happy collecting,

Nick Hacko

Bad mathematics

Gold stolen from watchmaker Rolex
AFP June 04, 2010

LUXURY Swiss watchmaker Rolex has been robbed of more than 15kg of gold - worth almost E15 million (US$21.83 million) - and a foundry worker has been taken into custody, a judicial official said overnight.

Rolex, whose status-symbol wristwatches cost several thousand dollars apiece, says the employee, a temp, admitted stealing 5kg of gold from the plant in Plan-les-Ouates, the official said.

The man's lawyer, Francois Canonica, said he has been detained and charged with theft and breach of trust, the ATS news agency reported.

"Whether he should be blamed for the extra 10 kilos remains an open question," said the lawyer. "It appears that the security system put in place by Rolex - supposing it has one - has shown its limitations," Mr Canonica said.

Oh boy... As they say, never let the truth spoil a perfectly good story.

Unfortunately this time the AFP got it wrong because 15Kg of gold is *not* worth 21 million dollars but only USD$ 576.000.

One can only hope that Swiss judge will do his maths before sentencing the poor idiot.

Less than perfect ? Fantastic!!!

While taking photos of K1964 Omega Moon watch, I've noticed something really unusual: there was something above the letters TER (speedmasTER). It looked like bit of dirt but under magnification it was clear that this was a 'metal left over' of casting / stamping during the manufacturing process!

Such imperfections are usually detected in foundry, or during assembly, engraving, polishing, or at least during final QC. Imperfect watch cases rarely appear on the market.

Strangely enough, this one slept through the net and neither the salesman or previous owner have noticed it.

Great conversation piece !

Every passion has its Holy Grail- have we found ours?

Every passion has its Holy Grail, and Rolex Daytona book collecting is no exception.

Yes, one can enter the Daytona book market for as little as $35.
And very solid subject-related book sells for $120.
But a hard-core Daytona collector serious about his investment would not settle for nothing less than $700 Bible called Rolex Chronographs by Pucci Papaleo editore.

Now, if you feel that $700 for a book is heaps of money then please keep reading.

The above mentioned Pucci Papaleo, self confessed "collector, devotee, historian, but above all willing victim of love for beautiful timepieces" is now ready to take you to the next level of book enjoyment.

His upcoming book "Ultimate Rolex Daytona" is volume of epic proportions:
the 12 KG book is "work of infinite complexity with the very best, and only the very best (Daytonas) chosen to portray every requirement of each aspect...with the one objective of crating something not only unique but above all undeniably beautiful".

The book is limited edition, 600 pieces typographically printed in seven colors
and high definition.
Papaleo hired highly specialized architectural photographers who took photographs
on optical bench. The end result is masterpiece with finest rendering of effects in
details, hues and textures.

So what is the book like this one worth to you? $1000? $3000 ? Obviously we are talking serious money here but if you want to reserve your copy then be prepared to part with solid $7,300 AUD (plus postage).

Again, if you think than only a madman would spend over $7K on this book then you are new to watches and watch collecting:
few weeks ago, the very first copy of Papaleo's book was sold at Christi's for AUD$ 44,065. Yes, it was a charity auction, but that hardly makes any difference.

[ Just in case that you are tempted to place an order for Ultimate Rolex Daytona make sure to talk to me first. If we can order few pieces as combine order, surely Papaleo will find bit of room to move on price :-) ]

And if you don't want to go above $35 then get yourself Patrizzi's Pocket Expert Daytona form my website http://www.clockmaker.com.au/books/
This one is very popular and selling fast, so you better be quick!

Private stock: bruised, battered and beaten

Last week I had request for one particular vintage Rolex Submariner.
Since private stock rarely sees daylight this was great opportunity
for a photo session. I ended up spending 3 days
pulling apart a number of Submariners and in the process I took over 400 photos :-)

Time well spent - I now have enough material
for a PowerPoint presentation called "Collecting vintage Rolex sport watches"
which I intend to present this month.
This 'watch talk' event is suited for both novice and advanced collectors,
especially those interested in Rolex Submariners.
Stay tuned for more! Oh yes - the new wall projector is on it's way
so expect nothing less than a full IMAX experience :-)

For a quick preview fell free to browse the private stock listed at

While I don't regard myself as a watch collector per se,
I don't mind hanging onto a few pieces.
This particular lot was built up over a period of 12 years
and consist predominantly of "virgin" (unrestored) Submariners.
A word of warning: if you are not familiar with vintage watches
be prepared for shock and horror!
Although some pieces are in top collector's condition, most
other Subs are purposely left unrestored, scratched and dirty.
Yes - some of them still contain dirt and soil - in the very same condition
I'd found them! Which is exactly how mad collectors want them.

But we'll talk more about that on the night.

(You may wish to bookmark the above link because I do intend to
list few more in near future).

Rolex dials: fancy and exotic

From the mid 1980s to the late 1990s Rolex was heavily involved in production of
very special, exotic watch dials. Those dials were mainly fitted to Date and Datejust
models. Precious and semi precious stones like sugilite, rose jasper, blue and green jadeite, pink opal, coral and almost every colour of shell were used to turn conservative looking Rolex watches into unique and distinctive timepieces.
My favorite exotic dial is blue sodalite which was used in production of gent's watches, including Daytona models.
Pictured here is a slab of Bolivian sodalite:

...and an 18K WG Daytona with sodalite diamond dial
on blue alligator strap:

Unfortunately fancy dial Rolex watches are not common and they rarely appear on pre-loved market.
The k1893 on today's offer is fitted with rare Arabia-shell dial. Great watch in 35mm unisex size.