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Anti-counterfeiting: pulling out all the stops to protect...

Anti-counterfeiting: pulling out all the stops to protect tradition

Monday, 23 February 2009
By Fabrice Guérroux
Fabrice Guérroux

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3 min read

With the counterfeit market apparently thriving, and intent on taking advantage of the current crisis while ever it can, the weapons with which to fight this scourge are many and varied.

This year, the watch industry is breaking out the big guns. The Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, in partnership with the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, has launched an information campaign which, by targeting the general public, promises to be a powerful counter-offensive to the promoting of fake goods online.

The majority of consumers are reasonably aware of what it implies to contribute to this fraudulent trade by purchasing a counterfeit watch. However, many are fooled by the way counterfeiters present these products in advertisements and on their websites, where words and pictures lead buyers to believe they have stumbled upon a world of luxury where coveted products can be bought… at a rock-bottom price. This can be enough to rid Jane and Joe Public of any last scruples, and have them placing their one-click secure order. Not to mention the web users who rarely read the small print, or between the lines, and are convinced they are buying the genuine article.

Close-up of a fake movement inside a counterfeit Panerai © Fabrice Guéroux
Close-up of a fake movement inside a counterfeit Panerai © Fabrice Guéroux
Quality counts

Informing the public is therefore a means of serving the common good, and this in more ways than one. First it strikes a blow to counterfeiting; secondly it raises public awareness on a large scale; thirdly, it prevents ordinary individuals from becoming involved, often unwittingly, in criminal activity. Another way for brands to tackle this problem, and not the least, is through quality… which, let it be said, has vastly improved over recent years. These improvements concern not just the materials used but also the development of mechanisms, which remains one of the unique features of Fine Watchmaking. Indeed, more and more companies are developing their own movements, thereby perpetuating the tradition and sophistication of the branch.

Only two years ago, counterfeit watches bore a striking resemblance to the genuine models. Virtually every new model unveiled by Fine Watch brands spawned a copy that looked every inch like the original… in photos, that is. For in the vast majority of cases, the difference in quality was clear to anyone who took the trouble to examine the finer details with a magnifying glass. Little matter: counterfeiters had no qualms about boasting the merits of their watches’ movements.

An imperfect match

If counterfeiters once came close to narrowing the movement quality gap, this is anything but true today. They will, in all probability, be forced to admit defeat in their race to “match the brands,” as the research and development this involves would imply investments they aren’t prepared to make.

What’s more, the brands are biting back, and hard, with movements that don’t lend themselves easily to the counterfeit game. Gone are the days when counterfeiters could fit their products with a fake Swiss movement, stamp it with a brand name and reel in a clientele of “fake people”: the same ones who, despite the illegality of their acts, will always be eager to flaunt their bogus watches. This is precisely the attitude that the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie and the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry are exposing in their campaign. Wiping out the counterfeit trade is also a means of carrying on the Swiss watchmaking tradition.

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