Fake Watches are for Fake People
The Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH), a consortium of high-end Swiss watch brands, released a publicity campaign a few years back: “Fake Watches Are For Fake People”.
If there is one other thing besides chocolate and cheese that Switzerland is known for, it’s being on time – no surprise, given that the Swiss watch industry produces around 30 million watches yearly. In addition to the 30 million genuine watches manufactured, the FHH estimates that approximately 40 million fake Swiss watches go on sale each year, leading to a staggering US$618 million of revenue losses in 2017.
Switzerland is the largest exporter of watches in the world in terms of value, followed by Hong Kong and China. Growth in Swiss watch industry exports in 2018 was led by Asia, representing 53% of the sector’s turnover and growing by 12.2%. The United States, also contributed significantly to overall growth, accounting for 14% of exports of Swiss watches.
According to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, fake watches account for 9% of customs and border seizures, placing watches second only to clothing as the most counterfeited products.
Just this year, in an operation called ’60 Minutes’, the Department of Combating Economic Crimes at the Dubai Police arrested two men and confiscated more than 29,000 counterfeit designer watches robbing the legitimate watch industry of more than US$330 million. Information is yet to be released on the specific brands affected, but the average recommended selling price was US$12,000 per watch – suggesting high-end luxury brands were implicated.
In 2018, a man in the UK was sentenced to 12 months in prison, 180 hours of community service and a fine of around US$34,000 for selling fake watches worth a hefty US$795,000. The brands involved were Rolex, Omega and Swatch. Computer files seized at the time also showed evidence that the man forged Rolex documents to make the fakes appear genuine – showing the importance of not only securing the product itself, but the documents that accompany it.
Better late than never
Anti-counterfeiting and brand protection solutions are core to any company seeking to protect their value, reputation, revenue and profits. One luxury brand, BVLGARI, has its own IP & Brand Protection team that runs a global, day-to-day protection programme for the company’s distinctive intellectual property (trademarks, patents, design and copyright), and also covering the Internet, to fight against counterfeiting.
For counterfeiters and criminals, time is gold and the luxury watch industry is a target for easy money. But it’s never too late for luxury watch makers to take proactive steps to protect their brands.