The watch industry has been identified as one of the most susceptible to counterfeit copies, with up to 400 million fakes watches hitting the global market each year, with an estimated value of one billion US dollars.
In the past, basic counterfeit watches were easy to identify, however, over recent years the emergence of “Super Fakes” have made them trickier to detect. Today consumers are more vulnerable to deception, particularly across digital channels, than ever before.
Consumer behaviors and trends in the counterfeit watch industry
Not all of these fake watches are purchased unintentionally, in fact a significant number of shoppers are purposefully searching for and purchasing these counterfeit copies online. Some watch brands do not take the issue of counterfeits seriously as they do not consider those that purchase fake copies to be their target audience and therefore it is not deemed lost business. However, those that believe they are buying the real deal, and the negative impact this illicit activity has on brand reputation must be addressed.
In our free and exclusive consumer research study, which puts the spotlight on the watch industry, we discovered that almost half of those questioned have intentionally purchased a counterfeit watch online. What’s even more concerning is that 87% of that group would do so again. 58% of those that had chosen to buy a counterfeit watch were attracted by the lower price, whilst a further 22% claimed that they were unable to afford the genuine item. The desire for fashion conscious individuals to be seen wearing luxury watch brands is evident.
But we also spare a thought for those that truly believed that what they had purchased was a genuine watch, only to discover that it was in fact a counterfeit copy. We discovered that 50% of respondents have been deceived by this fraudulent activity in spite of the fact that 87% are aware that counterfeit watches are advertised and sold through digital channels.
The history of counterfeit watches
Counterfeit watches began to impact the market as early as the eighteenth century. Imitation clocks and watches were being sold by the Swiss (yes, the Swiss) designed to look and feel like those manufactured by the most sought-after luxury American and English brands at that time.
By using cheaper materials, but mimicking shapes, sizes, styles, appearance and specifically their brand name, counterfeiters were generating huge profits as the value of the fake watch industry soared.
Less refined watches were also hitting the market during this period where little or no attempt was made to imitate the designs of genuine watches, yet by applying the brand name of well-known watchmaker’s they drew consumers from far and wide.
Time to get real
Fast forward to 2009 when the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH) and the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FHS) launched a worldwide anti-counterfeiting campaign across several languages, spreading the message that “Fake Watches Are For Fake People.”
The campaign was designed to shame those that buy counterfeits, highlighting the damage caused to the industry by these fake products. Despite their best efforts the campaign proved to be little more than a publicity stunt as the counterfeit watch market continued to flourish.
Crushing counterfeits on World IP Day
In 2010 it was time for the US authorities to take a stand through a unique stunt of their own. It was intended to send a warning to those producing and dealing in counterfeit goods and flatten the fake watch market. Using a steamroller, they crushed 7,000 fake Rolex watches.
These replica Rolex watches had earlier been seized by US immigration and customs officials from the perpetrator Binh Cam Tran. In total more than 20,000 replica Rolex watches were discovered at his home in the state of Philadelphia, along with the materials to construct up to one million more. Binh was sentenced to six-years in jail after pleading guilty to the charges brought against him, which included the trafficking of counterfeit goods. Alongside his sentence, he was also ordered to pay Rolex over 2.2 million US dollars.
The stunt took place on World International Property Rights Day and reinforced the government’s position in their stance against the sale of fake goods, demonstrating their commitment to protecting intellectual property rights.
How can I protect my intellectual property online?
Time can be saved, borrowed, shared and lost but be sure not to waste it when addressing the issue of intellectual property abuse. The time to act is now!
Tackling the problem of digital counterfeits and brand abuse is more effective when addressed at an early stage, but regardless of your current situation, our technological platform and our team of cyber security experts can save you time, money and resources in the fight against counterfeits and brand abuse online.
Smart Brand Protection are one of just a small number of companies in the world that can call themselves certified members of Googles Trusted Copyright Protection (TCRP), which sets us apart from other companies offering online asset protection services. With our proven track record of submitting thousands of good, clear and accurate takedown notices to Google each day. This partnership enables us to see the status of each URL submitted, delisting infringements swiftly and efficiently.
We also have special agreements with the main social media channels and digital marketplaces which allow us to detect possible infringements, removing social posts, and eliminating listings on marketplaces quickly and efficiently.