Before I get into fake watches, I for real hope you had/are having a good Christmas break, and woweee I'm posting for the second consecutive week, pat me on the case-back...
Hung on the walls in my current residence, I have a Picasso, a Van Gogh, a Klimt and a Mondrian. They are all stylistically different, representing a time in the artists life, a time in the life of art, and the evolution of particular styles and expression. As you might have guessed, these are replicas. Now, you might not see an issue with having reproductions of paintings, because the originals are scarce, likely one offs and out of the reach all those bar the 1%.
There may be those who disagree with the idea of printed canvases or even having an artist create a hand painted replica - this person might say they are fake - and what is the point of having a fake? To those people I say, I get it, but have a day off. A day off from being a pedant. The original will no doubt have more impact, but with the fake there is still an impact to be made, a feeling to be stirred and a message to be conveyed. The painting is an idea, and the idea remains in spirit if not entirely in form. Saying that, these replicas aren't intended to be replacements. They do however signify the buyers taste, their appreciation of the original artwork, honouring art, the artwork and artist.
So, you know where this is going...what about when it comes to watches? The original luxury watches that are oft replicated are likely more scarce, less affordable, and more coveted. Of course the primary example is the Rolex Submariner. An icon, a legend, and likely the most popular of the faked watches (and inspiration to homages, more on that later). So this is a different angle, these fakes are primarily different from the paintings mentioned in that their intent is to deceive, and deception is not cool - unless you're a spy.
As a watch fanatic, for me it's about the big picture, history, design, engineering, innovation and that feeling, you know the one, we'll leave utility to the side for now. The primary draws for individual watches are usually design and emotion. Is someone who wears a fake Rolex, likely to care about these things? Maybe, but the motivations for wearing a fake Rolex are likely to be to impress, deceive (to try to fit in or to show off) and boost their ego. The emotion and design that made the original so popular finds some common ground but beneath that ground the psychological foundations are different. Technically there are fake Rolexes out there that are almost indistinguishable from the real thing, but from a purists perspective, a fake watch is a fruitless endeavour. If a watch is not created in line with its history and disconnected from that technical process, then it is not that watch. Hence the disparity and pointlessness from the the purist. From the perspective of the 'fake' person, I can have basically the same thing as a millionaire, tough break rich people, why should you be the only ones to have nice things that elevate your status. Or haha you spend £20k, I spend £300 and we might be perceived to be in the same realm of wealth. We could go down a disenfranchised, social equality, class divide rabbit-hole here, but we won't, suffice to say there is some legit moral framework behind this idea.
Returning to the art on my walls, I can hang these replicas with pride, with very little judgement, they are usually met with pleasure, recognition and reflection. Watches are a bit more abstract but it's the same idea to those in the know. If the intent is honest, then there will be recognition, pleasure and reflection. Again some people would look at replicas and think you're posh, pretentious douchebag - there's a lot going on out there.
I view high-end watchmaking as art, craftsmanship of the highest decree, artisanal engineering, so while I get the motivation behind fakes, they don't do it for me. They are an unwanted side-effect of success, as with most fake things or people, to be frowned upon. Is it that fake people will wear fake watches, clothes, jewellery or accessories, possibly. But there will also be those who simply have made choice, do they wear these counterfeits as a hope to one day wear the real thing, to feel like a success? For some it will be an escape from reality, and a hopeful gesture looking into an uncertain future, for others it will be purely a facet of their persona, an attempt to impress.
Fakes target a different market, not always watch fans, more like people who want fans. So one can't really argue that the fake market damages the revenue streams of the original company. The same with homages, they are in that category for reason, because the price range is completely different and hence the target market as well. There is likely some crossover, but this will be in the realms of scams, people buying fakes or frankensteins from disreputable sellers.
A main concern for the discerning buyer is finding a good deal without receiving a fake product. This is the most dangerous part of the fake watch game. Some people are out looking for a fake, and often those who are not can be caught up in the game. If you're upfront and selling 'genuine' fakes (love that oxymoron, jumbo shrimp anyone) then I suppose it's ok in a sense - better than those trying to scam people out of thousands.
An interesting flipside to this came to light in an article I saw recently - storing fakes as security precaution. With Rolex and luxury watch owners becoming more frequent targets of theft, sometimes violent, often premeditated, some deem it necessary to buy and wear fakes. I get the idea, but why not just not wear a watch or wear one that won't elicit a robbery, wear a cool G-Shock, Casio, Tissot, Certina, Citizen or Seiko. If security is your concern, then why on earth would you continue to wear something that might still be seen as a prize, it doesn't make much sense to me, but oh well. I'm not sure if they cover this angle in the Times article as it's behind a paywall - they mention making buying/making fakes due to burglaries, so the fake gets robbed and the real ones are somewhere hidden in a safe. I guess that might work but I think the secrets out. Rich people problems eh.
Here we come back to the idea of intent. The homage watch is an honest copy, not a fake, it isn't claiming to be something it isn't, only telling you that it was inspired by another. The intent not to deceive but to flatter. The inspiration for this post was a purchase made in August 2020, though I've only just opened it. For the grand sum of £28.88, I got myself, a mock-submariner, a black Reginald 2116 (it doesn't have a model name on Amazon but I think it's Reginald Crown as per Aliexpress). The reason I bought it was curiosity, plain and simple, I never intended to wear it, I thought I might try and take it apart as a learning exercise.
I realise on checking the price in 'my orders' that I actually ordered a green one, never mind. The dial states it has an officially certified chronometer and there are no spelling mistakes, unlike the instruction booklet, which is quite frankly very amusing;
"Haif a century ago, REGINALD was produced to satisfy those who are pursuing special style and quality for time-piece."
"REGINALD means quality of swiss watch."
And those typos, grammar issues, factually questionable comments aren't mine for a change. REGINALD demands capitalisation.
Also, amusingly the price of the same watch is now £46.90 (29/12/21, Amazon uk), a 63% increase in value in 16 months, what an investment, who needs bitcoin - even Rolex homages are increasing in value! A testament to the power of Rolex. Unfortunately I killed my own vibe by visiting Aliexpress to have a look and found that they were selling for £16.40 - they fluctuate a bit though. Is it worth it, I'll tell you right now it is for the latter, just throw the tin can bracelet straight in the trash. I am going to do a separate post on my REGINALD Sub-mariner, as I have christened it.
Go on Aliexpress.com and search Pagani Design (or Google) and you will find all the homages you could ever want; Royal oak, Nautilus, Sea dweller, Daytona, Seamaster, Pelagos, Carrera, and the list goes on. Many of them have hundreds of sales logged.
They both look pretty good in the pics to be fair. Strangely, some homages, from the likes of Invicta, come to find their own fanbase and legitimacy. They have homages in amongst their line-up that offend few, though some of their others offerings are massively offensively ugly (imo). Even more strangely Invicta started off in the 1800s as a Swiss brand and it is a cool name, though now somewhat regressively are based in Florida, no offence, I like it there but in terms of watchmaking history... you get the idea. This popularity is likely because there is an honesty and transparency that is always appreciated and is key in building a connection with customers. They know what they are, and are not trying to be anything else - you know what I mean. Genuinely unauthentic, rather than genuine fakes.
The idea behind the art and watches is the aligned, they are replicas, though the watches might have a different name on them, Reginald or Invicta rather than Rolex, but they look the same, almost identical other than the logo. The art on the walls is flat, not the same substance or emotion that would be seen on the originals, no brushstrokes, no depth. But with the art, there is only one of each, one exquisite masterpiece which is not quite the case for watches - though each may be a handmade masterpiece, or extremely expensive. In both cases the copies are missing the soul of the originals.
When I first heard of homages, I treated them like fakes and frowned upon them with great vengeance and furious anger. But, like a dipped biscuit, I softened. Homages are honouring the original design and designers. There is obviously a market for them, people who love well designed, aesthetically pleasing watches and don't want to spend loads of money on them. It's as simple as that, I guess some of these people may initially be unaware of the madness of the watch crowd, and many might not care about the craftsmanship and history of the timepiece. But that is entirely ok, my hope being that the homage is another entry point to this crazy beautiful horological world that we inhabit.
HOMAGES > FAKES, DOUGHNUTS > CAKES
I just had a chocolate & hazelnut mousse filled doughnut, it tasted better than wearing a Rolex feels, hence the necessary random inclusion and mixed metaphor.
Anyway, I wonder if you agree with me, fakes are bad in almost every scenario, and homages are the opposite, harmless, and even a positive in the watch world, a gateway drug if you will. Your Reginald might one day lead you to a Rolex, Pagani to a Piaget. Or maybe fakes can lead to the same thing, there is already the appreciation of luxury and social impact that one might desire, perhaps a new madness can grow out of this ego-driven posturing. Who knows, different strokes for different folks.
So there you have it, an anti-climax - no anger or over-lambasting. The draw to watches is often about the brand and the feeling, the company that has manufactured the watch has also manufactured their legacy, reputation and the quality of their timepieces that has made them the cultural icons they are. Therefore you cannot recreate that irrational feeling in a product that doesn't share the legacy, they look the same but really it has much more to it than the looks. That's why watch fans frown at real fakes, fakes are usually about perceived status, posing and blingmanship. For the same reasons others scowl at homages. I guess there are logical reasons to buy a fake, to test it out, see if you like the look, or you received it as a gift and you have to wear to not hurt someones feelings. So, the only time it's ok to buy a fake is if you can afford a real one, and if you can't then buy an homage.
Yet there is hope for our misguided showoff cousins who want that diamanté encrusted Royal Joak, that they will put aside their desire for attention for the wrong reason, leave that one personality disorder and exchange it for another, the unreasonable and irrational love of pointless time-telling bracelets.