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Over a Million Counterfeit Watches Are Circulating in the U.K., According to a New Report

Rolex Submariner Ref. 116610 with a Super Case

Britain’s current watch market is having authenticity issues. 

A new report by Watchfinder & Co., a luxury pre-owned watch specialist, estimates that 14 percent of British collectors have counterfeit timepieces in their rotations. More specifically, a total of 1,010,572 watches were identified in the research as circulating in the U.K. today. But it’s not just an English problem: the market’s issue with fakes extends globally.

A staggering 40 million counterfeit watches are being sold worldwide annually. Rolex imitations reportedly make up at least half of the dupes Watchfinder has identified over the past year. Luxury watch replicas have evolved over time due to advancements in tech, which now factor in 3-D printers and CNC machines for more accurate fakes. 

Five years ago, 80 percent of fake watches were recognizable, while only 20 percent required closer inspection. These insights have flipped: Today, 80 percent of replica watches are good enough to look real at a glance, and only 20 percent are obvious fakes. Counterfeit watch sales have increased as a result, accounting for nearly 35 percent of watch transactions. But you pay for what you get. Watchfinder & Co.’s report shows that 16 percent of counterfeit watches broke after light use, according to Fashion United.

In addition to raising awareness among its clientele, Watchfinder & Co. is urging pre-owned traders, retailers, and marketplaces to be transparent. This would mean sharing their authentication policies, processes, and credentials. Watchfinder puts its pre-owned timepieces through a rigorous 60-step inspection and authentication process to ensure customer confidence. Because no one wants to spend six figures on a Nautilus, only to find out later that it’s missing key components of Gerald Genta’s iconic design. 

The report found that 68 percent of individuals who fell victim to fake products are now reluctant to purchase pre-owned items again. Although secondary market prices for genuine grails continue to fall, buyers might be able to take solace in the emerging class of brand-run certified pre-owned programs, such as the one Rolex launched earlier this year. If you can’t trust independent dealers operating through marketplaces, buying a pre-owned watch directly from the brand that made it might be the next best option.

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