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Tvt's Guangzhou Watch Market Travel Notes

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The following from Teeveetee......

For those who asked me to post this over here on RWGII here you go. Remember, this was writen slightly over a year ago and things change quickly in China. From what I understand the markets went through a bit of a crack down after I was there. Obviously there are a ton of new watches as well.

I must also warn you, the post is long... but check it out, if you have an interest in fake watches you may find it interesting.


Part One:

Well, let me just put an end to any and all doubts about watch prices, watch "rarity", the end of fakes and all of that. Today I visited the watch markets in Guangzhou China and there is no way to properly describe what I saw.

Let me begin by telling you that you cannot count the watches in the dozens, or hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands... not even in the hundreds of thousands... we are talking about MILLIONS of fake watches. I am not joking, MILLIONS of them.

In China for whatever cultural reason I don't know, but in China everything is separated into districts, or markets. There is the spice market, the fabric market, wet and dry food markets, shoe markets and so on, right down to plumbing supplies or lamp fixtures. EVERYTHING is contained in individual zones of the city. Within these zones one will find dozens or sometimes even hundreds of stores and stalls and booths pretty much all selling the exact same stuff. So if you need say a sump pump you go to the plumbing district, then within that large many city block area you find the sump pump zone, then choose from dozens of little stores all selling the same 10 sump pumps. It makes it easy to find the best price because you simply walk 10 feet away to the next guy if the first is not low enough. How they make money at this I truly do not know, but this is how it is.

So today we headed to the watch market. It is not as well known to tourists as most other markets. No one at the hotel knew where it was but we knew it was near the bus station so we headed there. Behind the provincial bus station unfolds a truly unbelievable scene... like nothing I could of imagined.

For several city blocks nothing is for sale other than fake watches and the components that make them. There are hundreds of individual stores and then there are these huge mall like buildings filled with hundreds and hundreds of sellers, each with case after case of fakes. Imagine something like a large convention where every seller has a booth full of his or her goods. These are large indoor areas, say about the size of an American grocery store... lined up neatly forming aisles are row upon row of glass cases, literally overflowing with every fake you have ever seen of heard of or could possibly imagine.

It was overwhelming at first. There I stood in this exhibition hall filled to the brim with people and fake watches and there was absolutely no effort to hide anything. This is NOT an under the table type of place. In fact police stood at the front of many stores just as they would in any legit department store.

So I stared to wonder up and down the aisles... this is a true WHOLE SALE market so there were no pushy attempts to sell me anything. When you approach a counter they will start to point out the "new models" or because I was wearing a Rolex they may show me other Rolex models. One side note is that I had on a genuine Rolex and they all knew within SECONDS that it was genuine. They would say something like "Original" and smile while pointing to my wrist. I plan on going back tomorrow and I will NOT wear that watch, why let them think I have money.

Anyway, they have every single Asian movement watch you can think of. Each seller has on display maybe 500 watches with many more in boxes under the counter; there are hundreds and hundreds of sellers.

We wandered through this mall and were duly impressed with how many watches they had, it was many times what I imagined this place to be. Then we realized that we were in one of many, many such stores... what was an unimaginably large number of watches to me was truly the absolute tip of the iceberg. This would be like looking at a few gold coins not realizing that you are standing next to Fort Knox!

So we continued to explore the streets and the stores and the booths and the malls... some of the watch malls had signs like "Southern Watch Trade Center" or "Northern World Horiliogical Center” on them, and they would be up to four floors (complete with escalators") of hundreds of thousands of fake watches.

Very soon you realize that it is IMPOSSIBLE to see it all, IMPOSSIBLE to understand what you are seeing. It is INSANE. This must be the epicenter of fake watches for the entire world. This in fact (as I had read) is the supplier of all the fake sellers throughout China, probably the world.

I started to see some watches that I liked, a Franck Muller Crazy Hours with working complication as well as a nice Vegas... asking price? $20, selling price, around $8. The Crazy Hours I bought was a colored one on a green strap for my wife... it has a very nicely printed dial, the complication works perfectly, for under $10 you really cannot beat it. But I wanted the high-end stuff... so I continued. One guy had a Panerai I had never seen before, it was a 40mm model chrono and I was not so interested because it was 40mm but it had a very good THICK crown and the chronos worked and the center seconds had functioned as a stop watch, all as they should... he was asking $30, I did not get into negotiation with him. However I asked him about "Better quality" and he said come back in 10 minutes.

After a while you cannot process how much you are seeing, you will never find your way back to where you just were so you better buy if you see something you like. However we did manage to get back to the Panerai guy in 10 minutes, he said he could not find anything better. I was thinking at this point that everything, as impressive and cheap as it was, would be Asian movement stuff. Not that it is not cool but I am just not too interested in buying that stuff, it is great to see it but I will not wear it. At this point we made it to yet another watch mall and on the second floor found a really nice guy. He pulled out stools for us to sit on and showed us watches. He had some decent Submariners... not the highest quality but really pretty good, very good cases in fact, screws, solid stainless, 120 click bezels, hologram sticker etc. he was ASKING $12 for them. I asked about "Swiss" and he understood and said yes... he wanted $75 for the ETA version. I was ready to negotiate but then he pulled out a piece of paper and showed me the words "custom made" He said it would be ready later that day at 4:00. That was 3 hours away and we did not have time to wait... so then I looked at a catalog and saw all sorts of good Panerais... he said he would get them and left. 30 minutes later he had not returned and so we left.

As we walked through a totally different mall a block away there he was, he tracked us down! He led us back to his shop and sure enough, he had found the Panerais... including some REALLY off beat models like the current Power reserves. Unfortunately they were low-end Asian crap, not like what was pictured in the book... so I politely said no. He asked about the Swiss sub and again I tried to explain that we did not have time. We left.

10 minutes later is yet another mall he shows up again and tells us he can have it ready in 45 minutes, at 2:00 and for $70. I was interested (My friend wants me to get him a sub) but he wanted a deposit of about $12. I was not afraid that he would rip me off, he was very nice and very helpful, but I was afraid it would not be ready at 2:00 as promised so again, I said no and continued shopping.

We turned the corner back on the street and found ANOTHER row of watch stores... this was getting crazy. We went into one and at this point just started cruising through... no more studying each case; you would be there a week. Suddenly something caught my eye, a Panerai with the best crown I have ever seen, perfect thickness and cut. It was a titanium tobacco dial, I think the PAM 36. Here they were, the quality I was looking for. He had perfect Santos, Omegas, and Daytonas, pretty much everything. I asked to see the Panerai and suddenly out from under the counter comes a bag filled with about 100 Unitas based Panerais. Each wrapped in plastic, fresh from the factory. He was looking for a 900 Yuan for most, which is $112. He was not willing to bargain too much, when I offered him 400 Yuan he pulled the watches away and was not interested in talking any longer. I remembered that this is a wholesale market and that the mark up is probably not too high. My wife and I were the ONLY Caucasians we saw all day, thousands of people and us, so this is NOT a big tourist spot where they mark everything up 10X normal price. I eventually got him down to 800 Yuan or $100 and picked up the PAM 36... it is a VERY good fake. This is the watch that typically would run many times this price. I drew a picture of a 196 and he nodded, his friend whipped out another smaller bag and there was the 196... worked well, but I was out of cash. He wanted about $130 for it. I took a business card and wrote down his booth number, I hope to find him tomorrow with some more cash on hand. The watch I did buy also has the nicest strap I have seen that comes with a fake, genuine leather, thick, great clasp... no need to change it at all. It is absolutely as good if not better than a Don's strap.

So after eyeing his other Panerais, and he had them all, the Black Seal, the current 1950, the 196, the Daylights... all of them, we told him we would be back tomorrow. Suddenly my old friend from upstairs has found me AGAIN. Now you have to understand, I am like 2 blocks away from his store in an area with thousands of people... I guess he wondered through every stall looking for the obvious Americans. This is also a sign that we are GROSSLY over paying that he is willing to hunt us down. Still, that said he was now offering to make the Swiss ETA submariner for $60. I told him I would be back tomorrow to buy it and I probably will. $60 is probably twice what he would charge a Chinese person but still about a fifth or sixth of what that watch would cost me back home.

Now, on to the straps and parts and movements and boxes. All around the edges of this market area are smaller stores that sell nothing but fake boxes and bands and straps. More than you could possibly imagine. I did not have my camera nor do I think it would be welcome but I wish I had a way to show you pictures. Image neatly wrapped bundles of Roles SS bands that are stacked 8 feet high. Each wrapped in plastic and bundled together into large grouping, then those groupings bundled together and so on until it is like 3 or four feet wide and about 8 feet tall. They hade these is gold, SS, TT what have you... thousands and thousands and thousands of them. You want a Roles box? An Omega box? A Panerai box? Go to any number of stores with names such as "Guangzhou watch packing company" and you will see thousands of them stacked on racks and sold for $1 or so.

In the basement of some of the watch markets are parts areas. They sell everything from tools to case openers to watch faces to cases to movements. One store had nothing but dozens of different movements, another nothing but empty case after case after case. I saw a large ring full of what must have been 10 thousand submariner bezels. It boggles the mind.

There is no reason to even consider buying from any place other than here if you are ever in Guangzhou... it is a short 2-hour train trip from Hong Kong and about a 20-minute flight for $100. It seriously would be worth it just for this.

I know Clive will be here soon, we will talk via PM and I will give you some details. In all of my searching I only found the good stuff at this one small booth but that building seemed to have higher quality stuff and being out of money I did not bother to look further. I will go back tomorrow, and I have all the contact info of this stall. I think that when I show others my PAM 36 the floodgates will open... my suspicion is that once I get other sources the prices will drop like a rock and these same watches will get into the $75 range.

So there you have it... an UNBELEIVABLE part of the world if you have even a passing fancy for watches... it is truly like nothing you have ever seen. How this has been kept a relative secret I don't know but I will NEVER look at a fake the same way again. This would be like thinking a grain of sand is special, then going to the beach one day and realizing that there is an endless supply. Very cool and worth a special trip.

Part Two:

So I had the opportunity to return the land where the streets are paved in watches today and I was again both surprised and confused by what I saw.

I managed to get lost getting there because cab drivers do not seem to know this market. It is probably because it is NOT a common tourist destination or even a local destination; rather it is watch retailers traveling here from across Asia to stock up. THEY know where it is so cab drivers don't.

After wondering through the main train station (where tens of thousands of people ebb and flow like the sea) I managed to find my way back to the watch markets and continued my exploration.

I headed directly to the booth in the Southern Watch Terminal Trade Center (one of the largest malls full of fakes) that had my 036 yesterday. They had a very good ETA based Santos I was eyeing and I decided to pick it up on this trip. Well much to my surprise it was gone, as was most of the watches I saw yesterday. It seems that these booths, at least the prime ones, sell so often and so fast that inventory rolls over at a constant rate. I was learning that you must buy when you see what you want because the next day or even the next hour things will be different. Still, he managed to pull out some good quality Panerais and as I browsed his booth I noticed that ALL of his watches seemed very good. I asked "Swiss or Chinese?" He looked almost insulted and said "ALL SWISS, ALL SWISS, ONLY SWISS FOR ME" and then literally, no joke said "A NUMBER ONE ONLY!" In a heavy Chinese accent... very funny.

SO I looked at a 188 (previous model, non recessed sub dials) and a 19 as well as a white faced GMT which I had not seen before. The GMT was quite good suffering only from weak magnification on the date... it had a functioning GMT hand and again, a very nice band (they have made HUGE improvements in that area). I wanted the 188 but this particular one seemed to have a sticky pusher and we all know the Asian Valjoux if a questionable movement so the last thing I wanted was a lemon. I tried to explain that I wanted a different copy of this same model. There was no way to get that across so I finally said I wanted TWO of these. I figured I would then choose the good one and reject the bad. He said he had them and then pulled out the black-faced 196... to him they were the same. I said "Now WHITE face" and while I think he understood no more were produced for me so I passed. I did pick up the white GMT... because it had the GMT function I had to pay more, $115 or so.

I looked at other watches in his booth and then a Chinese man came up and started negotiating for some Pateks. I watched as the calculator was passed back and forth and to my surprise and delight I saw the prices he was being quoted were the same or very close to what I was being told. I then started to realize that for the high end watches there is very little room for negotiation. The Asian stuff, forget about it, offer them half and they jump at it... but the Swiss stuff is RARE in this market and they can command the best price.

I decided to look at some subs and this is when I learned another interesting lesson... the same booth would sell WILDLY varying quality of the same watch. One sub was great, top of the line sub no doubt... only the damn crown was busted. So I asked for another and he produced a nice sub but with not only the wrong font date but also a HUGE magnification. Now I have never seen a fake that was OVER magnified but this was it... must have been like 4X mag! So I pointed out the difference and then he pulled out a Sea Dweller. Well that was damn near perfect but a friend wanted a SUB, not a SD so I passed again. He told me come back in an hour and a half and he would have the sub... OK, fine.

I was starting to get overwhelmed by now. You cannot imagine the commotion going on all around you. These things start to lose any value for you at some point... there are so many just PILED into cases that you cannot differentiate one from the next. Everything I know about spotting good fakes was rapidly leaking from my head. I decided I had had enough... I would be happy with my one GMT and head out.

Before doing so I took a lap around yet another mall I had not seen the previous day. I stumbled upon it after going out a side entrance and while it was similar to the others it was also more cramped and even busier.

I saw one dealer selling nothing but fake papers, Holograms and hang tags of every possible watch brand. I was tempted to pick up a few sheets of holograms... they come on 8x10 sheets with like 50 or so stickers per sheet. I decided against it...why I really don't know... overload I guess.

As I made a last final lap seeing nothing but junk after more junk (being here for any period of time makes you start to view EVERYTHING other than the cream of the crop as absolute crap) BAM, suddenly another case chock full of nothing but top of the line Swiss fakes. The girl working the booth looked to be about 14 and spoke NO English. She was probably 18 in reality but looked pre-pubescent to me... think about hookers you see in movies about the Vietnam war... that is what we are talking here, she may have weighed 90 pounds. I see the 188 proudly sitting in the case (you will notice that the Swiss stuff usually is more nicely displayed while the Asian stuff slums it in mass piles of other time pieces). She quoted me the exact same price as the other guys had... I was seeing again that these prices are true wholesale, not as much bickering and negotiating as I was thinking there was. She also had some nice Franck Muller Vegas watches, which I was looking for, and this leads me to another true revelation...

There are 100% either different factories making these or at the very least different versions of each watch. I tend to think different factories though. Previously I thought that all of these more or less came from the exact same factory... that all the dealers had the exact same stuff... WRONG. You see, in my search for the nicest Vegas watch I saw AT LEAST 5 different versions. This is not including the many other non-functioning complication versions, I saw at least 5 that had the working Vegas spinning hand feature. The printing on the dials varied quite a bit, some were fuzzy and crappy, others crisp and sharp. Some were heavy and solid, some were cheap and light weight. Yet all were quoted to me at the exact same price (about $15 - $18_ regardless of quality.

I had previously found a Vegas I liked but he would only sell to me in a minimum of 5-watch order, this young girl had no such restrictions. I could not help thinking to myself "Maybe this is what my new Daughter would be doing in 14 years if we did not adopt her). She only had the good Vegas I wanted on a leather band, I wanted SS. I managed to communicate this to her and she gladly swapped bands for me... as this was happening something interesting happened... I will tell you about that in the next post.

Part Three:

Back to the story...

As the young girl was expertly switching bands (they can do it with a speed and precision that you need to see to understand, it is very obvious that she has done this thousands of times before) something started to happen all around me. Each and every booth started covering their good with newspapers. Rolling shutters started to come down over the booths built into the walls around the perimeter of the room, even the main rolling doors that are normally open to the street were half closed blocking the main entrances and exits. There was a calm and orderly but very fast and determined movement to hide the goods, but in no real meaningful way... just to cover them. The girl paused from the work she was doing, covered her watches, put the Panerais I was looking at under the table, and then continued to change bands. People rushed by me, I had no idea what to do so I sat still on a stool. I heard a siren in the background; I have no idea if that had anything to do with this. I few uniformed guards walked through but no one paid them any attention and I think they were just security guards anyway. Then a few minutes later things slowly returned to normal. I bought the Vegas and 188 managing to get her to come down slightly with my "bulk" order of 2!

All I can figure here is that the Chinese government has agreed to a "crackdown" on counterfeit goods. As such they must have occasional task forces that come to look for fakes. However it is TOTALLY superficial, if they don't see them sitting out then they do not exist as far as they are concerned. There is nothing inherently wrong with a watch market, they do in fact sell legit albeit off brand watches, plus all the parts. So I think China is paying lip service to the rest of the world. From time to time they take some pictures of a steam roller crushing some fakes or a bon fire of fake Prada bags and they show on paper how they conducted X number of raids this week. In reality they are turning a blind eye to this business and making it only SLIGHTLY inconvenient every once in a while for the dealers.

The girl took the two watches from me and carefully bagged them, the ducked behind the counter where I could no see what she was doing at all. I heard rustling... she came up with a black plastic bag tied at the end in a tight knot. I thought "Here we go... she just switched watches, I know have a bag of rocks or something and I am going to find myself arguing with a Chinese minor in the middle of a fake Watch market on the other side of the globe from anything that is remotely "normal" to myself. I figured I was out the money and there would not be a lot I could do... I just did not want her brothers coming after me. I opened the bag and there, neatly packed, were the exact two watches I purchased! No scam, no switch, just a big smile and a "BYE BYE" for me. I realized that Chinese do not really practice petty theft, it just does not occur to them, perhaps because there are so many people here that you HAVE to respect others or else life could not go on. Sure, there are pick pockets and crime but it is not like we are used to... if you made a deal you made a deal, she will honor that deal, that is business. Now the funny part is that these same people have no problem looking you in the eye, smiling, and charging you ten times what they are prepared to sell for... it is how business is done in China.

Armed with my new purchases I decided to press on a little longer. As I was looking at one booth a nice middle-aged guy grabbed my wrist (Chinese are VERY aggressive like this, it takes some getting used to) and looked at the PAM 36. He said "Very good, VERY nice... Number 1!" And gave me the thumbs up. They started removing the watch from my wrist!!! I did not feel threatened or as if a crime was happening... it was oddly friendly in fact. I opted to take it off and hold it for him, he snatched it from my hand and inspected it closely. I don't know if he thought it was real or just a good fake but he was enthralled by it. He grinned and gave it back, again said "Number one, the best" and then handed me his business card. He asked my name and where I was from, he asked me to call him for good deal. I thanked him, a woman handed him a bag and he disappeared in a hurry!

I was pretty happy with the day, ready to leave and once again, at the last moment something caught my eye. There in another case was the Santos I was looking for earlier. Very nice, ETA, GREAT deployant clasp... perfect for what I needed. And then I saw the Panerais sitting next to it... the entire line of Swiss Panerais. Black Seal, 1950, PVD (they are too black BTW after seeing them in person finally) Carbon fiber, 196, etc, etc, etc. The only PAMS I did not see were the Power Reserve and Tuxedo dial GMT... they had ALL the rest. Here we go.... I asked how much the Santos was: $97, and it came in a pretty nice Cartier box... all the others only came in bags. I did not really need any other PAMS as I have most of them already but I asked prices, again, I was quoted the exact same price as the previous booths... there is consistency of price. I was not being taken as much as I thought I was... this was not coincidence... this was set wholesale pricing. This booth was run by two young guys, like 23. And it was interesting to see what happens to one's teeth if they are not brushed in 23 years... but that is a different story. The one guy standing next to me on the outside of the booth saw my watch. He was excited to see it (perhaps I knew what I was looking at in his display) and he asked how much. I decided to test them and told them I bought it for about $20 less than I did, a LARGE difference percentage wise. They were SHOCKED! They asked where (these guys spoke a little English, not a lot but more than most). I pointed to the other building and said yesterday. They jabbered back and forth in Chinese, and then he asked me to take it off. I said "Swiss" he said, "Yea, I know Swiss", and then inspected it front and back carefully. I asked how much he would sell for and he gave me the exact cost that I actually had paid from the other dealer the previous day. I smiled and said, "I get better deal, BEST deal" and they smiled back but were stunned at the price. Again, this shows me that these prices are consistent on the high-end stuff, this is true wholesale pricing.

Then they showed me something that I know MANY of you would love to have... the much talked about buy rarely if ever seen PERFECT SS Daytona... there it was, I was holding it. PERFECT sub dial spacing, running seconds at 6 (which he was very proud of), great feel... I mean it looked DAMN good. I asked "Swiss?" he said "ONLY SWISS!" and then showed me a picture of a Swiss Valjoux... he said "you see inside?" He was offering to open it for me. I asked "How much" he typed some numbers and after some quick math I determined he was asking $525 or so. I acted shocked and said "too much!" they laughed. He said, "Best movement... best can get". I told him that I knew this but did not want to waste his time... more than I had on me or I was willing to spend at this time. She pulled out a group of very nice Daytonas with Asian movements but I was not interested, those were only $24 or so. I was not looking for them, but I believe this was the only Swiss Daytona I saw... it was nice, I must say, and at wholesale if it is $525 you figure $800 or so is not a bad deal if our dealers can offer it for that.

I took my Santos and his business card (they all have cards, his is quite fancy with embossing and nice graphics) and said goodbye. They were very friendly. While I felt very out of place I never felt unwelcome and certainly not in ant danger whatsoever. These people are running what to them are legit businesses, they take pride in the goods they have and the service they offer. I would have a drink with many of them if given the chance.

I headed back to my hotel and along the way the cab both hit a pedestrian AND got hit by a car... no one was hurt... driving in China is a sight to behold... but that's another story.

Part Four:

We have made it back safely to the U.S. and lucky for me we breezed through customs both in Hong Kong and the U.S., meaning my watch collection has now grown a little bit.

Between traveling 20 hours and having a ten month old who thinks 7 at night is 7 in the morning and vice versa I have had virtually no sleep over the past three days, maybe 5 hours tops.

All that not withstanding I thought I would add a few more random thoughts on what I experienced in China, a few things I could not really work into my previous posts.

First of all it is truly hard to explain just how massive these markets are. I said this before but I really think it bears repeating... there are MILLIONS of watches in these markets being dealt with. I mean quite literally MILLIONS. Each case is overflowing with hundreds of watches (well most of them are, some choose to go for a more high end, "sparse" look meaning they only have say 100 or so per case). There are hundreds and hundreds of individual dealers, and I am only counting the watches I could see... not the bulk of the inventory held under the counters in back rooms and out of site warehouses. Other than perhaps some Swiss mega watch warehouse or something I find it hard to imagine that more watches exist in one place than right there in these watch markets in Guangzhou China.

For example one very small dealer, the guy who had the PAM 036 I bought (still the best damn crown I have ever seen on a rep, just perfect) had only 100 or so watches in his case. All "Swiss" he claimed and from the looks I believe him, or more to the point all high end for some, like the 196, surely do not have a Swiss movement. Anyway, I would ask him about models he did not have on display, say a Two Tone Submariner or a PAM 188. These dealers have full color watch brochures you can look through and point out watches you are interested in. All the major brands are represented and they are very nicely organized and put together. Some even have histories of the original companies and so forth, which I find particularly funny. So I would point out a watch or two he did not have on display and every single time he simply reached below the counter and produced what I was looking for. It became almost a little game. He would find these watches so quickly I cannot imagine what kind of watch filing system he had going on down there...

Pam 188... BAM! Out comes a small plastic bag containing the watch within seconds.

Vintage Rolex Explorer... BAM! It appears as if by magic.

Lets go for a Swiss Franck Muller, don't see those often... there it is, produced at his fingertips within moments.

Comically the only thing he had to make me wait for is a plain old Submariner... maybe it is so popular he sells out, maybe he fancies himself more of an "exotic" dealer... who knows. But my point is that what the eye sees represents only a tiny fraction of what is actually for sale.

Now some more info on prices. Lets keep things in perspective and this may help do just that. While in China we needed diapers and other supplies for the new baby. It may come as a small surprise to some but Wal-Mart and other big chain stores have made there way to China. Now there are differences of course. For example the Wal-Mart we were taken to sells live turtles and bullfrogs, and NOT in the pet section. These are food items, along with many kinds of fish, crabs, sea slugs and the like... all live. In the "butcher" case you would see items such as whole pigs heads, many kinds of whole ducks and other fowl and various dried skins and organs. So this is like Wal-Mart from some bizarre alien world. But like all such stores these days they have a DVD section. Brand new on DVD was Batman Begins. Now mind you, these are NOT copies or pirated in any way. These are on sale in a MAJOR AMERICAN STORE. They are in a large freestanding Batman specific display. All the Warner Brothers holograms and seals are in tact. Any one want to guess the price of these new, blockbuster DVDs?

$20? Nah, that's American prices.

$15? Nope, nobody is going to pay that here.

$10? Still too high...

They are slightly over $2, yes TWO DOLLARS. About $2 and 20 cents to be exact. These are just like our DVDs, full cases, all the extras, the whole deal... for prices we would think are almost free.

My point again is that in China the rules of costs as we as westerners know them are all out the window. Obviously they can sell enough DVDs at $2 each to make a profit. Perhaps they spur people to buy a DVD player (which they had one model for sale for about $10!) Who knows... but the costs of goods and services in China simply do not relate to those costs in the U.S. Thus we have to keep that in mind when looking at how cheap the wholesale fake watches sell for.

Another interesting note was the total lack of quality control. There was one dealer who was showing me a 196 and the bottom pusher was just jammed in there and stuck. I pointed this but but he either could not understand me or chose to ignore me. Here was a brand new watch flat busted and pretty much worthless... I saw this type of thing again and again, and you that I was only looking at the high-end stuff, imagine the quality issues with the massive majority of the watches on sale here, all the low quality Asian stuff. You need to check each watch with extreme care. Several watches I looked at broke in my hands. I pulled the stem right out of one Patek I was looking at, fortunately the dealer did not see this and I jammed it back in and handed it over before anything could be said. They will sell anything they have on hand, in fact they would probably prefer to sell the broken stuff, they don't want to be stuck with it!

Many of the dealers want to quote you "wholesale" prices meaning you need a minimum of 5 watches to qualify... though you can get around this by looking and asking enough people. Which again illustrates the point that "rules" are something the Chinese take lightly. Take a cab ride and you will immediately understand what I mean. Cars driving on the wrong side of the road, or the sidewalk. Red lights may me stop, or go, or slow down, or speed up, or go diagonally through the intersection weaving around both pedestrians and vehicles with total disregard. You can walk on the walk sign, but you have every bit as much of a chance of being his as if it said don't walk. People casually walk along and across major ten lane highways with cars whizzing by at 65 MPH. One of the funniest thing to witness is major super highways with cars FLYING past and then old ladies running out into the traffic with old fashioned straw brooms to sweep up some little bit of trash or what have you. On a trip back from the watch market my cab struck a woman crossing the street with a giant bundle of rice or something on her shoulder and totally blocking her view of oncoming traffic. I saw her, I am sure the cab driver saw her... but cars will NOT stop for pedestrians and pedestrians seem to taunt cars by crossing willy nilly in front of them with total lack of any caution whatsoever. She rolled up and off the hood, stood up and kept walking as if nothing special had happened. The cab driver mumbled and kept driving. A few moments later we were slammed from behind as another can rear-ended us, I guess we were going to slowly for him. The pre-recorded message that plays when you get into a cab says something in Chinese, then in a very heavy accent says, in English "please fasten your seat belt"... great, I agree, fasten those mothers up... but you know what? THERE ARE NO SEAT BELTS! Not in one single cab did I ever see a seat belt. And this illustrates the idea that the Chinese like to pretend to have rules, when really very few apply. They may pretend to have raids on fake watch dealers when in reality they turn a blind eye. This is all major business to them, fake watches, hand bags, pens, jeans, C-Ds, cars, computers, EVERYTHING. This keeps people employed. Rules are suggestions... not rigid parameters that must be followed. This culture would be almost impossible to break of its habits. Maybe in years and years, but certainly not anytime soon.

It's also a country of great contrasts. In the shadows of huge and modern sky scrapers you will find shirtless vendors selling scorpions and live snakes out of buckets, or maybe dried snakes pulled straight, then tied in huge bundles and stood on end like giant sheafs of wheat. The Guangzhou airport is one of the newest and most modern in the world and yet people buy live chickens from crates on the street corner as if it were a couple hundred years ago. It is all quite something to see... and quite worth a trip. But now our newest edition to the family is crying and it looks like another night of 2 hours sleep... so I have to run, hopefully my watch booty which I have neatly spread on the dining room table will get me through the night.

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  • 9 months later...

This is a fantastic story and really puts things into perspective. Most people have no idea how big the industry is. I cant wait until i have a chance to head over there and have a look for myself. My friend goes there often and hes been to these markets.. He also says its overwhelming to say the least. Great story!!!

Does anyone have any links to other stories like this? I just love reading this stuff!


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I found TVT's account invaluable, the first time that I visited the GZ watch market.

However, I would like to know if anyone has visited the Shenzhen "World-wide Watch Market".

No - I'm not talking about the Lowu tourist trap...

Here is the address that I have for the Shenzhen watch market:


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@Bll... in Chinese towns, things get clumped together. So, In GZ, there is one watch market, one leather market, one strange-reptiles-for-the table-market... etc.

Even the bars get clumped together... though, in GZ there is, thank god, more than one "bar street".

But you get the idea...

Edit to add... I'm guessing that you will be visiting the Canton fair. Phase One or Phase Two?

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A friend of mine it taking a business trip to China in couple of weeks and he might be able to stop by GZ and Shenzhen. Does anyone knows where to get the ultimate watches like breitling SFSO BCE, HBB Ceramic... that our dealers carry? I am talking about exact location like building name/number stall

name/number just like the Bangkok mbk location.

PM me if you like.

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  • 2 weeks later...

A brilliant read. Would love to experience this first hand. Thanks for taking the time to share.

Edit......... Just noticed a web address on one of the outside shots of the market buildings on a repost of this thread, which shows inside publicity shots of the trading floors... worth a look to give another dimension to the already brilliant description in kenberg's post....take alook


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wow what a phenomenal read. thank you for the detail of it.

the sad thing for me is that i've been to cn and even guangzhou several times on biz, but this was before i really even knew about hi-end reps. i just assumed there were only the obvious fakes, bad, poorly made kinds i'd seen before. my god what it must have been like to be there. i wonder what it's like now? has anyone been since?

i believe i'll be going to cn again in the not too distant future; like mid-end/'09. could i pm you for exact location of this market, since even the cab drivers don't seem to know where it is?

thanks again for such a wonderful story...

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For a story of a more recent (3rd 1/4 last year) visit to the GZ markets go HERE for luthier's tale of rep heaven complete with pics of this amazing place. You will have to join RWG1.1 if you arn't allready a member but it's worth it for this story alone. Be warned, it's another long post.

If it's posted here as well someone please supply the link.


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