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Replica Watch FAQ

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FAQ Contributed by Richard Brown


General Questions

Q: What is a replica watch?

A: A replica watch is a functional or partially functional copy of an original watch design created by a famous manufacturer. In my opinion a watch that doesn't function (is a prop) should be defined by the term "fake."

Q: What are "Swiss" replicas?

A: The term "Swiss" refers to the quality of the watch, usually indicating that the movement is made in Switzerland. This movement is typically made by ETA (http://www.eta.ch). "Swiss" quality replicas are some of the best in the industry, and tend to use similar materials that were used in the original watch.

"Swiss" replicas tend to cost more than other examples, giving their manufacturers more leeway to use more expensive materials in their construction. Swiss replicas will use sapphire crystals and higher quality dials.

Note that "Swiss", "Japanese", and "Asian" in reference to replicas are broad terms covering a lot of ground. A "Swiss" watch may be of lower quality than a "Japanese" example; since there is no quality control in the manufacturing of replicas quality varies greatly from watch to watch.

Q: What are "Japanese" replicas?

A: The term "Japanese" replica refers to the quality and origin of the movement in the watch. "Japanese" movements are usually of lesser quality than the Swiss movements, but are also less expensive. This means the overall cost of the watch is less than Swiss replicas. "Japanese" replicas also typically use inferior materials in their construction compared to the original watch.

"Japanese" replicas are more common, and are easier to spot because of the shortcuts taken in their construction. They will use sapphire or even mineral glass crystals, and typically a poorer attention to detail than the higher end models.

Q: What are "Asian" replicas?

A: "Asian" replicas are made of very inferior materials. They are easy to spot as replicas because they are lighter and flimsier than the original. "Asian" replicas are common items in Chinatown, and can be purchased for around $30.

"Asian" replicas are what many people think of when the term replica watch is brought up in conversation. They are cheap imitations of the original mass produced for tourists. These watches will use cheap pot metal cases plated over to imitate stainless steel. Also glass and plastic crystals are common. Even plastic parts in the movement have been known. There's little difficulty in spotting a replica of this quality; they don't look like five thousand dollar watches.

Q: What is "triple" and "single" wrapped gold?

A: Solid gold is too expensive a material to make replicas from. Most "gold" replicas instead use some time of gold plating to emulate a real gold watch. Normal plating puts a single layer of about 2-4 microns of gold plating on a watch; this is enough to give a gold look to the watch, but the thin plating wears off over time. "Triple" wrapped watches simply means that this plating process is done three times, giving a very thick coating of gold to the watch. This coating is thick enough that watches with "triple" wrapped gold plating can pass for solid gold watches in tests. This coating also resists fading very well.

Another theory is that this term is a marketing ploy developed by replica dealers online. There is no evidence that this multiple plating is done; the best guess is that a thicker coating of gold is used on the higher end watches than on cheaper models.

Q: Is all stainless steel the same in replica construction?

A: No, some cheaper Asian replicas actually use stainless steel plating over a pot metal core. This can wear off just like gold plating can. It tends to be very shiny and looks "fake." Some Japanese replicas use a cheaper quality of stainless steel in their manufacturing process. Most Swiss replicas use 440 Stainless, which is the same quality of metal that some of the original manufacturers use. Not using the proper materials can mean that the replica can feel light in comparison to the original. Some low-end replica manufacturers use weights inside the cast to try and match the original watch.

Q: Should my metal watch band have pins or screws in it?

A: It depends on the model, but most original watches with metal bands have screws in the last links of the band to allow it to be sized for the wearer. Some early Rolex models used rivets, but all of the current models have screws in the band. Cheaper replicas use pins in all cases because it's less expensive.

Omega is a manufacturer that uses pins in their bands.

Q: What is the difference between mineral glass and sapphire?

A: First of all, the crystal is the clear part of the watch that protects the face of the watch. On some models this is slightly convex (like a magnifying glass), on other models it sits slightly projecting from the case. This glass covering or "crystal" is usually made out of several types of materials:

Mineral Glass “ This is a specially treated glass that is more resistant than normal glass to scratches. It can still be scratched with a sharp object like a knife or a razor blade. With careful wear you can get a long life out of a mineral glass crystal.

Sapphire “Artificial sapphire is used in the higher end replicas, and on original watches such as Rolex, Patek Philippe, and Rado (Rado goes crazy with this, making the band on some models out of this substance). Having a hardness rating just slightly under diamonds sapphire crystals are usually impervious to scratches. Because of their hardness they can shatter if subjected to hard blows. This is the recommended material for a crystal.

Q: What is a crown?

A: The "crown" of a watch is the knob that is used to wind or set the time. A typical crown on an automatic watch can do several functions: set the time, wind the watch, set the date and day. Some watches have multiple crowns if there are additional functions that need to be controlled.

Counterfeit Note Rolex uses a one piece crown with the Rolex logo at the end. There are different dots or bars under the crown that indicate the type of movement and functions that the crown will perform. Current Rolex watches have three dots below the emblem on the crown, indicating "Trip-lock" capability. This means the crown can perform all the functions needed to set the date and time. It also has a hacking function to stop the second hand during these procedures.

Cheap Rolex replicas will have a two-piece crown, with the emblem actually glued onto the end of a generic crown. These are noticeable by the lip around the glued-on emblem.

Note: some crowns have gems instead of emblems at their end. Counterfeit gems have a glass-like quality to them and can typically be easily identified.

Q: What an anti-reflective coating?

A: Some manufacturers coat the inside and or outside of the crystal of their watches with a thin film that cuts down on the reflections visible when viewing the dial. This anti-reflective film sometimes gives a slight blue tint to the crystal.

Manufacturers like Breitling , Zenith and Panerai use this coating extensively through their product line. The effect of the coating is that the watch crystal appears to be invisible at certain viewing angles. Also the watch is viewable in outdoor setting where without the coating the glare would make reading the dial difficult.

Counterfeit Watch Missing anti-reflective coating is one of the easiest way to spot a counterfeit. Move the watch around and view it from different angles. If the crystal remains glossy and reflective from various angles then it does not have the coating. This is great way to spot fake Panerais and Breitlings as they are great proponents of the coating.

Q: Is there a quick way to tell if I have a Swiss or high end Japanese replica?

A: Since all Swiss movements have a hacking function, just unscrew the crown and pull it out to the position to set the time. If the second hand does not stop moving then it does not have the hacking function which means it's not a Swiss movement. Some Japanese movements will also hack, so this test does not differentiate between Swiss and Japanese movements.

Q: Are replica watches legal?

A: Replicas of an original model watch are considered counterfeit. Like any counterfeit item they are not legal. Rolex and other manufacturers are actively working to eliminate replica manufacturers.

Q: What is a deployant clasp?

A: A deployant clasp is a metal clasp that typically is fitted to a leather strap. This clasp closes the watchband instead of using a traditional tang and buckle. Deployants are easy to open and close with one hand and usually allow you to adjust the watch strap to finer degree than a normal tang and buckle.

Movement Questions

Q: What is a movement?

A: The movement of a watch is the mechanical parts that keeps the time and causes the hands of the watch to move. There are several different types of movements, but usually three are used in replicas: Quartz, Manual and Automatic.

Q: What is a Quartz Movement?

A: A Quartz movement is a movement that relies on the vibrations of a quartz crystal to keep time. Powered usually by a battery, quartz movements are accurate and cheap to make. Many of the watches that replicas emulate do not use quartz movements. This means that if a replica has a quartz movement it is not going to function like the original watch. Quartz watches have a "ticking" motion to the second hand, which usually gives it away as a replica, since most original watches have a "sweeping" hand.

Q: What is an Automatic Movement?

A: An automatic movement is also sometimes called a "self-winding" movement. It uses the movement of your arm through the normal activity of your day to wind the watch. Usually there is a weight set on a pivot that rocks and swings back and forth with the rhythm of your movements. This swinging winds the main spring of the watch, just as if you were manually winding it over time.

The higher quality replica watches typically use an automatic movement, since this is the movement normally used in the original watch they are emulating. Automatic movements are typically not as accurate as quartz movements, and are more expensive.

Q: What is a Manual Movement?

A: Manual Movements are also sometimes called "hand wound." They are the traditional movements that require human effort to wind the crown in order to power the watch. Winding the crown causes a spring to tighten inside the watch. Over the course of the day the spring releases its energy in order to move the gears of the watch. When the spring loses all of its energy the watch stops working. Some manual watches have a "Power Reserve" that indicates how many hours of energy the spring has remaining.

Q: What is a "Sweeping" second hand?

A: All Swiss replicas and some automatic Japanese replicas use a movement that has a sweeping second hand. This simply means that instead of "ticking" once per second, the sweeping second hand ticks 5 times a second, giving the indication of a smooth movement. Quartz movements do not exhibit this feature.

Q: What is the crown of a watch?

A: The "crown" is the knob on a watch that is used to set the time of the watch. This knob can have other functions, such as winding, setting the date, etc. Every modern mechanical watch has a crown. Rolex crowns are complex entities. They unscrew from a locked position and can be used to perform a number of functions. They must be screwed back into position to make the watch water resistant.

Q: What is a chronograph?

A: A chronograph is a set of small dials on a watch that acts as a stop-watch to record the passing of time for an event. Most chronographs have three dials that record: seconds, minutes and hours (24 hour clock). These functions can be controled and set from the crown and other buttons on the side of the watch. On some replicas the movement used does not have real chronograph function, but instead acts as a date indicator. So the three dials will function as: day, date, 24 hours. This is an obvious give-away that it is a replica watch.

Q: What is a "hacking" movement?

A: Many high quality automatic movements, like those used in Rolex replicas will stop the second hand while you are setting the time. This allows people to synchronize their watch with other watches. This is called a "hacking" function.

Q: What is a sub-dial?

A: On certain watches there are additional indicators on the dial for specific functions. As an example, on a Rolex Daytona there are 3 smaller "dials" on the main dial face that indicate Seconds, elapsed minutes and elapsed hours. These other dials are typically controlled with additional buttons on the side of the watch called "pushers". A Rolex Daytona has two pushers: one resets the elapsed hands to 0, and the other pusher starts the tracking of time by the sub dials.

Q: What is the dial of watch?

A: The dial is also called the "face" of the watch. It's the part of the watch behind the hands that displays the numerals or markers for the hours and minutes. Some watches have very complex faces, while others are simple and elegant.

There are different qualities of dials: ink printed dials; laser printed dials and genuine dials. The Swiss replicas use laser printed or genuine dials while higher-grade Japanese replicas use laser printed dials. The lower-end replicas use ink printed dials. Laser and genuine dials are the sharpest, while ink dials can be fuzzy.

Q: What is a pusher?

A: A pusher is a button on the side of a watch used typically to start the stop watch function on a watch. Additional pushers can be used to reset the stop watch function.

Q: What is a case back?

A: The case back of watch is the cover on the back that protects the movement. Rolex uses a screw down case back, which means you need a tool to help unscrew the cover to expose the movement for servicing. Other watches have a transparent panel in the case back to allow you to view the movement during normal operations. Note that genuine Rolexes will NEVER have a transparent case back, nor will they (with certain exceptions such as the Sea-Dweller) ever have any engraving on the back.

Q: What does the "750" engraved on the back of my watch mean?

A: An engraving that reads "750" typically indicates that the watch is made with 14k gold. The 750 represents the amount of pure gold in the manufacture of the case. Solid gold (24k) is rated at 1000, but is too soft to be used in making watch parts. It is mixed with an amount of other materials in order to strengthen the case as well as provide a variety of colors

If your case has the 750 mark and others around it (such as "14k") it means the case "should" be gold. If the case is stainless steel instead it's an indication that the replica manufacturer plates this model when they want a "gold" version, and are too cheap to make a version for the stainless steel (non-gold) variant such as rose gold and white gold.

Q: What is a display or exhibition back?

A: A display back is a case that has a window on the back of the watch that allows people to view the movement in action. On most replicas this is a dead give-away to it being a counterfeit since the movement it shows is not the same movement as the genuine item. Replica movements are typically unfinished and rough in appearance in comparison to the original movements which are decorated.

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