Talk to us here at Rochford Life : 0786 342 7294 or E-mail us. For other numbers see individual pages.
Make a point of visiting us weekly!        Tell a friend about us.
The Square - “R.J.Yeo”
Jewellers & Watchmakers
Kenneth J Massow FIRV FGA DGA
R J Yeo
24 West Street, ROCHFORD, SS4 1AJ
Tel: 01702 544712
Watch that Watch! (Beware Counterfeits)
(10th January 2013)

We recently found ourselves talking with Ken Massow about watches and before we knew where we were, we found ourselves talking about the problems of dealing with fake watches.  If you are someone who normally only pays under forty pounds for a watch, this will probably only be of academic interest to you. However, if you are someone who either owns or is thinking of buying an expensive watch this may be essential reading for you.

Rochford Life: Are fake watches a problem?
Ken: Counterfeiting in this country is a major problem, whether it is Levis, trainers... it is everything.

RL:  How do you going about dealing with it in respect of watches.
Ken:   Well I have here an old out of date restricted document which tells you what is wrong with counterfeit watches.

RL:  So without giving away trade secrets, you can spot a fake watch because there is something about it that is not quite the same as the genuine article?
Ken:  Yes, and invariably it is spotted by quality.

RL:  What is it that determines quality and makes them expensive? Fewer numbers?
Ken:   Yes, there may be fewer numbers but there may individual design and higher quality finish. You see, when you check a piece, and do this regularly, to see what dimensions it is coming to, it takes time. For example, in standard manufacturing practice, we have got bearings in quality mechanical watches that are six eight-hundredths of a millimetre, the thickness of human hair. Now you try and put a tolerance on that so you are down to a hundredth of a millimetre of machining. You then have to spend a lot of time making machinery that is good enough to do that and in watch-making, whoever  makes the best machinery makes the best watches. They managed in Switzerland to make micrometers that measure to one ten-thousandth of a millimetre, which gave them the ability to check accuracy.     

RL:  So how does this booklet help you?
Ken:   Well, for example, this picture shows the physical size of a Cartier watch, and if you look at the number seven in Roman numerals on the dial, the down stroke of the ‘V’ is like a whisker but when you look at it under high magnification, it is actually the name. If someone is trying to knock one of these out for nothing, they are not going to buy the very best printing equipment. Even with modern day computer printing you could never print that. So it is very high quality that is virtually impossible to duplicate.

RL:  Are there other examples like this?
Ken:  Well, on the modern day Rolex, for example, all watches have symbols on them and on the Rolex there is the Rolex crown and that will be on the end of the winder. Traditionally Rolex had those tiny balls on the ends of the spikes of the crown, so what they have taken to doing now is putting the balls in different patterns but for different models, so you need the right sort of ball pattern for the right sort of model.  All of this is designed to confuse counterfeiters who don’t know these things. In another pattern here on another watch, there are swirls in one direction and they change the swirls according to model.

RL:  When they sell you these watches, do they give you this information?
Ken:  Yes, but they only sell to recognised agents. I can’t buy Rolex. It’s all kept under wraps what the security markings are. They have gone in for all sorts of things, like on the guarantees when you read it, it’s just a piece of paper but if you put it under ultra violet light it will have the watch numbers, the movement numbers and the case numbers imprinted in ultra violet ink.  

RL:  But you don’t sell them?
Ken:  No, but you see we handle them and if, for example, we take one in for a repair to the bracelet, the staff have to know if it is real or not, because if we just give a receipt for a five thousand pound watch we might be giving a receipt for a ten pound copy! That is the same whether it is Cartier, or whoever.  I also do a lot of valuation work, and you have to be careful with the valuation because very easily you can be caught out.  All serial numbers match case numbers in the case of Rolex – it is the same with a lot of high quality watches, but not all of them -  so when you do a valuation you have to record the case numbers and the serial numbers, and if you do that and later find they don’t match there is trouble.

RL:  What would you do in that kind of situation?
Ken:  Well, we would want to know why they don’t match. You have a number of different options and you would normally talk to the client – where did you buy it from? Did you buy it new or second hand? Invariably it would be a steel case with a gold bezel (the top part holding the watch glass) or an all-gold case. They are all pirated, you can buy pirated Rolex cases, you can buy pirate bezels, but when you buy a quality watch it is smooth and regular.  Often with a counterfeit  it may have a roughness about it, so when you do this regularly you can often just feel it and tell, the weight of them. With a heavier gauge metal than they use in counterfeiting, it’s harder to bend, harder to form, everything about it is harder, so they make it light and it looks the same but it’s false, it’s lighter and it’s cheaper. I have paperwork that goes back to about 1955 of all serial numbers, their production dates and that sort of thing. I’ve also got old catalogues and so you may find you’ve got a movement  series, say made 1955-60, but then you have case that is 1970-80, and there can be genuine Rolex parts on occasion but the movement and the watch don’t match.     

RL:  I gather there is in some quarters some prestige in having a fake Rolex.
Ken:  It’s just people’s perceptions really.  If you see a man with the right stance and the right general appearance and he’s wearing a Rolex, fake or otherwise, you don’t actually query it. When you know the difference it’s a different matter and it’s also important for insurance matters. When it comes to the design, they are continually changing it for security purposes, the position of screws, data on the back and so on. You do quite often see fakes with ‘Rolex’ on the back of it, but they don’t put the name there.  

RL:  Surely as long as someone does say, when selling, ‘This is a Genuine Omega, Rolex or whatever, isn’t it is a case of ‘caveat emptor’, let the buyer beware?
Ken:  Well, in this country it is illegal to trade in fake products because you are infringing people’s copyrights but, strangely, it is not illegal to own one. From our point of view we have to know the difference.  I go to lectures every two or three years just to keep up with it. When it comes to it you can either spot immediately that it’s not right, or you look at it and think, it could be, so then you start delving into the details. In my case I know an expert at Fellows, the auctioneers in Birmingham, who is also a police counterfeit expert and I can always phone him up and ask questions if I’m not sure on something. The important thing is to know this stuff is out there and if you have doubts, you check out whatever you can. The first thing we do is scan all the paperwork. With Rolex, on their guarantees it has the serial numbers imprinted with pinholes so when you hold it up you can see the numbers. If someone is going to fake it all, they’ve got to put the ultra violet ink in as a number, they’ve got to put the number in as pinholes, and that’s all got to match the watch you’ve got so that means they can only make one watch. If they make a hundred watches and use the same number, Rolex have only made one with that number and the likelihood of seeing that number is increased and it becomes obvious there are fakes around with that number.

RL:  Well thank you Ken. I don’t think I’m likely to be spending that sort of money on a new watch but I’m sure there will be readers who do and all that you’ve said will be very helpful, and it’s good to know that you are here if people need to bring their watches in to be checked.  Thank you very much for your time.

Top of Page
Return to Yeo’s Contents Page