Fake or genuine: How to spot a real luxury watch

Counterfeit watches are becoming harder to spot, say retailers and collectors, and it seems that even Indonesian Military (TNI) Commander General Moeldoko has fooled the public with a luxury watch that he claims is fake.

On Wednesday, he rebuffed media reports about his penchant for collecting expensive watches. During a recent interview with Channel NewsAsia, he was spotted wearing a limited-edition Richard Mille RM 011 Felipe Massa Flyback Chronograph "Black Kite". However, he later explained that it was not an original, and that he purchased knock-offs to satisfy his curiosity about watch technology.

He even threw the watch on the floor to prove his point, when journalists asked about its authenticity. The watch reportedly remained intact.

Local retailers and collectors say counterfeit watches are becoming more convincing. They also warn against buying timepieces from private collectors and unauthorised dealers because of the high chance of getting ripped off with fakes.

"People who are producing fake watches are getting better at it each day," said watch enthusiast and Time Werke managing editor Timmy Tan. "The danger comes from buying pre-owned watches and from private collectors. You should go to someone you really trust."

Here are five things that buyers should look out for:

1. Documentation

Buyers should always make sure their watches come with a warranty and certificate with a serial number. Collectors recommend that buyers check the history of the watch's ownership if they are getting it from a private collector. Otherwise, the safest bet is to buy watches from dealers who are authorised to sell the particular brand.

2. Colour and Font

Experts who are very familiar with originals will be able to detect subtle differences in font sizes or styles on the watch. The colour of the watch may also be slightly different in counterfeits.

3. Engraving

The engravings on a luxury watch are less refined in counterfeits. When viewed using a magnifying glass, all engravings should not seem sandy or misshapen.

4. Watch Movement

This refers to the internal mechanism of the watch, specific to mechanical timepieces. According to collectors, counterfeits can have a more "rough" movement. The movement is affected by jewels, which serve to reduce friction inside a watch. Jewels were developed in watches to reduce wear and tear between the pieces of metal, and originals tend to have more jewels. However, the watch movement is usually not visible unless the watch is opened, and should be verified by an authorised service centre.

5. Weight

Counterfeit watches are usually made from cheaper materials that are lighter than the originals.

This article was published on April 24 in The Straits Times.

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