If you’ve ever even thought about buying your first Rolex at auction, you’ve probably been put off by something called the “buyer’s premium”, a fee of about 25 percent which auction houses tack on to all winning bids – and which can all of a sudden make that $5,000 bargain into a $6,250 liability. Paul Altieri, founder of Bob’s Watches, who owns one of the world’s largest and most important Rolex collections, doesn’t buy at auctions sometimes for that very reason. And that partly fueled his decision to get into the auction game himself this month, without the extra fees that deter so many young collectors, many of whom buy their first Rolex replica watches at his online Rolex boutique.
For his first ever auction, running online for one week only from Sept. 5–12, Altieri partnered with vintage replica Rolex expert Eric Wind to select 10 essential high-end watches from his personal official Rolex collection — all of which are in excellent condition. Then he added two of the most desired modern Rolex models, a Daytona and a GMT-Master, for which there is a lengthy waiting list, to make 12 replica watches in all, representing nearly every iconic piece that fake Rolex has produced in the past 60 years. From the Rolex Submariner and Rolex Datejust to the replica Rolex GMT-Master II and Rolex Explorer. The only thing missing is a little yellow gold in this sea of stainless steel. “Unless you’re a big money collector, buying a vintage replica Rolex timepiece from a major auction house these days can be an intimidating experience,” Altieri tells AskMen. “We don’t have the same kind of overhead, so I was able to do away with all the fees and extras that have taken the thrill out of starting a collection this way.”
Another rebellious move – and one that probably has the big auction houses cringing – is that Altieri is offering all of the fake watches at no reserve, meaning they’ll be sold for whatever bid is highest, no questions asked. And starting bids on all 12 wristwatches are well below the market price. “Essentially some lucky bidder could walk away with a major deal,” Altieri tells us. “That just doesn’t happen at Christie’s or Sotheby’s where they won’t even tell you what the reserve is, and it’s all designed to protect their profits. Is it possible I’ll lose money this way? It could happen, but I want collectors at every level to be able to get in on the action. When I first got into the Rolex replica game prices were a fraction of what they are now, and I’d like to give someone else a chance at the score of a lifetime on a really cool watch.”
The twelve pieces selected by Altieri and Wind include three Rolex GMT-Masters, a Rolex Milgauss, a Rolex Explorer, three Rolex Submariners, a Rolex Sea-Dweller, and three Rolex Daytonas. The rarest watch of the bunch is a rare pre-owned Rolex “Paul Newman” Daytona Ref. 6239 made in 1969, the same model worn by the late, great actor, which is one of only a few existing examples with its original box and papers (all the other 11 replica watches have theirs as well). With a starting bid of $175,000, the Newman could easily fetch $250,000 and would be the crown jewel of any classic vintage fake Rolex collection. It even comes with its original price tag of $250, which should leave little doubt in anyone’s mind about what a great investment these watches can be.
Omega’s new president, Raynald Aeschlimann, asked me to join him and a surprise dinner guest “who plays an amazing James Bond.” I torpedoed back my R.S.V.P. Ian Fleming’s secret agent, known for his exquisite taste, has been associated with fine replica watches ever since his Rolex wristwatch was described in the 1954 novel Live and Let Die. He has worn Rolexes, a Breitling, and even quartz Seiko watches when quartz was all the rage.
However, as a Royal Navy reserve commander and since Fleming himself spent time in the British Naval Intelligence Division it makes sense that Bond would wear a diving watch. In 1995’s GoldenEye film, Bond for the first time sported an cheap Omega Seamaster 300 diving watch, and perhaps it’s no coincidence that a massive turnaround at Omega started at about the same time.
The guest at the Omega-sponsored dinner was, of course, British actor Daniel Craig, who has been playing Bond since 2006’s Casino Royale. In lower Manhattan’s Beekman Hotel, the room sparkling with vintage Omega replica watches under glass, I sat down at a candlelit table, just opposite Craig. He seemed genuinely excited to be among other watch geeks, and as we sipped Billecart-Salmon Champagne, he explained how he bought his first fine watch, a Breitling, when he started earning money. But his passion for replica watches began in earnest with the James Bond role, when he bought his first Omega replica, a vintage Seamaster 300. His most emotionally significant timepiece is an Omega Seamaster engraved for him and given by the producers of Casino Royale. When ordering custom-made shirts for his Bond wardrobe, Craig has the “left cuff made slightly larger so I can wear the watch, and the sleeve sits over the watch.”
Now, that’s a sign of a serious watch guy.
BUT THE REAL STAR of the evening was arguably the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean “Big Blue,” just released at watch fair Baselworld 2017. Originally introduced in 1957, the Seamaster traces its roots to the Omega Marine from 1932, the world’s first production wristwatch made specifically for diving. Exactly 60 years later, at the dinner, we got to handle the new Seamaster Big Blue—the first fake Omega watch with a case made entirely of blue ceramic. Its name comes from a Seamaster from 1972 that Omega devotees call Big Blue. Oversize, with a blue dial, it was the world’s first diver’s chronograph in which the stopwatch functions could be fully operated underwater.
The new watch is, in fact, an evolution of 2013’s black ceramic Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon. The full case, dial, bezel, and even the strap’s folding buckle are made of ceramic and scratch- and fade-resistant. Creating the blue ceramic color was no easy feat. It’s fabricated in-house using high pressures, hours-long plasma treatments, and sintering at 2,550 degrees.
Made for world travelers, an orange hour hand indicates time in a second time zone on the blue ceramic dial’s orange 24-hour ring. Water resistant to 2,000 feet, the helium escape valve is designed for saturation dives and prevents the watch from exploding upon resurfacing. There is no denying that Big Blue is a serious divers’ watch.
SOME MIGHT FIND the colors garish, but the dial’s and bezel’s blue and orange colors are highly functional. Infused into the blue ceramic bezel, orange rubber highlights the critical, zero-to-15 minute region that is used to alert divers to their last 15 minutes of oxygen supply. Colors change the deeper you plunge into the sea. Orange quickly converts to a light olive tone, while blue is the last color to remain visible, until a depth of 275 meters. Combined with the luminescent “broad arrow” hands and hour markers, the orange and blue colors result in the best possible contrast for divers’ visibility and safety.
Inside the massive, 45.5-millimeter case ticks Omega’s caliber 8906, a state-of-the-art self-winding movement providing 60 hours of timekeeping. Antimagnetic up to 15,000 Gauss, you could wear the watch without damage while getting, say, an MRI, and it’s based on the first movement ever to receive the Swiss government’s new Master Chronometer certification. It remains highly accurate and water resistant during eight rigorous tests conducted in magnetic environments. The fake watch isn’t cheap at $11,700, but that’s because ceramic production is costly.
Bookies are taking bets on who will be the next James Bond, and the second-longest-serving Bond was asked if he would continue to play the famous spy. Craig declined to comment. Whoever steps into the role, my bet is he’ll be wearing a Big Blue.
The announcement earlier this year that Stephen Urquhart was to retire as president and chief executive of Omega after 17 years created a vacancy for one of the most important positions in the Swiss replica watch industry.
Mr Urquhart had brought Omega back from the doldrums of the late 1980s to become what many regard as the jewel in the crown of Swatch Group. He cemented the brand’s role as James Bond’s watch supplier, reinstated its sponsorship of the Olympic Games and recruited Hollywood stars such as George Clooney and Nicole Kidman as ambassadors.
Now Omega is the closest rival to Rolex replica in the market of £400-£1000 watches, selling around 600,000 timepieces per year against an estimated 800,000 for the latter. (Rolex does not release production figures.) And almost six months since he took over, 46-year-old Raynald Aeschlimann intends to achieve an elusive goal.
Overtaking Rolex “would give me the greatest pride”, says the Swiss Mr Aeschlimann, who joined replica Omega in 1996 and became vice-president and international sales director in 2001, having run the brand’s operations in Spain and the US. “But while we would very much like to be number one, what we need to do first and foremost is to work towards giving customers more confidence. And those customers are the people of Generation Y, the ones in the 20-40 age group.” Mr Aeschlimann’s opportunity — much like everyone else’s — is millennials.
“They are the ones who are supporting us because the people in the 40-60 age group remember us from the time when Omega was selling crap,” he says, referring to a period during the 1980s when the brand had all but abandoned its mechanical fake watchmaking heritage in favour of an extensive range of quartz-powered models. “At one point back then, someone even suggested killing off the Speedmaster and went as far as reducing the range to a single reference.”
The Speedmaster is now Omega’s “hero model” and the firm has capitalised on its heritage as the “moon watch”, worn by Neil Armstrong when he took his “giant leap for mankind” during the Apollo 11 mission of 1969. It is just such history and proof of technical prowess that Mr Aeschlimann believes will attract those important Generation Y buyers, who like “true stories” and “true values”.
Mr Aeschlimann says Omega has a long history of innovation, ranging from the creation of the Marine diving watch in 1932 to the introduction in 2000 of the first industrially-produced coaxial escapement, which offers enhanced accuracy and reduced servicing. Now, more than 90 per cent of cheap Omega’s mechanical watch movements are of the coaxial design, which was invented by the late English horologist George Daniels.
Surpassing Swiss standards is part of Mr Aeschlimann’s plan. Omega is working with the Swiss government’s agency for measurements (Metas) to enhance the quality and accuracy of its products through a series of rigorous tests beyond the requirements of Cosc (Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres, a 40-year-old system). “I don’t think spending £500 or more on a replica watch counts as an everyday purchase to most people, so it gives reassurance to know that what they have bought has achieved Master Chronometry certification and that they can look on our website and check the official test results of their actual watch. We’re aiming to make more than 400,000 Metas-certified fake watches a year.”
Another set of rules governs what can be called “Swiss Made”, but these are not taxing: “Swiss Made” may only mean that 50 per cent of the movement’s value is from Switzerland. (This will change to 60 per cent of the entire product’s value from 2017.) To keep the label credible, Mr Aeschlimann insists a higher percentage of the watch’s value is actually produced in the country. “I just don’t understand why anyone would not fight for that to be protected. I would say 50 per cent of the credibility of a brand comes from it and, apart from the straps and the ruby bearings, everything that goes into an fake Omega watch is made here.”
He knows that the label hides all kinds of behaviour. “I think the possibility that the Swiss Made label should ever be misused represents a big danger that could bring trouble for the whole industry,” he says. He adds that a focus on technical improvement and quality has enabled Omega to treble its average price during the past 15 years while cutting the number of outlets globally from 7,000 to 3,000.
He maintains, however, that it is still vital to spread the history and culture of Omega around the world, something which the brand is doing through ambassador choices and sponsorship. George Clooney is “a bridge across the generations”, while Eddie Redmayne is the millennial star.
“We’re also very conscious of our corporate social responsibility which is why, for example, we are no longer involved in motorsport. Michael Schumacher was an Omega ambassador for a long time, but that was in a different era — Formula One no longer matches our values, it’s too commercial and not sufficiently eco-friendly for us.
“Athletics, swimming, golf and sailing have become our focus, and the fact that Omega is the only watch brand anyone sees during the Olympic Games is incredibly valuable.”
Such events, says Mr Aeschlimann, all help to bring Omega the exposure he believes it needs in order to attract and retain those Generation Y buyers. Things have moved on from the days when Piccadilly Circus was the ultimate place to advertise. Now, Piccadilly Circus is everyone’s mobile, tablet and laptop.
The first timepieces I recall coveting were my grandmother’s.
Maybe they were the first objects of any kind I hankered after, given I was not yet a teenager, but there was a carriage clock by her bed that looked somehow important, a small battered Rolex handed down to, and in my formative years, on the arm of an aunt, and a gold Waltham pocket watch that I chanced upon while visiting my grandmother’s home in Somers Avenue, Malvern, Victoria. The latter was a 17th birthday present from her parents; by the time I spotted it, many years later, it seldom appeared in daylight, like her best silver.
On passing to my mother it remained in the realm of the unavailable – but with the tantalising rider of “maybe one day” which, eventually, arrived, as is the way of such things. Ditto for the little Rolex replica that migrated in my direction on my aunt’s passing. Treasures then, and still treasured, the only exception being the carriage clock, whereabouts long unknown.
As to the value of these objects, that’s something that’s both minuscule and immeasurable; early Rolex replica watches and Waltham pocket pieces are easily found in the secondary marketplace and command modest prices, but owning pieces handed down by forebears – well that’s a different proposition, the worth here being sentimental and historical rather than monetary. This is assuming there are no 5512 or 5513 model Rolex Submariners or military issue Jaeger-LeCoultres or Blancpains in your immediate past, sought-after collectables that now bring prices many times the original ask.
Either way though, you have to like the object in question, which brings me to the question of what watches today might make the grade as a future prized piece. Even better, should you still have a favourite and functioning grandparent – or elderly relative – is there a timely treat they might be persuaded to invest in before looking your way?
Something – almost anything – with Patek Philippe adorning the dial has traditionally fitted such a bill and still would, but your options have broadened in recent times thanks to special replica watches appearing at almost every level – and catering to almost every taste. If it’s a simple everyday wearer you might suggest an replica Omega Seamaster 300, a fake watch as likely to be regarded as handsome in 50 years as its 1970s-style lines suggest now. You can imagine a little patina and use would only enhance such a model, whereas Omega’s latest ceramic-cased Planet Ocean, a resolutely modern-day statement, might not age so well; treasures are like that, they wear history like a badge.
Moving up a bit there’s a classic that most certainly won’t date, the Richard Lange Pour le Mérite from A. Lange & Söhne. The name mightn’t trip off ancestral lips like “Patek” or come with the same clever advertising reassurance – that “you never actually own a Patek Philippe, you merely look after it for the next generation”. But make no mistake, Lange has its own impressive history, surviving World War ll’s divide of Germany and now thriving at horology’s high end.
As for the Glashütte-based brand’s recently announced Pour le Mérite, it’s a quietly confident beauty in white gold with a black dial. What makes it special is not so much the presentation – impressive as it is – nor the limited production run of just 218 pieces. Rather, it’s heirloom material because of its uncompromising approach to precise timekeeping. It achieves this by employing a complex fusée-and-chain transmission arrangement inspired by the mechanism of historic pocket watches. You read correctly. Peer closely into the back of the replica watch and you’ll spot a tiny 636-part chain wrapped around the mainspring barrel, 0.25 millimetres thick and 156 millimetres long, we are told. It delivers power from the mainspring to the wheel train via the cone-shaped fusée in a way that guarantees constant torque and stability across the entire power-reserve range; when the watch is fully wound, the chain pulls at the smaller circumference of the fusée.
Conversely, when the tension of the mainspring is nearly depleted, the chain pulls at the larger circumference of the fusée. The Lange spans a happy 40.5 millimetres and it doesn’t hurt that previous versions – cased in rose gold and platinum – sold out. Mind you, you’re looking at a price tag in the region of $120, but what else are your grandparents going to be splashing out on at this stage?
One of a kind
The answer to that is probably not another similarly priced arrival regarded by enthusiasts as a treasure, as that’s MB&F’s Horological Machine No.8. This low-six-figure item is a fake watch that blends high-end craftsmanship with high-octane, race-car-inspired design and is destined to be just as rare as the Lange. Exquisitely sculptured, and undeniably a wrist-borne fantasy, it looks better than anything you’ll see at a race track, but is probably not your average octogenarian’s idea of a fine timepiece.
Barely recognisable even as a watch, it’s all angular forms and optical prisms with two of the latter showcasing bi-directional jumping hours and trailing minutes.
Dominating the structure are so-called roll bars milled from solid blocks of grade 5 titanium and hand-polished “to gleam like tubular mirrors”. No matter the time, they draw the eye, while the engine sits in full view under a sapphire crystal cover. It’s a view few will get to see, and given the limited production (as little as 20 in a year) and intrepid nature of such pieces, a mere sighting would be something to be treasured.
If the HM8 is a bit outré, the other go-to names on aficionado wish-lists are De Bethune and Greubel Forsey, whose models may not be familiar in family circles but include nary an ordinary timepiece – and barely anything that might pass for a bargain. If you or a favourite forebear could afford one, they’re undoubted treasure. And if you can’t? Just pray that your old uncle’s Longines is a good-looking one with a story.
Why exactly do people buy luxury items like high-end mechanical wristwatches? It’s an interesting psychological question.
We don’t really need them, especially in this decade when our smart devices automatically sync the time to the web. There’s no need to wind, and no need to worry. Still, many of these replica watches fetch astronomical selling prices. What’s the secret?
Over the years watches have been my passion, and through studying them, one thing has become clear to me: Their value comes not so much from what they can do, but from how they make us feel. And furthermore, when there’s an interesting story connected to a watch, it suddenly becomes infinitely more desirable. The most irresistible timepieces are the ones that capture the imagination.
The famous Moonwatch – the Omega Replica Speedmaster did just that in 1969 when one of the greatest stories in history, the first man on the moon, became a reality. Strapped on Buzz Aldrin’s wrist with an oversize band to accommodate his space suit was an cheap Omega, and that perfect brand positioning catapulted Omega’s popularity. Almost fifty years later people are still talking about it. Because the story is so unforgettable, the replica watch is remembered too. Now I admit, it’s not a new marketing tactic.
Rolex was one of the first luxury watch brands to play the imagination card. Images of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay on the summit of Everest, Mercedes Gleitze crossing the English Channel, or a Rolex diving 10,916 meters below sea level in the Marianas trench were some of the first to catch people’s attention.
During the war years these attention-grabbing stories were regularly found in black and white advertisements splashed across newspapers. Rolex replica was daring, pushing the limits, and going further.
The “story of Rolex” is one that marketing genius, Hans Wilsdorf, took great care to write. In the popular mind a Rolex was the wristwatch of an adventurer, a conqueror, a hero.
The famous James Bond played a lead role in that same story. Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming, was a big Rolex fan too, and the dapper secret agent with his gadgets always wore the finest timepiece. Sean Connery wore a Rolex Submariner, reference 6538 on a leather strap in 1962’s Dr. No.
Magnets and a handy Buzz-saw were hidden in Bond’s Rolex 5513 Submariner in Live and Let Die. Besides saving his life, that fake watch was also showed its use by unzipping women’s dresses from a distance.
Rolex was a regular feature in the Bond franchise, but other brands made their appearance there too, including replica Breitling, Seiko and Omega, and there’s even a Hamilton Pulsar with an LED display from 1977.
Stories have the power to influence how people feel – and that has been the secret to success for the elite names among watchmakers. They know how to utilise the power of association.
When I see an replica Omega Speedmaster, immediately I associate it with images of NASA and the conquest of space. The stories tend to stick in our memory, even if the features of the watch are forgotten.
The same psychology is at work when celebrities are seen wearing a particular watch.
When it’s Sylvester Stallone wearing a replica Panerai, we associate it with Rocky Balboa or even Rambo. When Brad Pitt is seen wearing a Patek Philippe Nautilus, or buying Angelina Jolie a Patek Philippe Minute Repeater ref. 7000 for $390, there’s a story. Perhaps it’s a romance, I’m not sure…
One of TV’s most popular dramas of recent times is Mad Men. Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm) is the main character of the show and is highly regarded for his fashion sense. The watch that seems to get the most screen time in the series is the Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso.
The stories that surround these replica watches have the power to tap into our emotions. They’re what make any good watch irresistible.
It is no secret that besides blogging about replica watches for ukomegareplica.co.uk, I also love to collect watches — especially iconic watches like the Rolex GMT-Master, Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, Rolex Datejust and, of course, the Omega Speedmaster Professional. I own several of the last model. Ever since I bought my first Speedmaster (more than 15 years ago) I have been hooked on this watch. Not only do I love the design of this chronograph (one of the most clean chronograph dials around); I also like its connection to the Apollo space program.
As you know, Omega has produced quite a few limited editions based on the original Speedmaster Professional. Some like these limited editions, others don’t. However, the fact is that some of these limited editions do appreciate in market value quite well after a few years. One of these models is the Omega Speedmaster Professional “Snoopy Award.” My professional career started around the time this model was introduced (2003), so it was only a lack of funds that prevented me from buying Speedmaster Snoopy back then. Ever since, I have longed for one, but also noticed that over the years they became increasingly difficult to find, at least for a reasonable price. Recently, I decided to go for it despite the high price (compared to that of a standard Omega Speedmaster Professional). I justified the purchase by telling myself that the longer I’d wait, the more expensive it would get, anyway, right? You can read about the efforts I made to obtain the Speedmaster Snoopy here. After showing my precious new Speedmaster Professional with a Snoopy (turned into an astronaut) to some people, a number of them asked why I wanted a cartoon character on the dial of my watch. I was already aware that many people had this perception of the Speedmaster with the Snoopy dial, also given the fact that it was initially sold to a lot of women (women seem to love Snoopy a lot).
If you are a Speedmaster aficionado as well, and you know a thing or two about the Apollo missions, you probably are already familiar with the use of Snoopy by NASA. In 1968, NASA chose the famous beagle as an icon to act as a sort of “watchdog” over its missions. In the same year, NASA decided to use a sterling silver Snoopy pin as a sign of appreciation to NASA employees and contractors together with a commendation letter and a signed framed Snoopy certificate. Each of the sterling silver Snoopy label pins has been flown during a NASA mission. Cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, who created the “Peanuts” comic strip (featuring Snoopy and Charlie Brown) was a supporter of the NASA Apollo missions and agreed to let them use “Snoopy the astronaut” at no cost and even drew the Snoopy figure for the sterling silver label pin.
In May 1969, the Apollo 10 mission flew to the moon to do the final checks in order for the following mission, Apollo 11, to land on the Moon. The Apollo 10 mission required the LM (lunar module) to check the moon’s surface from nearby and “snoop around” to find a landing site for Apollo 11. Because of this, the Apollo 10 crew (Gene Cernan, John Young and Thomas Stafford) named the LM “Snoopy.” The Apollo CM (command module) was nicknamed “Charlie Brown.” Fast-forward to 1970. In the interim, humans had set foot on the moon and, about one year later, the Apollo 13 mission was meant to bring another team of NASA astronauts to the Moon (Lovell, Swigert and Haise). The mission’s objective was to explorer a certain area on the moon called the Fra Mauro formation. It didn’t get that far, as there was an explosion on board the service module at approximately 200,000 miles distance from Earth.
NASA’s ground control came up with a solution in the end, which required the astronauts to get creative with some materials on board their module. After fixes were made and all systems worked (more or less) again, the crew started their journey to Earth. This is the really quick version of the story of course; the entire adventure is depicted in the 1995 movie, Apollo 13, starringTom Hanks (an avid Speedmaster wearer himself, probably becoming one after his role in this movie). Now comes the part where the Speedmaster played an important role. The Apollo 13 crew needed the replica Omega Speedmaster watch, first to time ignition of the rockets to shorten the estimated length of the return to Earth, and secondly, to time the ignition of the rockets to decrease speed and raise the flight path angle for re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. This second operation was crucial, since any mistake in the timing could have led to an incorrect entry angle and, as a result, potential disaster for the crew. As explained before, NASA used the Snoopy award for special contributions and outstanding efforts from both NASA personnel and contractors. On October 5th, 1970, NASA gave the Omega Speedmaster a Snoopy award to acknowledge the crucial role the watch played during the Apollo 13 mission.
In 2003, Omega introduced the Speedmaster Professional “Snoopy Award” to commemorate this 1970 milestone. Although the watch was a limited (and numbered) edition, Omega produced a whopping 5,441 pieces of the Speedmaster Snoopy. The number has to do with the 142 hours, 54 minutes and 41 seconds that the mission lasted. A bit of a stretch, in my opinion, but a nice idea. Omega’s reason for introducing this fake watch 33 years after the Apollo 13 mission, and being awarded with the Snoopy, is unknown to me. Based on the brand’s other limited editions, I would have expected such a release on a 30th or perhaps 35th anniversary rather than a 33rd. Despite the relative high number of Snoopy Speedmasters out there, you’ll have to search to find one at a decent price. Also, beware of Snoopy Speedmasters that had the dial and caseback fitted later on (Omega delivered them to service centers as spare parts). Always make sure you buy a Speedmaster Snoopy with the original anthracite (Snoopy) box, certificate of authenticity (with matching number on the caseback). There should also be a copy of the original Snoopy appreciation certificate with the watch.
So now you know. When there is a Snoopy on an cheap Omega Speedmaster dial, it actually means something. In the end, of course, one need not be versed in all this history to purchase and appreciate this replica watch; one may just be a fan of Snoopy. A review of the Omega Speedmaster Professional ‘Snoopy Award’ can be found here. More information about Omega Speedmasters in general can be found on the Speedy Tuesday page on Replica Watches.
These are worrying times for Switzerland’s watchmakers. The industry is in deep recession. Hit by China’s crackdown on corruption, terrorism in Europe, and the rise of the smartwatch, exports in the first seven months of 2016 were 11 per cent lower than a year earlier, the Swiss replica watch federation reported last week.
In the towns and valleys of west Switzerland, where production is concentrated, memories remain fresh of the 1970s, when the sector was almost destroyed by rival Japanese quartz timepieces.
The recovery in the 1980s is attributed to the late Nicolas Hayek — a Swiss forerunner to Apple’s Steve Jobs — who took over the company that became Swatch Group and made the iconic plastic Swatch watch synonymous with Swiss survival instincts and ingenuity.
This time it is Hayek’s son Nick, the current chief executive of Swatch, on whom the industry’s future largely rests.
Swatch is a sprawling conglomerate of which its eponymous mass-market watch is only part. The empire also includes luxury brands replica Omega and Rolex, mid-range products such as Tissot, and extensive component-making operations. As such, Swatch is for the Swiss what Volkswagen is for Germans — an industrial icon controlled largely by a powerful clan (At VW, it is the Porsche and Piëch families .)
Presenting weak half-year results last month, Mr Hayek dismissed the industry’s woes as transitory — the result of economic conditions, shifting tourist flows and the strong franc. He predicted a recovery in the second half of the year. But can Swatch — whose shares have fallen 30 per cent over the past year — really lead another turnround?
A new book is causing a stir in Switzerland this summer by attempting to rewrite the Swatch story. When corporatism leads to corporate governance failure: the case of the Swiss replica watches industry is not the snappiest title. But the authors from Zürich’s Center for Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability reach an explosive conclusion: rather than being the industry’s potential saviour, Swatch has become emblematic of “Swiss corporatism” that has stifled competition and the creation of new markets.
Authors Isabelle Schluep Campo and Philipp Aerni argue the 1983 merger that created Swatch was largely about financial engineering and protecting Swiss banks’ interests. They say steps essential to the turnround had been taken before the senior Mr Hayek took control.
The book argues that, like Volkswagen, Swatch — whose board chairman is the chief executive’s sister, Nayla — takes pride in contravening norms; but its past success and strong local reputation risk distracting from possible dangers ahead. Most pertinently, the group has failed to develop breakthrough products comparable with the Swatch watch in the 1980s, despite dabbling in new battery and car technologies as well as traditional replica watch making.
Nevertheless, they argue, Swatch will be protected by tougher “Swiss-ness” laws which from next year will increase the share of local production required for a “Swiss made” stamp — at the expense of rivals seeking efficiencies through global production chains. “The Swiss replica watch industry of today is much less prepared to face the challenges related to disruptive technologies than was the case in the 1980s,” the book argues.
Unsurprisingly, Swatch rejects such accusations. “This so-called study is full of false information, allegations and wrong assumptions,” it told the Financial Times. “The track record of the last 40 years of successful entrepreneurship … speaks for itself.” In its defence, Swatch has innovated, launched replica watches uk with “smart” functions and takes pride in its record of watchmaking technology patents.
But maybe that is not the point. Swiss watch industry leaders believe luxury mechanical watches are about timeless qualities, not functionality; they are jewellery for the wrist. Indeed, smartwatches could encourage a new generation to wear devices in the same place. Continental Europe’s family-run industries would no doubt be weaker if they always heeded the advice of governance experts.
Then again, the Swiss industry cannot afford to ignore the threat to its cheaper products posed by smart watches. This time last year, VW was closing in on becoming the world’s biggest carmaker before an emissions scandal linked to its culture tarnished its image. Could Swatch be riding for a similar fall?
If you attend any kind of social gathering where there are exotic and collectible cars, there’s a better than average chance that many of the car owners will be sporting interesting wristwatches. I’m not sure if the trend started with the iconic Steve McQueen sporting a large, square Heuer (pronounced Hoy Yer) Monaco when he played American racer Michael Delaney in the movie Le Mans. However, that’s when I bought my first cool watch and I have been afflicted with the watch and car bug ever since (it might even be an addiction).
It makes little difference what brand of car the owner love best – BMW, Ferrari, Porsche, or practically any other marque – most often he (but also, she) can be found wearing an interesting or even an exotic timepiece. If you have an interest in cars and replica watches, here are several highly regarded brands and selected models that might tempt you.
Rolex, the king of luxury replica watches. The annual Daytona 24 Hour endurance race is sponsored by Rolex replica. Many of the drivers run the event just to see if they can win and take home the coveted precision mechanical movement Rolex Daytona chronograph. This highly collectible watch is valued, in a stainless steel case and bracelet at around $140. Prices on gold versions can be double. Wearing one of these at a car event ensures that you won’t be mistaken for a poser. Fortunately, Invicta makes a respectable tribute watch called the Speedway and it can be had for less that $20 online or in some stores. It has a quartz, battery powered movement that greatly reduces the price and it keeps accurate time, despite the low cost.
Omega, the first watch on the moon. Before man space flight ever happened, NASA ran rigorous tests on famous brand chronograph replica watches to see which ones could handle the demands of outer space. Despite the fact that best known brands in the world were selected for evaluation, only Omega’s Speedmaster Professional withstood every peril outer space could throw at it. This is a timeless classic (pun intended) and, like the Rolex Daytona, has a loyal following in the watch world.
Panerai, Italy’s most famous watch. Italian frogmen, during the Second World War, wore huge, easy to read waterproof Panerai replica watches when they swam into combat. Several years ago, when the Panerai brand was just a distant memory, celebrities were shown in magazines wearing a huge Panerai. Images of he-men Sylvester Stallone, Joe Montana, Arnold Schwarzenegger and a few others breathed life back into this fading watch company. A while back, Ferrari granted Panerai the license to produce Ferrari-Branded watches. That was a huge honor, indeed.
Breitling, for the airplane enthusiast. This brand is over a century old and sells replica watches that help pilots safely navigate using instruments. The most iconic is the Navitimer. Part wristwatch, part slide rule, this precision watch has a rotating bezel and calculating dial for use by pilots and navigators. Again, this watch tells the world that you are both a car lover AND an airplane enthusiast.
Swatch, the smart watch for the buyer on a budget. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a fake watch that is both functional and has car guy or gal qualities. Swatch sells chronographs, both large and small, that, despite their modest prices, provide good value and send off the right car geek vibe. It says, “I like and know good replica watches but I prefer to spend my money on cars and not expensive Swiss watches.” I own several!
A couple of final thoughts. Mechanical watches (one’s with a mainspring) are usually more expensive than battery-operated quartz watches.
If the watch has a built-in stopwatch, it’s called a chronograph. That’s not to be confused with chronometer. That’s a strenuous test that a Swiss agency performs on mechanical watches to ensure ruggedness and accuracy. Breitling and Rolex dominate the market for fake watches that are certified chronometers.
Many mechanical watches have self-winding mechanisms that, as long as the wearer is active, will keep the watch running. If the wearer leaves these kind of replica watches in teh drawer for a few days, then it will stop and have to be reset.
A water-proof watch isn’t always a watch you can safely use when you swim or go SCUBA diving. IF your hobbies extend to water sports, pick a “dive” watch like Rolex’s Submariner. It’s one of the finest underwater watches in the world.
This is just the tip of the ice berg when it comes to watches for the car afflicted. Hublot, Girard Perregaux, IWC, Heuer and many others have their fans among the car crowd. Pay attention at your next cars and coffee and seek out owners with watches that catch you eye. Everyone I have met at a C&C has been all to happy to talk cars and replica watches.
International Vintage Replica Watch Company, a Los Angeles Based Luxury and Vintage Watch Company, has announced that it now offers consumers worldwide the most sought after vintage watch brands, available 24/7 online at UkOmegaReplica.co.uk
Available are all of the pre-owned classics including the Rolex Automatic Datejust, 6694 manual wind, Air King, 1601, 16013, Oysterdate, Cellini and even a rare solid gold 1920’s model 3064 bubbleback. Omega vintage classics include the Deville, Seamaster, Geneve, Speedmaster, Constellation and others.
Offerings include 1930’s – 1950’s collector pieces, 1960’s retro models, 1970’s classics and 1980’s – 2000’s modern styles, all beautifully photographed in stunning detail. IVWC is world renowned for its premium quality selection and immaculately restored classic timepieces.
“Demand for the classics is growing worldwide each year. They are excellent investments and personal heirlooms that you can actually wear and enjoy,” said a company spokesperson. “Like classic cars, timepieces are historical reminders of the spirit of man and machine. A fine replica watch can be passed down from generation to generation and enjoyed for decades.”
Featured brands include replica Omega, Rolex, Cartier, Uk Replica Watch Company IWC, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, Tudor, Bvlgari, Rado, Movado, Longines, Seiko, Bulova, Waltham, Ricoh, Citizen, Enicar, Orient, Elgin and many others.
UK Omega Replica Company is the largest vintage watch dealer in the USA. With over 1000 original timepieces in stock, we have become a virtual super store for vintage and collectible timepieces. The eye-popping selection and quality of our products are very attractive. With a rainbow of colors and styles to choose from, each and every item is an exceptional specimen of the vintage, classic era and styling true to its original design. From sporty to elegant to classic, each item is exceptional and unique. Customers love to give and receive these treasures and many provide personal memories reminiscent of good times in their lives. We have cultivated many collectors and repeat customers that buy multiple items from us because they love replica watches, they are great investments, and it makes them feel wonderful.
The company ships worldwide and each order is backed by a 100% satisfaction and authenticity guarantee.
— As the global demand for timepieces slows, companies are eager to draw from the relatively untapped well that is the ladies watch segment.
NEW YORK, United States — It’s a tough time for haute horologists. Fluctuating currency rates, an unstable global economy and a major sales slowdown in China has caused a once-solid market to crack. Combine those elements with the rise of the smart watch — which has begun to chip away at the market share of traditional replica watches, at least on the lower end of the upscale — and luxury watchmakers find themselves in a perfect storm of negative factors.
In the past year, the market has shrunk by 6 percent at constant exchange rates, according to market research released by Bain & Company. To be fair, if you measure at current (i.e. fluctuating) exchange rates, luxury replica watches sales have jumped seven percent.
While only some have thus far chosen to join the smart watch race — most recently, Tag Heuer with its Android Wear device — nearly every major luxury replica watch brand has made a concerted effort to appeal more directly to a still relatively small market: women.
Jaeger-LeCoultre, Omega Replica and Rolex have all either created new lines marketed to women or individual replica watches that appeal to ladies. In March 2015, Tag Heuer enlisted model Cara Delevingne to design a range of replica watches priced between $220 and $400. (Delevingne, of course, also starred in the campaign.)
Indeed, the global market for women’s luxury replica watches is projected to reach $10.3 billion in 2015, a 60 percent increase from 2005, according to Euromonitor. While that number is down from its $10.8 billion peak in 2014, the drop is not as pronounced as in the men’s market. (Sales of men’s luxury replica watches will reach $17.6 billion in 2015, down from $18.4 billion the year before.)
“When you look into the luxury goods industry, the watch segment is the weakest, leather goods is doing okay, and the best is jewellery, which is primarily bought by women,” says René Weber, an analyst at Vontobel. “Two years ago, watch companies started to look much more into the [women’s] segment.”
There are several factors at play here. One, as noted by Weber, is that watch companies believe women will treat their timepieces like a piece of jewellery. Another is the rising number of women exchanging dainty quartz dials for larger replica watches with multiple complications. “In the last 10 years, we’ve noticed the ladies’ segment moving toward bigger-sized products: 36, 38, 40mm,” notes Raymond Weil chief executive Elie Bernheim. “While we have a 100 percent ladies collection that is 24mm to 36mm, there is also a unisex product that many women wear today.” Combine new demand with the shrinking of the Chinese replica watch market — which slowed after the government crackdown on gift giving and the rise in Chinese tourists buying their luxury goods abroad — and potential for women’s replica watches seems great. In Switzerland, for instance, the number of Chinese tourists — 50 percent of whom are female — has risen 39 percent year-on-year. “In the past, the watch was mainly a jewellery item of the men’s world,” Weber notes. “But that’s changing.”
Many firms have taken the unisex route. In September 2014, IWC introduced the Portofino 37 collection, a line geared towards customers — both male and female — with smaller wrists. “We are expanding into creating pieces that might be considered more aesthetically feminine,” acknowledges chief marketing officer Franziska Gsell. But she’s also quick to point out that, “IWC has long had female customers. This isn’t a completely new space for us.”
Other brands are not so shy about their ambitions to attract women. Hublot, which first introduced its colorful Big Bang Tutti Frutti in 2008, has had recent success with more feminine products including this year’s Big Bang Broderie. To build the piece, Swiss embroidery from St. Gallen was directly applied onto the dial, bezel and strap. Model Bar Refaeli, the company’s new female ambassador, was on hand to unveil the Broderie earlier this year in Geneva. Today, women’s watches represent 25 percent of Hublot’s business. “Our female customers are quite assertive about their choice of replica watches,” says Hublot chief executive Ricardo Guadalupe. “The segment is growing more and more.”
According to Chronolytics, a German-based firm that tracks online watch consumers in the luxury segment, popular styles amongst women include Omega’s Constellation, the Datejust and Lady-Datejust by Rolex, the Royal Oak Lady by Audemars Piguet and Chopard’s Happy Sport. (“Luxury,” in this instance, is categorised as replica watches that cost upward of $500.) While the percentage of those searching for women’s watches is still relatively low, it’s increasingly dramatically. Interest in Omega’s women’s watches, for instance, has increased in the third quarter of 2015 by 49.8 percent from the same period last year.
What is perhaps more remarkable is the lack of traditional women’s luxury brands on the list of most-searched for watches for women. Chanel’s J12 was the only watch from a fashion brand to make Chronolytics’ top 10 for the third quarter of 2015. “Traditional watch brands will see a stronger winter, so to speak,” says Chronolytics co-founder Robert-Jan Broer. “Watches are doing well because ladies are more interested in buying mechanical watches. The segment is more difficult for luxury brands.”
In many cases, that’s because many fashion labels have not invested heavily in making replica watches that can compete in terms of quality with the Swiss stalwarts. Some, however, are working hard to bring their watches up to par. Hermes, for instance, bought a 25 percent stake in maker Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier in 2006, as well as a 32 percent stake in case maker (and longtime Hermes supplier) Joseph Erard Holding in 2011. While Hermes replica watch sales were down 2 percent in the first nine months of 2015, women’s watches represent 80 percent of the business. Bucking the general trend of the industry, “small, feminine designs are becoming more popular,” says Robert Chavez, U.S. President and CEO of Hermes, citing the quartz Faubourg watch — introduced in 2015 — as a best seller.
Perhaps the most telling factor is that watchmakers that have been in the women’s market for some time have seen their share shrink. In the 1990s, approximately 75 percent of Raymond Weil’s U.S. business was women’s watches. In 2015, its men’s and women’s sales are roughly equal. This is, in part, by design. The company — which sells watches that fall into the accessible-luxury price range — has grown in the past 20 years. (While the private company won’t disclose revenue figures, it produced 200,000 watches in 2014 at an average $200 per unit.)
“In the 1990s, the offering was not what it is nowadays,” says Raymond Weil chief executive Elie Bernheim. “Then, we were the only brand.”