How To Spot A Fake Patek Philippe Watch


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Real vs Fake


Patek Philippe isn’t just one of the most sought-after luxury watch brands in the world, it’s also one of the most counterfeited. There are many reasons for that, but here are two of them.


First, so few of each model is manufactured that a high-quality fake can bring an enormous payday for a successful counterfeiter – and the luxury watch “replica” market has never been hotter, with experts saying it’s now a billion-dollar-a-year business.


Second, there have been so many different models and lines produced by Patek since the mid-1800s that there’s no single “telltale” feature which would immediately be a tipoff to a ripoff.


It’s always a great idea to find a catalog or online photos of an authentic luxury watch which you’re considering purchasing for a great price, in order to compare the real thing to the timepiece you’re looking at. In the case of a Patek, that approach is even more important since the company’s models have had such different characteristics (other than their quality) over nearly two centuries.


It’s much easier to spot a fake Patek Philippe watch if you’re willing to disassemble it, but we’re assuming that either you won’t have the opportunity or the nerve to do that. So if you’re not going to pull out your jeweler’s screwdrivers and loupe to go deep into the movements of a suspect watch, here are some pointers to keep in mind when trying to smell out a counterfeit Patek.


Don’t Suspend Your Disbelief


When you really want something, it’s only natural to ignore the little warning sirens going off in your head. Don’t do it. A watch that sells for thousands, tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars simply is not going to be on the market – under any circumstances – for pennies (or more likely, dimes) on the dollar.


Remember, Patek Philippe watches hold their value better than any other luxury brand of timepiece; a legitimate pre-owned Patek will always bring big money and its owner will never have to take a huge loss on it. We happen to know that for a fact, because at Luxury Buyers we purchase previously-owned Pateks on a regular basis, and are always prepared to make a top-of-the market offer to anyone who wants to sell their Patek Philippe for any reason. (If you’re interested, our short contact form on this website can start the process, with a free, no-obligation preliminary evaluation for the timepiece you might want to part with.)


The other warning siren which you shouldn’t ignore is the one that sounds when you think the seller is a little sketchy. Grimy pawnshops and anonymous eBay sellers (especially ones in China or other nations known to be deeply involved in the counterfeit luxury goods industry) aren’t often likely to have acquired an authentic, genuine Patek Philippe, particularly one worth five-to-six figures. That’s not to say you should never buy from a seller you don’t know, but any purchase of that nature calls for several extra levels of due diligence and caution. As they say over and over again in the timepiece community: “Buy the seller, not the watch.”


Still ready to consider buying that pre-owned Grand Complication or Calatrava? There are some obvious trouble signs to watch for.


Eliminate Half of the Fakes Immediately


OK, Watson – get your oversized magnifying glass out. Less sophisticated fake Patek Philippes have the same flaws as all other cheap imitations. Look for misspellings, fuzzy, poorly stamped or engraved lettering, unevenly spaced letters or markings, or asymmetrically-placed subdials. Also look for gold-plating, which often is used instead of real gold on replica watches.


The entire timepiece should show meticulous craftsmanship with no rough spots. One area of the watch to pay close attention to is the crown and any pushers on the model, which are often rough instead of smooth or slightly tilted instead of placed properly (and sometimes completely missing or added when they should or shouldn’t be there). Another is the band or bracelet; many counterfeiters use cheap leather or metal instead of high-quality materials, the links on a bracelet may be out of alignment, the bracelet may be connected with pins instead of interlocking and may be connected poorly to the buckle with a cheap screw, and the buckle itself may appear low-quality. Nothing on a Patek Philippe is low-quality, so that’s an immediate danger sign.


Many replica Pateks are much too deep and lightweight; a genuine Patek Philippe should be thin, yet still have some heft to it when you hold it in your hand. Generally speaking, you should know when holding the timepiece in your hand that it’s a quality, handcrafted work of art, not a mass-produced piece with glitches or things that don’t look “quite right.”

Going a Bit Deeper


If you know your way around haute horlogerie a little, it’s often possible to recognize replicas with exhibition case backs pretty easily by looking at the movements. Many will have obviously cheap Japanese or quartz movements instead of finely finished movements with micro-rotors crafted by Patek Philippe. Some have even been known to have sub-dial bezels rotating backward, believe it or not.


This also is where having a photo of the genuine timepiece comes in exceptionally helpful. The majority of counterfeits will get some of the small details wrong: pointed instead of rounded hour markers, lines instead of spots for the minute markers, the “Patek Philippe” or “Geneve” text positioned in the wrong place on the face. Subdials are particularly likely to be detailed incorrectly, and some may not actually function but placed just for show. A side-by-side comparison of the watch you’re looking at and a photo of the real thing will tell the tale more than half the time.


Getting an Expert Opinion


Since there’s such big money in counterfeiting, many more fake Patek Philippes than ever are difficult to differentiate from a genuine timepiece. If you still aren’t sure about the watch’s authenticity after giving these tips a try, the amount a real Patek is worth would make it worth your time to have a true expert check it out. You can do that by bringing the watch in to an authorized dealer – or, if you already own the timepiece in question, you can send it to Luxury Buyers to have our experienced staff check it out.


We deal with these watches on a daily basis because we purchase so many of them, and can immediately spot a fake Patek Philippe watch. We’ll also be able to make an offer to purchase your Patek for more cash than any other buyer and will have the money in your pocket in just days. If we can ever be of service, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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