February 25, 2022
February 25, 2022

When we talk about replicas, we enter a world that was once made of whispered exchanges of items in an out-of-the-way alley. Today, all of this happens in the light of day, through internet sites that sell copies of famous watches does not make this trade any less questionable. 

But beyond moral or legal judgments about the implications of buying a timepiece belonging to this category, here is a map to help you navigate more safely in this "sea" - exotic, unknown, and often dangerous for your wallet.


What is a replica/homage watch?

A homage and a replica are two very different things! 

A homage is a watch that is inspired by the style of a famous timepiece, but to a careful eye is distinguished by several details, including the most important - and obvious. That on the dial there is another brand - and it is evident, or there is no brand - and in this case, horology fans call it "sterile dial." Most people who start a watch collection - and have limited resources - buy homages, since these timepieces often offer a high price/quality ratio.

On the other hand, a replica is made to reproduce a famous watch in every way - including the fraudulent use of the brand name of the copied watch. As a result, replicas vary in quality, ranging from fanciful and not very credible copies to watches that reproduce in all respects the copied timepiece - watch movement included (and are generally called "clones" in watchspeak).

Then there is another particular category of timepieces called "Franken" - a name derived from the famous Frankenstein's monster. As you might guess, a Franken is a watch assembled using pieces of different timepieces, some original and some not. Although this practice is rather accepted in vintage watches, where you can replace a broken or missing part with a new or compatible one, it becomes fraudulent in other cases.

To give a practical example of what we mean, some not-so-honest people buy an original black Rolex Submariner, and separately, a fake green dial and bezel to install them over the watch to get a "Hulk" Rolex. The average Submariner has a street price of about $12,000, while a Hulk is worth about $20,000. And we should add the sales value of the original bezel and dial sold separately - so you can immediately understand why this "transplant" is practiced.

are replica watches worth it?

What is the difference between original and replica watches?

The main difference is that an original is made by the company that launched that watch, with the standards of quality, sourcing of materials, and ethical work conditions with fair wages assured by the fact that it comes from a well-known and respected brand. And this is one of the main reasons why watches are so expensive. Or at the very least "original" watches. With a replica, none of that happens. 

Also, while an original can enjoy the support of the house and receive replacement parts, obviously a replica cannot - and in some countries, possession of such a watch could be considered a crime. Obviously, laws vary by country, so if you're not sure, the best thing is to check how things work in your country.


Are replica watches good quality?

It is useless to hide behind a glass wall: some clones are better than the originals in some particular cases. For example, we saw replicas offering higher power reserves, better accuracy, or higher water resistance than the timepieces they imitated.

On the other hand, we must also say that this concerns only a tiny percentage of the products. In most cases, a true replica lies on the mid-end of the scale - so-so to good quality. Still, it is never that easy and automatic to be certain about its technical execution unless you are a technically trained hobbyist watchmaker and have had the chance to examine the watch in its most minute details.

This said, in the world of replicas you might find the whole spectrum, from good-quality watches mounting branded quality movements and offering very honest performances to low-grade replicas mounting cheap quartz movements: it depends on what are you looking for and what your budget is.


How long do replica watches last?

To all intents and purposes, a replica is a watch like any other. It can be of excellent quality and last for years or of poor quality and malfunction almost immediately. The automatic watches duration/lifespan depends on the single watch, so It is impossible to generalize, as replica manufacturers are all different, and replicas have no common standard. However, some sites which deal exclusively with replicas have tried to develop objective evaluation systems to assess their degree of quality.

As we mentioned before, the real issue is that if a problem occurs in the movement, a repair could be more complicated than an original watch, and in some cases, virtually impossible.

You must be aware that at the beginning of 2022, there is a controversy that sees the Swatch group, which is the owner of the largest manufacturer of movements in the world, namely ETA, announcing its decision to stop selling spare parts of movements outside the official network of service centers of the brands belonging to the group, which ended up in front of the judge for abuse of dominant position. Naturally, this fact could cause problems for watch maintenance in general, and specifically, to microbrand watch companies using stock movements from ETA.

replica vs homage watch

Is it illegal to buy a replica watch?

Copyright laws worldwide state that making fakes and selling them is illegal, but they become more nuanced regarding actions such as buying and owning replicas. Also, not all legislatures agree in defining what is a fake. Some replica manufacturers take advantage of this gray area by producing replicas that do not precisely match the originals but differ in tiny details - often in the shape of the logo and its lettering - becoming no longer a fake, and implying a lesser offense.

Some very famous replica manufacturers have huge websites and e-commerce systems, make online sales and ship worldwide, so this means that not all countries in the world treat the production and sale of replicas in the same way.


Can replica watches be repaired?

As we said above, a watch is generally composed of a case and a movement - and it happens that this, sometimes, has problems and needs to be repaired. And here the first difficulties arise, especially when we venture into the world of replicas.

The movement used by a replica manufacturer can be a "stock" movement, i.e., a caliber commercially available on the market (what you normally find in other brand-made automatic watches and quartz watches), or one that imitates in every way the original mechanism - which is what happens in true clones. In the latter case, a significant problem looms. While a stock movement can be repaired and replaced by drawing on the parts available on the market or by buying another similar caliber and recovering the elements we need (an action known as "cannibalization"), in the case of a clone, it is not certain that the parts are freely available - or that they are precisely compatible with the original ones.

There is a risk, in this case, of having a watch that cannot be repaired unless a professional intervention by the watchmaker manages to reconstruct the missing pieces. Unfortunately, while this was normal at one time, today it is becoming increasingly challenging to find watchmakers who have the technical ability to recreate worn or broken watch - and even if we were lucky enough to find one, the cost would often be so high as not to be worth the repair (remember that you can purchase the best replicas for five hundred to a thousand dollars).


Is there a difference between replica and counterfeit watches?

A replica is, to all intents and purposes, a counterfeit watch, but replica manufacturers prefer to use this term because it conveys a nobler meaning than "fake." Above all because, in the spoken language, a replica might have been made by the same company that had produced the original object, which then maybe got lost, or it is an object so rare and precious that it was decided to produce a replica. The original company might produce one for an exhibition or a show, without having to bring the original. Or it might want to create a limited edition which replicates a famous model from the past.

For example, this happened when Omega produced a replica of the first water-resistant watch made by the Maison, the Omega Marine, a lovely Art Deco style watch launched in 1932, offering a peculiar watertight case where the crown was tucked inside it,. In 2007 Omega produced a limited series identical to the original, except that the case was made of gold and not steel: therefore, technically speaking, a "replica" - although, in this case, the Maisons prefer to describe them as "re-editions."

replica vs original watch

Main Takeaways

As you may have noticed, in this small guide, we have not touched - if not marginally - the most common objections that are made when talking about replicas - but we leave morals and ethics issues to our readers.

We mainly wanted to draw the readers' attention to the less obvious aspects of the replica market, especially in terms of reliability over time and ease of repair. These are non-trivial and very important aspects, which are generally not given much thought, and which lead us to conclude that, in the end, the best way to guarantee one's "peace of mind" is to buy an original timepiece or a homage. And if you need any advice for getting a fine one, we have published a handy watch buying guide to help you out.
February 25, 2022 — GYRAX LTD

Leave a comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.