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Overcoming counterfeit problems with blockchain technology for watch brands and private owners.

The “Global Brand Counterfeiting Report, 2018” estimated the global counterfeiting amount “to reach 1.82 Trillion USD by 2020” … for all products “from defence equipment to counterfeiting of watches”.  Almost every luxury watch brand faces the problem, and whether cheap and blatant or more ‘perfected’, these imitations cost watch brands significant time and legal fees to obtain justice.

In April 2020 Panerai won a legal battle that started in 2016 against the Chinese company Awsky that made and distributed copies of Panerai’s most emblematic watches. With the Awsky name on the dial.  Such imitations are bought by those who know and don’t care, or by those with little watch knowledge who simply don’t realize the context.

Other imitations are very difficult to detect, with the original brand’s name forged not only on the dial but also on the movement inside, discovered as fake only when opened by an expert watchmaker.  The offense in this case is not only against the watch brand, but also against the honest buyer thinking (s)he is making a good deal — the price is (usually) considerably lower than real market value.

The situation becomes even more complicated with the development of the pre-owned / vintage markets on one hand, and on-line sales on the other.  According to second-hand watch buying and selling platform Tradeewatches, fake watches can represent up to 40% of the watches for sale on-line, depending upon the site or private seller.

Established trustworthy dealers advise you of course to run, not walk, if the price is too good to be true.  More concretely, much is being done to counter the problem.  Certain independent brands and large watch groups now provide digital certificate security with the purchase of their new and pre-owned watches.  The certificate guarantees authenticity of your watch, and also protects it against official resell in the event of theft.

Geneva-based luxury watchmaker Czapek & Cie works with Adresta AG that digitally connects watch manufacturers with retailers and collectors by proposing encrypted digital authenticity certificates for each new watch produced.

International retail chain Bucherer has established its own department of Certified Pre-Owned watches that are quality-controlled and verified by two separate experts who deliver a two-year warranty along with its own certificate of authenticity.

And luxury Richemont Group, owners of e.g. Cartier, A. Lange & Söhne, Roger Dubuis, Piaget, and IWC, acquired pre-owned specialist Watchfinder.co.uk.Limited in 2018:  to enter the expanding second-hand market, but also to control the resell and reputation of its own brands’ products.  Another Richemont brand:  Vacheron Constantin, has furthermore created its own separate department of “Les Collectionneurs” for restored VC vintage pieces, sold with a Blockchain guarantee of authenticity.

And for you, as a private individual?

One recent, unique, and innovative option has been developed by on-line platform Tradeewatches based in Paris. Dedicated to international buying and selling of second-hand watches and currently supported by 90,000 members, Tradeewatches has created its own official “blockchain document” —   WATCH CERTIFICATE — that attests to the authenticity of your watch.

To earn the certificate, 42 control points are analysed and noted by a professional watchmaker to confirm the year of manufacture, reference, unique serial number, caliber name, case material, general state, water resistance, official purchase papers, servicing, etc.  A second control is then made by an independent Expert to enable the issue of the 28 g. brushed steel certificate the size of a credit card.  With its QR (Quick Response) Code, it provides information instantly about your watch, its value, and the identity of its current owner.

Impossible to forge, this individually coded certificate not only guarantees the authenticity of your watch, it allows you to dispense with the transport and presentation of ownership papers at border crossings and renders impossible the legal reselling of your watch in case of theft.  (Insurance in collaboration with leading companies is also available, starting from EUR4. per month.) Blockchain registered, the certificate is reissued if lost.

If you buy on the Tradeewatches platform, it’s included in the sale of your watch, and you receive both at the same time.

And for a watch already in your possession?   You can order a certificate on-line at: watchcertificate.com   with prices ranging from EUR99 to EUR299 depending on the value of your watch.  The same double control of 42 points, first by a watchmaker referenced by Tradeewatches, followed by that of a Certified Expert, is required to obtain your timepiece’s  “passport”.   This service is currently offered mostly in France, but is developing in neighbouring countries, with new partnerships to be announced soon elsewhere in Europe and other regions of the world.

The WATCH CERTIFICATE is also proposed to auction houses, traditional watch boutiques, and digital professionals; you receive it with your acquisition.  As an indication of the quality of the service, renowned Paris watch dealers Antoine de Macedo and Romain Réa are already delivering them, and the Antiquorum auction sales this June in Geneva did the same.

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