Article : TIME N STYLE, Times of India 6/07/06
The booming fake industry


Martin D’Souza

The counterfeit industry is booming, and according to many from the industry, “They (the fake market) are doing a good job.” But not everyone is seeing the funny side of it. While some contend that people want to get a feel of luxury by sporting a Rolex, Rado or for that matter even an Omega without having to shell out a fortune, others say that there is nothing like the ‘feel’ of an original.
But one thing is certain; wanting to curb the counterfeit industry is on top of the mind of the watch industry. Jacques J. Duchêne, President of Exhibitors Committee, in his opening speech at Baselworld 2006, came down heavily on the counterfeit industry, which he claims is “booming to the tune of around 430 billion Swiss Francs per annum”. Exasperated at the figures, he said, “Everything is copied today. Imitation goods have become a part of a new lifestyle. It’s very unfortunate that the imitators benefit from this industry and they are getting better and better.” However, he urged the industry to fight back and “Rid the world of this evil.”
But how is the industry reacting to this menace? While most of them are concerned and want to rid the world of this evil, other simply say, “This is the upside of success. If you are not copied you are not successful.”
But for Duchêne, it’s a big task. He exhorted the media to come to the rescue of the industry by way of articles to create awareness. “Consumers are accepting without showing concern for the consequences for the same. Public acceptance encourages the counterfeiters and the economy will suffer in the distant future if this trend is not arrested. We have to get ruthless and seek the help of Governments of the countries in which these goods are being manufactured,” said Duchêne.

Here’s what other big players from the watch industry had to say on this issue…

President, LONGINES
“India is not a huge fake manufacturing country. They are growing in China and Thailand. We have a lot of action going on against these manufacturers. Every week, there are some raids on the fake manufacturers. We also appreciate that our retailers are aware and are respecting the rules and only sell genuine watches. There is a difference between a fake and original. The end user should know this. The buyer is also guilty. It’s a threat, a reality. We have to destroy them. Cargos are being scanned now and it is helping us catch the big shipments. The fake industry is a big mafia.”

Vice-President, BREITLING
“Yes, we found that Breitling is No. 2 in the fake market and what worries me is that recently we found some very high quality fake Breitling watches. You know, these watches are quite difficult to produce! We can try and avoid distribution of fake watches through the internet but in the end, the only way to tackle the issue will be through the political process. However, we are involved in many ways in trying to curb this market. We have formed the Anti Counterfeit Group of the Swiss Federation of Watch Makers. But without any real political commitment, it’s going to be very, very difficult.”

President, RADO
“It’s still a threat. It’s a continuous fight. We fight this disease at the same time we know that this is a never ending fight; you will never eliminate it totally but if you never fight it, it will become bigger and bigger. There is a limit to this. We should not let it go further. Having said that, I think being copied is the downside of success. I wouldn’t want to experience times when nobody is copying Rado because then I think I will have to worry.”

Managing Director, HERMES
“We need to be one step ahead of the imitation guys to have any impact on them. Yes, we are trying our best to hit them where it hurts. We are working very closely with the customs and the governments of other countries…”

Area Sales Director, CARL F BUCHERER
“It’s a big problem. Considering that we are only five years old, we are really surprised by finding our fakes in the market. From our point of view, at the moment, it’s not such a huge problem for us. As far as eradicating it is concerned, I don’t think that it’s possible.”

“It is a very complex thing. We could be talking about it for the next 24 hours without finding any solution. I have been too long in Asia to understand this. It’s bound to eat into any turnover when you are copied. In Hong Kong, the pirated music industry is doing well, but now the music industry has priced the CDs so low that the pirates are finding it difficult to survive. Maybe we should bring down the price by one third and maybe the problem will be solved. As for me, I would rather buy three fancy cars than one watch costing half a million Swiss Francs.”

International Marketing Director, EBEL
“We don’t see a lot of fake Ebel watches in the market because the brand had lost ground for some time. Now in Basel, Ebel is back on track and we will start to see imitation pieces, but this will be visible proof that the brand is getting successful. As for thwarting the counterfeit industry, I think it is a huge task. The people from the industry will have to come together and fight this battle collectively.”

President & Chief Executive Officer, GUCCI
“Of course we are affected by the fake market, because somewhere we are losing sales. It damages the brand and it creates some confusion in the minds of the consumers. But if you look at it another way, when you are copied, it means you are successful. I’m sure some brands would dream of being copied. From our side, we are fighting against the counterfeit industry. We have legal people working on it. Unfortunately, I’m in this industry for more than 20 years and I see the fake market has only been growing. You can’t control it; you can reduce it. The important thing is to make life hard for those making fakes. So if they have a hard time with you, they will do it with another brand.”

Communication Manager, HARRY WINSTON
“Harry Winston is not at all impacted by the fake market. How? Very simple reason: we don’t manufacture steel watches. All HW products are gold products as well as diamond products. For our customers, this is what they expect when they buy a Harry Winston. They are buying gold watches and they know they will never find a gold fake watch. I think it’s the ransom of success. Yes, there are ways to fight and every brand should combat the fake market with all the legal means available. You kill one fake manufacturer and you find three new one coming up so it’s going to be a very difficult struggle. At the same time, brands have to take care of their products. But unfortunately it will be very difficult to get rid of the fake market.”


“It’s a double-edged sword. If you are copied, it means you are successful, it’s a compliment but then it’s also not right. It don’t think it’s easy to thwart the threat. All I can say is that people who really understand luxury will always buy genuine stuff.”

President & CEO, GUESS
“I have a philosophy: I would rather be copied than not copied. It’s a form of a compliment. I used to be very upset earlier, as I used to spend a lot of time getting worried when we would find fake Guess watches in the market. However, we change our style so frequently that by the time the copies are out, it’s not the right style that is in. The fake industry is growing and booming on higher-priced products. I must admit that the imitation is so good that they put out a great piece of product. We have to work together as a group, then, maybe, we could be able to slow down the imitation market.”

Operating Officer, Deputy Senior General Manager, Marketing Division
“It’s a big headache for us. There is so much of fake floating around. All companies are having a problem. It cannot stop now. I really am clueless as to how we can stop this menace. Together, with some Japanese companies we are taking some action. I think, it’s terrible.”

Manager, International Advertising Dept, SEIKO
“This is very scary. We do not want to have fake watches. We are discussing with our distributors and trying to find ways of denting their market. We sometimes have to do some ‘buy back’ to check for fakes. Having said that, I must admit that it’s difficult to keep a track of this. Something has to be done about this.”





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Copyright 2006 Martin D'Souza. All rights reserved.