Let’s be clear upfront: this is not going to be the usual “how to spot a fake TAG Heuer” article. And it probably won’t be an article that gives you answers that you really want to hear. But what it will do is tell you the facts, because for too long people have been lulled into a false sense of security by poorly researched SEO- boosting websites that offer “buying guides” that in today’s world are virtually useless.
The fake game has changed a lot over the years, from the laughable fakes bought for $20 in Bali, through to the “looks OK from a distance” replicas of the early 2000s. But now we’re into a new phase of “premium” replica watches that no longer cost loose change, but run into several hundred dollars. And these new fakes arrive at a time when more and more sales are being conducted online, meaning that there is less opportunity to inspect the details. Make no mistake, there are going to be a lot of buyers fooled and a lot of money lost.
TAG HEUER REPLICA WATCHES- A BRIEF HISTORY
Like other brands, the “original” fake TAG Heuers never fooled anyone. The dial may have said “TAG Heuer”, but one glance told you that this wasn’t the real thing. Bought with loose change on holiday, these fakes would typically last a couple of weeks before breaking and ending up in the bottom of people’s sock drawers.
After a while, the fakers realised that because they couldn’t accurately reproduce a real production TAG Heuer, their better choice was to invent their own models, such as the fake “Carrera 1969” below that has never been made by TAG Heuer. Again, picking these as being fakes is easy if you know your TAG Heuers.
But over the last couple of years things have changed, and it’s this “next generation” of US$500 fakes that we want to focus on in this article, because those are the ones that circulating today, regularly turning up for sale on eBay and internet watch forums.
WHERE DO THESE “HOW TO SPOT A FAKE…” GUIDES COME FROM?
Around 5 years ago we started getting bombarded by weekly e-mails from a Grey watch dealer who was looking for websites to post the infographic above and provide a backlink to the dealer to improve that site’s SEO ranking. You’ll see this Infographic on many sites across the web. While it’s been well produced from a graphical standpoint, there is a problem here- none of the advice is actually useful.
Now, that is not to say that the information is wrong, but rather that it’s so generic that these points hold true for all brands- for example, “Buttons on the side may have no effect on the small chronographs (sic)”. Well, yes, if the chronograph pushers don’t work, you should be worried- but isn’t that obvious? Here’s another from their Rolex guide: “Movement on the seconds hands needs to be completely smooth it should sweep round rather than “jump“. That statement is true of every automatic movement (OK, other than “Deadbeat”/ True Seconds movements). The advice isn’t wrong- it’s just generic, and just as true for Rolex as it is for Omega, TAG Heuer, or Patek Philippe.
Some of the points in the TAG Heuer guide are factually wrong- The last point on the infographic about TAG Heuer movements containing a serial number that matches the paperwork? Not true for almost all TAG Heuer watches.
The problem with these guides is that they lure buyers into a false sense of security. The game has moved on, and these infographic guides are now next to useless.
HOW DO YOU SPOT A FAKE TAG HEUER?
OK, if we’re going to criticise the advice from other websites, then what are our tips for spotting a “high end” replica of a current TAG Heuer? It’s simple: you can’t. Visually, the best replica is now too close to the real thing.
The fail-safe advice that we can give you having reviewed, held and studied TAG Heuer watches for more than a decade is that it’s time for buyers to accept that for a modern TAG Heuer, the fake and the real thing can no longer reliably be distinguished by photos.
That’s not to say that there is no difference between real and fake watches- the quality, finishing, materials and reliability gap is still significant- but these characteristics are only truly apparent when you have both watches in your hand, and even then, it’s too late if you bought the watch online.
But what about guarantee cards, swing tags and TAG Heuer- branded bags? No, not a sign of a watch being genuine, because these have been copied too. Many of the replica watches being sold on eBay today come with full “papers”.
WHAT ARE THE MOST VULNERABLE MODELS?
The watches that are the most vulnerable to being faked are standard-production (i.e. not limited edition) models that have been made for several years with steel, closed casebacks. Watches with sapphire casebacks are harder to fake, because the replica maker has to get the movement and rotor design right as well as the dial and case. But even then, the fakers have this covered, as there is a now an Asian-sourced clone of the Calibre 1887/ Heuer 01 movement. There are highly accurate replicas of the 41mm Carrera 1887 and the 43 and 45mm Carrera Heuer 01 Skeleton dial watches, which would have been un-thinkable a few years back.
The most vulnerable TAG Heuers are the Aquaracer and Formula 1 series, as you can see from the replica Calibre 5 Aquaracer 300m below. The watch comes with TAG Heuer branded paperwork and a proper box, and while there are some details that give this away as a fake (details which we’re not going to share those in case it helps the replica makers), the reality is that this watch would fool nine out of ten watch buyers.