Ever since I wrote the article on spotting fake Seiko watches in this blog, I’ve received many inquiries from readers asking me to verify whether the watch they are looking at on eBay (or have recently purchased) are genuine or otherwise. Although most of the watches are not really that expensive, they still have the right to be concerned as they want to know whether their hard earned money went into buying the real deal or a counterfeit.
The good news is that most online sellers don’t peddle in fake Seiko watches as eBay is strict with sales of counterfeit goods on the auction site. The bad news is that with so many upcoming new sellers registering themselves as merchants, there’s bound to be a few bad hats that whether knowingly or otherwise that are passing off fake Seiko watches as genuine ones.
Although eBay does screen newcomer sellers of the stuff that they sell, not every item escapes their attention. For example, how can they tell a fake Sony MS Pro Duo or Sandisk Extreme memory card from the originals? Or engineering sample and OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) tray Intel computer processors from the retail boxed ones for consumers like you? What about distinguishing fake camera batteries from genuine ones?
Obviously eBay’s staff responsible for vetting sellers’ merchandise need to be trained in spotting fake goods in the first place. The other way would be acting on complaints by eBay buyers duped into purchasing counterfeit items and conducting an investigation.
Well, in this post, let’s learn how to spot eBay sellers dealing in fake Seiko watches.
Grey market Seikos are NOT fake watches!
Buying online is an entirely different matter as you’re buying a watch sight unseen. You look at the pictures on the web page and have to trust the seller that the watch you’ll be getting is a genuine one and not a fake. Seiko’s customer service is not going to determine for you whether a particular seller is pushing the real product. For the two obvious reasons above, they’ll make it very clear: as long as you don’t buy online, you’re safe.
Before we go further, you need to comprehend the difference between “grey market” Seiko watches from fake ones.
In a nutshell, grey market Seikos are authentic watches except that they are parallel imported rather than sourced from the country or regional authorized distributor. Often than not you will not receive an official Seiko warranty. This is because warranties are issued through authorized dealers, who in turn receive them from their respective authorized distributors. Authorized dealers in Southeast Asia for example, are strictly forbidden to sell Seiko products online. Grey market sellers are by the watch manufacturer’s definition, NOT authorized Seiko dealers.
Fake Seikos on the other hand are…well…fake. The watches are definitely not made by any Seiko factory but by some third party backyard watchmaker, often in China. Whether the seller is aware that the watches they’re peddling are phony is a different story. What is alarming is that many buyers don’t know what they’ve received are bogus watches that look like the real deal. They think they got a very good bargain for a watch and then post a positive feedback for the transaction.
Are replica and fakes Seiko the same thing?
Technically, they are similar. Both are bogus and definitely not original Seiko watches. The difference is that replica Seiko watches sold by online replica watch sites do not try to pass of their products as genuine ones.
I mean, come on - if you’re buying one from Replica-Watches-R-Us, you are knowingly purchasing a replica Seiko! In my old article on replica Seiko watches, I’ve mentioned that some sellers irresponsibly use stock photos of original watches so that you don’t actually see what you’re going to receive.
Others have no qualms in showing the watch that you’ll exactly receive. Thus you cannot expect to demand a refund because you are aware that you’ve bought a phony Seiko from a replica watch seller.
Replica Seiko watches often use off-the-shelf movements from movement manufacturers in China. They may look almost exactly like the real ones, but you will not get the same features as with the original ones. For example, the Seiko 7T92 quartz movement has a 1/20sec resolution sub-second register. A replica may not necessarily provide the same features as they use generic movements. What matters more to replica makers is the external appearance.
These pictures I lifted off a replica watch site certainly raised my eyebrows. They are made almost exactly like authentic Seikos that if I didn’t know they were replicas, I could have mistaken some of them as the real deal.
See for yourself:
Above: Almost perfect fake/replica Seikos from an online replica store.
Well, at least the knock off watch site is honest enough not to claim that what they’re selling are originals. Personally it’s none of my business if you deliberately buy one of these – don’t say you’ve never been warned!
What is more worrying is unscrupulous sellers on eBay getting hold of such replicas and passing them off as authentic Seikos. Replica Seikos usually look more convincing than “fake Seikos” although from the copyright perspective both are rip off Seiko watches.
Therefore it’s the sellers that are pushing bogus Seiko watches and advertising them as genuine ones that I’m against. That’s outright cheating.
“If it’s too good to be true, it usually is”
Many people select a seller based on low average winning bids or BIN (Buy-It-Now) prices without giving forethought whether they would be getting the real thing. It’s only fair to say that it’s only human to look for the lowest prices possible. Who wouldn’t?
However, one has to draw the line when it comes to paying low prices for a genuine item and a fake one. No matter how cheap the winning bid is, you’re not getting your money’s worth if you inadvertently buy a fake Seiko.
Look out for tell tale patterns, like winning bids that consistently fall below the average market price for the same model. For a base line Seiko 5 automatic, the median should be between USD50-80 depending on the bidding activity (how popular an item is). As a reference, the average price of a contemporary Seiko 5 model is about USD95, without shipping. Seiko 5 Sports watches usually cost more than USD110, depending on the model.
Therefore the age-old common sense - “if it’s too good to be true, it usually is” applies when it comes to buying new Seiko watches online. No seller who auctions genuine Seiko 5s will tolerate consistent winning bids of USD30 or below, unless they’re prepared to head for bankruptcy.
Look for established eBay Power Sellers if possible
eBay sellers that have built up a good reputation over time are not likely to peddle in fake watches. Trustworthy sellers are in for a long term business. They have a lot to risk by mixing fake timepieces with original ones. Their business and reputation would be put at stake if they are caught passing fake Seiko watches as real ones. There’s nothing gained by auctioning fake Seiko items.
There are clues that you can look for. Check the number of transactions they have conducted and how long they have been an eBay seller. Those that have been around for several years with thousands and tens of thousands of sales transactions done are more likely to be trustworthy sellers.
Beware of newcomer sellers with just a few hundred transactions done. This is not to say that all new eBay sellers are hawking fake Seikos, but the likelihood coming across fake Seiko sellers increases if they’re relatively new in the game.
Look out for the vendor’s PowerSeller logo on eBay. Note that not all established merchants carry this logo.
While the presence of the eBay PowerSeller logo is a good indication of the seller’s reputation and trustworthiness, not all established sellers have earned this status or updated their respective eBay store websites.
Feedback rating from buyers
Another way to gauge whether an eBay vendor is pushing legitimate watches is to look at their positive feedback rating. As a rough yardstick, a seller that scores at least 98% positive feedback generally are trustworthy, but there are exceptions to this rule.
Fake Seiko peddlers on eBay can easily manipulate the feedback rating. They usually resort to the old trick of getting their friends and contacts to bid on their items. They can even register themselves as bogus buyers (often with very few feedback) and self-bid on their auctions. This practice is illegal by eBay’s terms and conditions but with the mushrooming of new eBay watch sellers every month, it’s a difficult task for eBay to track the fake peddlers.
Of course, if a particular watch is not won by a genuine buyer the actual item is not really “sold” but tagged as a legitimate transaction. The seller’s contacts or their phony buyers would pay for the item and leave a positive feedback. In return the seller would reciprocate by leaving a positive feedback.
This gives the appearance that there’s no hanky-panky involved in such transactions from eBay’s point of view. Remember that eBay only acts on complaints by bona fide buyers – it is logistically impossible for them to monitor each and every transaction made every day. Since the seller and their cohorts are in the game of deception, all of the bogus transactions will have positive feedback for certain.
If you’ve watched celebrity street magicians perform tricks for a live audience on television, some of their amazing tricks involve “random” people working closely with the magician, who are deliberately planted into the crowd. This leads to unsuspecting observers into thinking that the individuals selected by the magician are truly randomly picked.
In some tricks the whole audience on TV is part of the whole illusion! Ever seen the guy who literally walked across a swimming pool? All of the people in the swimming pool were in collaboration in order to successfully deceive the audience watching the show on television.
Top: A celebrity street magician performing his famous walking-on-water illusion.
In the same vein, in an effort into getting unwary buyers to bid on their fake Seikos, such eBay sellers use bogus bidders to give the impression that there is genuine interest in their auctions. This is nothing new as the practice of planting “customers” giving scripted testimonials have been around for a long time. You may have watched infomercials on television or street vendors at flea market promoting some miracle product with paid “actors” blindly agreeing with the presenter.
Photos and description of the watch
Legitimate grey market Seiko sellers on eBay generally take the trouble to show their watches from several angles – front, rear and and from the sides. Some will take close up pictures of the bracelets and instruction manuals. They have nothing to hide and the multi-angle photos are available for the potential buyer to scrutinize.
On the other hand, fake Seiko eBay sellers will try to hide the tell tale signs that their watches are phony buy posting just one picture of the watch, usually from the front. With only a single view of the product, they’re hoping that informed buyers won’t catch anything amiss. Of course, inexperienced consumers are unlikely to be able to tell the difference anyway and this is the market the fake sellers are capitalizing on.
The description of the watch is equally important. Trusted sellers always include the actual model reference numbers of the watch being auctioned and give a detailed description. Even if their watches are grey market ones, genuine Seiko watches will have the model tag tied on the bracelet.
Above: Screenshot of a completed sale of a fake Seiko 5 Sports on eBay with a bogus model reference no.
Fake Seiko peddlers will resort to describing their phony watches with as little information as possible, often leaving out the reference number. Even if there’s a model reference number, it’s a bogus one that does not conform to Seiko’s standard nomenclature or numbering convention.
As this article is written, it has come to my attention (thanks to a blog reader) that there is an unscrupulous fake Seiko seller on eBay auctioning rip off Seiko watches. I will only mention that this seller is based in Singapore with just a few hundred positive feedback. The seller has just several Seiko 5 and Seiko 5 Sports watches up for grabs and I’ve determined that they are all fake.
If you’re curious, just look at these made-up, bogus reference numbers the seller is using:
Further to the above, Seiko does not and never has used “SKW”, “SKNW” or “SKNS” as prefixes for their Seiko 5 family. I suspected just as much, because Seiko also has a 7-character limit for their watch models. “SKNS309K” and “SKNW866J” puts it at 8 characters in total – a sure sign of a phony reference number. Furthermore, all genuine Seiko 5 Sports models with the 7s36 movement start with the characters “SKZ”.
This particular seller also posts just one small picture of the watches per listing that he or she is auctioning as you can see below:
Above: Very convincing counterfeit Seiko 5 and Seiko 5 Sports models.
I must admit that they looked pretty convincing at first, but upon closer scrutiny I noted the dial text fonts don’t look like the ones that Seiko actually uses. These are good quality forgeries and can easily pass off as originals to the uninitiated.
One way of determining whether an eBay seller is one that you can trust and buy from again is to check his or her payment methods, warranty and return policies.
The safest and preferred way of paying would be through PayPal. Although there had been numerous grouses against PayPal for its slowness of handling complaints and refunds, it is still better than direct bank-in payment methods and wire transfers such as Money Gram and Western Union.
When in doubt, never pay through direct payments into the seller’s bank accounts or use services like Western Union. Direct-to-account and Western Union payment methods are one way. In the event that you are dissatisfied with the watch you’ve received or even worse, got a fake Seiko watch you have no way of getting your money back.
More often than not a fake watch seller will cook up plenty of excuses not to accept refunds. Such watches are usually won at unrealistically low prices and some consumers would rather accept their misfortune rather than going through the trouble to reclaim their thirty bucks down the drain.
PayPal, despite its shortcomings is the safer way to pay for eBay purchases compared to Western Union unless the seller is trustworthy and with a solid track record.
This is NOT to say that all eBay sellers that offer Western Union are bad guys. Some buyers don’t have PayPal accounts or prefer other methods of payment so the trustworthy sellers also include Western Union as an option.
However, if a seller offers a discount on payments made through Western Union (e.g. 30% off), this raises a red flag. Thirty percent discount is just too irresistible for some people (thinking they’re getting a great deal paying by Western Union), forgetting that once the payment has been made that’s the end of the story. You’re at the mercy of the seller once or she gets your money and you end up with a fake Seiko.
Trusted eBay sellers never offer discounts for payments made through Western Union. Why should they? They have a lot to lose if they offered a 30% discount on sales of authentic Seiko watches paid via Western Union. So you pay the same amount, regardless whether you use PayPal or other modes. Don’t forget that as a buyer, it is you who is remitting the monies to the seller. With Western Union, it is the remitter who has to pay the service fees for sending the funds to the recipient.
Warranty and return policies
There are usually no official Seiko warranty cards issued with grey market Seikos. This is because only authorized brick-and-mortar Seiko dealers can issue the warranty cards, which they get from their local authorized Seiko distributor. These dealers are strictly NOT allowed to sell their stocks to re-sellers (in essence, most grey market sellers on eBay are re-sellers) but directly to you, the end customer. To evade detection, authorized dealers that supply eBay vendors with their stock do not issue Seiko warranty cards.
Due to the absence of warranty, grey market Seiko sellers on eBay will give a warranty up to 3 days in case the watch received is defective or can be proven to be not authentic. A few established companies that sell Seikos online are willing to give their in-house, 1 or 2-year warranty. Creationwatches is one of the veteran grey market Seiko vendors that has an overseas representative in the U.S (Middletown, Connecticut to be more precise) and provides a two-year in-house warranty for its watches.
If something goes wrong with the watch, you have to send it back to the seller for free repair or exchange during the warranty period. You cannot take the watch to your local Seiko repair center for claims as you don’t have a valid international warranty to begin with.
Unfortunately, fake Seiko sellers on eBay can also use the catch phrases like:
The problem is that once you’ve realized that you’ve bought a phony Seiko watch, it’s your word against the seller’s. Even if you claim that you’ve taken the watch to your Seiko service center and determined that it’s not original, the seller can counter-claim otherwise too.
Also note that fake Seiko watches will not come with genuine Seiko boxes, if any is provided. Seiko watch boxes are generally issued by authorized Seiko dealers.
What kind of Seiko watches can be found as fake ones?
I get this kind of question a lot from my blog readers and it’s a perfectly legitimate question to ask. But first we have to get into the mindset of the counterfeit maker/distributor as which watches they are likely to rip off.
The counterfeit watch industry has these goals in mind:
Quick turnover and high sales of fake watches
Highest profits in the shortest period possible
Marques and models that are very high in demand
Customarily, the famous name brand Swiss watches have always been their market. This is evidenced by flea market sellers hawking fake Rolex and Omega watches, for example. On the Internet, there are too many online replica Swiss watch sellers to count!
Above: Two counterfeit brands that are perpetually high in demand: Rolex and Omega.
Could they make a copycat Seiko Kinetic or Spring Drive? Sure, they would consider investing into the design and fabricating tools to duplicate phony Kinetics and Direct Drives if they wanted to. However, the cost in copying Kinetic and Spring Drive movements would be very substantial even if they ever succeed in replicating them.
High production costs translate into high end retail prices, which will deter consumers from buying fake Seiko Kinetics and Spring Drive watches. Add to the fact that replica watch buyers aren’t remotely interested in buying costly phony Seiko watches. The price of a genuine Seiko watch is not really much more than fake ones – therefore the whole exercise would be not worth it.
In a nutshell, counterfeits would rather spend more effort and investment in copying high end Swiss watches.
Top: Seiko Kinetic and Spring Drive watches are currently, not feasible for counterfeiters to copy (borrowed images).
So that leaves the low end Seiko 5 family watches which could be copied as cheaply as possible. That is why fake midrange and flagship Seiko watches don’t exist. There’s just not enough demand for them to make counterfeiting such models feasible or profitable.
This actually spells good news for Seiko buyers as they are not likely to inadvertently buy a fake Seiko Kinetic. That also goes for Seiko sub-ranges such as Velatura, Arctura, Sportura and Premier as such models are neither cost effective nor profitable to copy.
Just remember the counterfeiter’s mind set: large profit margins in the shortest turnaround time possible.
Who are the good guys then?
The number of “legitimate” online Seiko watch sellers on eBay have grown since the early 2000s and it’s impossible to keep track of them all.
The long established ones, such as Pokemonyu, Time Paradise, Premierworld, Capital Mall and Watches59 to name a few – are all 100% trustworthy and I have personally bought from most of them. For some strange reason, Watches59 have stopped dealing in Seiko watches for some time.
As I cannot possibly evaluate all the eBay vendors that have cropped up lately, I listed only the ones that I have experience with. This post serves as a guide in weeding out the bad from the good. I hope you find this article useful in guiding you if you come across unfamiliar eBay sellers!
Originally posted 2010-01-08 19:21:00.
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