Every real watch collector despises fake watches, so you’re probably thinking the statement in the title is ridiculous. Hear me out. Replica watch sellers are scum, but gray market dealers are scummier. The fakers copy a manufacturer’s design and brand likeness, then they sell their wares on the streets of a big city or via poorly designed websites. Their only saving grace in this argument is that at least you know what you’re getting into, in most cases.
If you’re walking down Canal Street and some older lady is creeping behind you whispering Rolex, Rolex, Rolex, you know is going to be a $100 fake. If you land on a website that is selling a $6,000 luxury watch for $249, you know it’s going to be a fake. It’s annoying, and if you’re actually seeking the real thing from an auction site or watch forum, you have to use extra care not to get ripped off. This creates a few extra steps for potential buyers, but doesn’t ruin the watch industry. Just because fake Rolexes exist doesn’t mean they lower the value of your Rolex. I’ll repeat: knockoffs do not harm the luxury watch industry.
Gray market dealers on the other hand are very dangerous for luxury watch brands. They are the snakes that slither around the rules and destroy market value of your watch. They are the reason you can’t get out of your piece when it’s time to sell or flip it. Gray market dealers obtain watches, sometimes below cost, from dealers who want to generate cashflow or dissolve a line. These watches are thrown into the market with prices that are close to a regular dealer’s wholesale cost.
These scumbags then plaster the web with copy and paste watch listings that advertise an unreasonably low sale price. 9 times of out 10 the gray market dealer won’t even have the watch in stock, but is willing to take your money anyway. When your hard earned cash hits their bank account is when they hop on the phones and scour their contact list for the closest available match to what you ordered. If they’re lucky, one of their connections (a slimy AD) will be able to sell them the watch just to get their money back from it. If they can’t find the watch, they contact you after a couple of days or weeks to notify you that the watch is out of stock and then send a refund.
The reason why this is ruining the watch industry is because gray market dealers have created an entire business model around two things: false advertising, and hacking the manufacturer’s MAP (minimum advertised price). MAP exists to protect brands, authorized dealers, and customers. Basically everyone involved. But when you go to your local Omega dealer and peruse the Seamasters, try one on for size, then just before swiping the card decide to do a quick web search, it’s hard as a consumer to pay 10% below retail when a gray market dealer advertises the same watch for 46% off including shipping and a free strap changing tool.
So you cheat on the AD and place the order on your phone before you even walk out of the store. You’ve just participating in dismantling the watch world that you claim to love so much.