As many UK readers know, you have to be careful on eBay, Gumtree, FB Marketplace or other platforms, as there tons of fake watches around. When buying on eBay you can set preferences to UK only and STILL see items listed by companies trading from mainland China by the way, so always scroll down to click `Business Seller’ details.
A recent court case highlighted how organised the production of fake designer name watches is across China, and how those same organisers will assist their frontmen with cash, even after a conviction. Warren Chung-Williams was convicted in Yorkshire after Trading Standards went after his online operation.
A customer had paid £150 for an Armani watch which he discovered was fake when it needed a repair. A test purchase by Trading Standards also found their watch was a replica.
During their investigation, officers seized around 1,800 watches from a storage unit rented by the business.
The local media reported how easy it was to fake details such as barcades and boxes, so that the £1m scam could appear convincing online;
Evidence recovered from a computer seized at Chung-Williams’ home address showed he was buying watches directly from sources in China and bought packaging and bar codes separately to make the watches appear genuine.
The business sold watches through its own website called Wristy – and through Wowcher, Fruugo and Secret Sales.
Investigation of company and personal financial records showed a turnover of £1,156,610 between May 2016 and April 2018, with Wristy Business and Chung-Williams sending a total of £567,193 to China to buy watches and packaging.
Incredibly, Chung-Williams was given a restraint order in court and sent £113,000 electronically within 6 minutes of leaving court. He has a criminal history dating back to fraud offence in 2008. Proceeds of Crime will now begin, to try and recoup some cash from this operation but let’s face it, this guy and his helpers are too smart to have left much money, or fixed assets, in this country.
The case also highlights how factories producing watches, boxes, logos, tags etc are all involved in the supply chain. Most of them are based in China, although other countries do have fake watches in plentiful supply of course. In the same way that supporting cheap nail bars and £3.50 car washes basically enables slavery and people trafficking, buying cheap replica watches online funnels more money to China.
If you care about the watch industry, from watchmakers, to retailers and repair shops, then pay the extra and buy the real deal.