Replica Watch Repair Is NOT Illegal

As I was going through emails on Friday last week, preparing for a 4 day weekend and, of course, Christmas!, I stumbled across a question regarding the legality of repairing replica watches. I figured it was a good topic for an article, so here it is.

If I had to guess, it would be that the assumption that repairing rep watches would violate some law would be due to the fact that selling and importing reps is illegal; At least in the US. While it is true that selling reps is against the law, as is importing them, repairing them most certainly is not. That is, assuming that the repairer isn't selling and or installing "branded" parts, i.e., parts that have logos or markings such as trademarks, brand names, etc, on the parts. It is true that some watchsmiths that repair reps do in fact offer/sell/use/install branded parts. RWR does not. We do not obtain, use, sell or install any parts that have a logo, brand or trademark in, on or around them unless the part is genuine. This is actually quite simple because the few parts that have branding on them inside or on a replica watch are parts that typically do not fail, like bridges, retainers, etc. And in the off chance they do, lets say a rep Rolex crown with bad clutch mechanism, a gen crown and tube can typically be sourced to replace the failing rep part. In the case of a bridge, we can re-jewel, true, etc, to use the existing part. The fact is, most issues in replica watches are with the movement. While a rotor, or decorative plate might be branded, what makes it tick is most certainly a movement that is unbranded, made by a reputable company and sold on the open market. This means that parts will be obtainable. It is very, very rare that we come across a branded part in a rep that needs to be swapped. Like once or twice a year rare. However, should it arise, we will typically send the customer to a TD to purchase the part, or to an M2M section on one of the forums to find the part. In either case, we'd have it sent in and use what was obtained.

So why is it then that virtually no mainstream watchsmiths are willing to work on replicas when legality isn't an issue (assuming they follow a similar parts model as ours)? Prestige. Lack of ability. Fear of genuine brand retaliation. Belief that there is no money in it. Lack of a supply network. The list goes on. My biggest issue years back was fear of brand retaliation. If our house brands found out that we serviced reps, their nameplates would most certainly have been pulled out from under us. For the smaller guys, I'd guess lack of ability and lack of supply would be the main reasons. I know many say that when they asked, their local watchsmith turned there nose up at then for even implying that they might fix a rep. In reality, I doubt it is as much of a turning of the nose as it is the fact they know with replica watches, they can easily bite off more than they can chew.

Give the experts a shot... Start your watch repair today!