Internet rife with ‘replicas’

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Web site retailers such as Globalreplica.com blatantly hawk knock-off Rolex watches.

Web site retailers such as Globalreplica.com blatantly hawk knock-off Rolex watches.

On the Web, scores of sellers of “replica” watches advertise their wares.

One such merchant, Globalreplica.com claims that its fakes are the best on the market – and includes a dozen testimonials from satisfied clients.

“Globalreplica has been selling Swiss Rolex replica, fake Rolex and replica Rolex watches for almost a decade … Global Rolex replicas are the best fake Rolex watches on the market!”

The price? Two fake Submariners for $550.00, or four for $950.

A genuine Rolex is considerably more expensive.

“It’s around $7,000 now, so people always think they can get a better deal,”said Charles Zerbe, whose downtown store is one of three authorized Rolex dealers in Colorado Springs. “We had one customer – well, he never quite became a customer – who really wanted a Rolex. One evening, he met some guy in a bar who gave him a sob story about being broke and needing to get home to his dying mother. He was happy to take advantage of this poor guy, and bought his ‘Rolex’ for $500. Of course, it was a fake.”

So how can you avoid being taken? Can a layman easily tell the difference between a well-crafted fake and the real thing?”

There are a number of details that are difficult to fake, but unless you deal with a reputable seller, Zerbe said, you might be victimized by scammers.

Michael Knight, who owns Knight Watch and Jewelry in downtown Colorado Springs, described one such scam.

“It was a beautiful solid gold Rolex President – or that’s what it seemed to be,” he said. “Charles Zerbe and I took it apart, and found that (the scammer) had taken a real Rolex movement from a new stainless steel watch. He put the movement into a fake 18-karat cast gold case, and a counterfeit Italian gold band. It was absolutely perfect – it appeared to be a $30,000 Rolex. Whoever made it spent two or three thousand to put it together, and sold it on the Web for around $20,000.”

Knight said that the counterfeiters have become so good that he can’t spot a fake without taking the watch apart. But that doesn’t mean the bogus timepieces are quality products.

“If you buy on the Internet, or from an individual, you’re taking a risk,” he said. “But even the good fakes fall apart pretty quickly – they’re designed to look good and act proper for a very short period of time.”

John Macaluso, a partner at Gibney, Anthony and Flaherty, the firm that has long represented Rolex in the United States, said that stopping counterfeiters and scammers is “like sweeping back the tide with a broom.”

“I liken it to the drug trade,” he said. “It’s easy enough to catch the street vendors, but it’s almost impossible to go up the chain, and find where (the fakes) originate, and where they’re manufactured. They’re very sophisticated.”

While brick and mortar retailers of counterfeit goods are easier to catch, Macaluso said it’s almost impossible to nab the online hucksters.

“They just proliferate,” he said. “They change their names, they put up new Web sites, they sell Cartier watches rather than Rolex. Rolex has a zero tolerance policy – you have to protect your trademark. But we know we can’t stop counterfeiting completely.”

And the counterfeiters often go to great lengths to avoid detection.

“They ship them here without identifying marks – just a bunch of watches or purses without manufacturer’s names,” Macaluso said. “And then the local distributors add the brand names.”

But it’s often quite easy to determine which online retailers are offing legitimate products and which are peddling fakes. Web sites such as bagstore.com advertise obvious knockoffs, in sometimes fractured English.

“Wholesale much brand women bags,” reads one pitch from the site. “I can make biger discount for your large orders, please feel free to contact us for the combine.”