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What you get from a counterfeit

by J.Peter

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Disclaimer: I would never purchase a counterfeit watch, nor do I usually work on them which is why I am making this post. I will not be making a habit of discussing counterfeits here. I strongly believe that counterfeiting, like pirating, plagarism, and stealing to be unethical and wrong. I choose not to participate or support these activities.

With that out of the way. Today a friend showed me a counterfeit Panerai that he received as a “gag gift.” He thought I might find it interesting. Since I normally stay far away from such things I decided to take this opportunity to educate myself, my friend, and my blog readers about what you get from a counterfeit (besides a nagging conscience.)

Here is what I found:Fake Panerai At first look it is a nice looking watch. In fact from 5 feet away I might not know it wasn’t the real thing. When I first held it, it felt really light. The crown is extremely chintzy, when you unscrew it, it kind of wobbles and you can feel the sharp poorly finished edges of the knurling.

Take a close look and it just doesn’t seem right. We’ll start on the dial side. First it says 8 days and has a power reserve of about 60 hours without the horizontal power reserve indicator. Second, poor quality handsthe hands have the cheap stamped feel to them. The minute hand sits well above the cannon pinion and the luminous material is oozing out around the underside of the hands onto the sides.poor second hand

Flip over the watch to reveal some more quality issues. Take a good look at the full shot above (click on the picture for a larger version.) You’ll notice it seems dull, the movement seems to be ruthenium plated maybe (it’s very dark) the geneva stripes (or beijing stripes?) are very coarsely done and there is light scratching all over the movement. The lettering is crooked and some of the letters are poorly formed. There is a combination of flat and round headed screws (as well as white metal and blued). The beveled edges of the bridge are not polished and in fact there are many burrs sticking out still from the finishing process.

Zoom in closer and here’s what you’ll find.pan swan neck zoom The swan neck regulation screw is too short to reach the full domain of the regulator arm (in fact it isn’t even touching the regulation arm.) If the swan neck spring were doing its job it should push the regulation arm back against the screw.pan barrel teethThe barrel teeth are very coarse with burrs raised on nearly every one. I guess they didn’t have time to drop it in a tumbler to remove burrs before installing it in the watch. That jagged edge to the right of the barrel teeth is actually the threads on the case for the back (ouch!)poor oiling I only zoomed in on one jewel (kind of the worst example.) There is an oily substance all over the flat surface of the jewel (which should be perfectly clean.) Over time this oil will wick the oil out of the oil cup (where it belongs) and leave the pivot dry. All in all this movement represents a low grade Chinese copy of the ETA 6497/98 which I have heard are only semi-interchangeable with genuine ETA parts, it could prove difficult to find certain parts for this movement.

So, it is very poor quality. Would this affect the function of the watch? Definitely, over time those burrs will come free and clog the gear train or destroy the pivots or both. The fourth wheel will be running dry before too long, it won’t really be serviceable so it is basically a throw it away when it stops working kind of watch. So, you ask, “How is it running now?”

It has a 59 hour power reserve, pretty impressive. Well not really, it would appear as though they accomplished this mostly by putting a weaker and longer mainspring in the barrel, sacrificing amplitude for power reserve. They managed to squeak out an extra two turns of the barrel adding about 16 hours to the normal power reserve. Here are the timing results:

Full Wind

Rate Amplitude

Dial Up +6 245 deg

Dial Down +0 270 deg

Stem Up +15 215 deg

Stem Left +11 215 deg

Stem Right +11 225 deg

Half Wind

Rate Amplitude

Dial Up +10 225 deg

Dial Down +16 215 deg

Stem Up +23 190 deg

Stem Left +30 185 deg

Stem Right +28 190 deg

Average full wind is +8.6 sec / day. Delta of all positions over 24 hours is 30 seconds. I know for a fact that a stock ETA 6497 is capable of better than +2 and a delta of 10. I didn’t try and regulate this watch, but I’m sure whatever adjustments I made wouldn’t last for long.

My conclusion: The people who produce these watches are criminals (or at the very least not ethical. I don’t believe in supporting crime, especially organized crime. The watch isn’t that great. At best it is good for a single service cycle. Want to chime in on the issue of counterfeits, feel free to comment.

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