Swiss Watch Industry Launches Anti-Fake Campaign

The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry and The Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie have launched an international ad campaign to stop consumer purchases of counterfeit watches. The aim is to inform consumers of “the damage caused by this global scourge,” the two organizations said in a joint statement.

The campaign was announced Jan. 19 by officials of both organizations at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, the annual international luxury watch show, held in Geneva, Switzerland. The FH represents more than 90 percent of Swiss watchmakers, while the FHH promotes luxury watchmaking and sponsors SIHH.

The campaign organizers are asking consumer, lifestyle, and watch trade publications around the world to publish cost-free, the campaign’s ad (pictured left). It shows the unconnected hand and wrist of a mannequin wearing a watch (with “Fake” on the dial), with the taglines, “Fake Watches are for Fake People. Be authentic. Buy Real.” As of Jan 21, the campaign had commitments from about 25 publications to publish the ad free.

Consumer purchases of counterfeit watches—mostly knock-offs of luxury watch brands—is having a serious impact on the watchmaking business, economies, and even social order, FH and FHH said.

The FH estimates more than 40 million fake Swiss watches are made annually, eclipsing the 26 million authentic ones exported in 2007 (the most recent figure). Fake Swiss watches generate net profits of $1 billion annually, or six percent of total Swiss watch exports for 2007 and a blow to business of prestigious Swiss brands.

For all counterfeit products, calculations based just on seizes worldwide by government customs officials indicate counterfeits and piracy globally amount to $200 billion to $360 billion a year, or 5 percent to 7 percent of all international trade.

Consumers who buy fake watches help support “this thriving industry” of counterfeits, while failing to realize” the full extent of the damage they cause, in particular in human terms,” the joint statement said. “What they believe is a harmless purchase has serious consequences on companies and nations.”

Fine watch brands are hard-hit in several ways, campaign organizers said. Their reputations, capacity for innovation, and sales suffer, and they must invest significant amounts of money to fight illicit copies and protect their intellectual property rights.

At national levels, counterfeiting of all goods is forcing governments—which lose tax revenues and jobs for citizen because of it—to invest heavily in the fight against fakes.  Just a serious, say the FHH and FH, the enormous amounts of money generated by counterfeiting goes to “criminal organizations and terrorist groups which dominate this illicit trade, [where] child labor is commonplace, and health and safety standards are openly flouted.”