I bought a fake Rolex so you don’t have to. I bought it from a company called TrustyTime ? I’m pretty sure it’s just one guy, but let’s call it a company ? and what I got was a red-faced Oyster Perpetual with automatic movement and a case that looked like a real Rolex.

That’s where the similarity stopped.

This Rolex, a replica or homage or whatever you want to call it, had an awful, tight bracelet. The movement was rough and had two positions ? one position for setting the time and apparently another setting for a nonexistent date window. The seconds hand jerked like a Vostok when you set the minute hand and the lume, while evident, was invisible after a few minutes.

In short, I paid $230 or so for the experience of owning a Rolex without the pain of dropping $5K or more on a real one. And many outside of the watch world would see the sense in my decision. I got the sizzle without the steak.

But I implore you, don’t do what I did. It’s not worth it. And I say this knowing full well that the people at Rolex don’t care if you buy a fake. After all, your purchase props up a brand that is alread doing just fine without you.

Here’s the problem: this fake Rolex doesn’t actually mean anything to the brand. You and I, after all, are non-entities. Buying a fake OP or a fake Panerai or a fake Breitling or a fake anything seems like a clever jab at an industry that finds your interest in it uninteresting. You are, after all, an average watch fan, useless to the bigwigs at LVMH and the Swatch Group. You’re buying gray market, you’re buying secondhand, you’re trading. You’re not lining their pockets by picking up $27,000 watches on a weekend in Vegas.

So they don’t care if you buy a fake. Hell, until a few years ago they’d probably snub you in the store if you walked in so why would they care if you wear the mirage of their product on your wrist?

But here’s the problem: we’re watch lovers. We consider timepieces to be the best products of a lost mechanical age. To carry a Breguet or Rolex or any mechanical watch produced by a company that values quality over quantity, from Seiko to RGM to Kobold, is to carry the brains of a genius on your wrist. And so we should respect that.

A Rolex will last your lifetime. I have a small Explorer II, bought used, that I love. It tells time even as it ages, even as the lume dies and the face begins to craze. It tells the time as time passes. It is a perfect watch, designed by men and women who saw timekeeping as a sacred task and not a fashion statement.

The fake Rolex I have is a testament to all that is wrong with the industry. It’s faked not because Rolex makes a good watch. Instead, TrustyTime sells fakes because they look good on the wrist. Absolutely you should wear gold and diamonds or whatever else. But if you’re serious about watches, you know the value of a good steel taskmaster ticking along on your travels.

So don’t buy fake Rolexes. It’s stupid and when you’re found out ? and a smart watch lover will be able to tell ? you’ll feel stupid. It was a small price to pay to perform an experiment: would this fake watch would give me as much pleasure as, say, my father’s old 1960s Omega Constellation purchased in Stuttgart when he was the age I am now, a watch I wear not because it is brightly colored or features precious metals but I wear it because it reminds me of him and, more important because it still runs after all those long and now lost years?

It didn’t. And it never will.

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Last Update: December 30, 2020

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