SIHH Piracy Campaign Poster

First, see the official statement/announcement that has recently been released, then read my comments below it:

“The Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie and the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry are joining forces to launch an international anti-counterfeiting campaign. Their objective is to inform the public on the damage caused by this global scourge.
In spite of the many efforts made, the problem of counterfeiting and piracy continues to wreak havoc on virtually every economy worldwide, and is expanding rapidly through multiple distribution channels, especially online.

Astronomical amounts
Calculations based on Customs seizures show that counterfeits and piracy worldwide amount to US$ 200 billion to 360 billion a year, or 5% to 7% of international trade. Swiss watches are no exception, as the sector is hit full-on by this modern-day plague.
The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FHS) estimates that over 40 million fake Swiss watches are made each year (compared with exports of almost 26 million authentic Swiss watches in 2007) and that they generate net profits of around one billion dollars. This illicit trade, whose main victims are the most prestigious Swiss brands, is equivalent to around 6% of total Swiss watch exports for 2007.

Everyone suffers
In this context, it would be naïve to imagine that counterfeiting can be defeated simply by targeting the counterfeiters and their means of production. This wouldn’t be such a thriving industry without the individuals who buy fake watches, and who fail to realise the full extent of the damage they cause, in particular in human terms. The priority in the fight against counterfeiting must therefore be to speak directly to these potential customers and have them realise that what they believe is a harmless purchase has serious consequences on companies and nations. Legislative weapons and international measures still lack the impact to defeat this global scourge; hence the customers themselves must realise that wearing a fake luxury watch is empty of meaning.

Counterfeiters increasingly target internationally renowned Fine Watch brands, whose reputation, capacity for innovation and sales all suffer as a result. These brands must also invest significant amounts in the fight against illicit copies in all their forms and to protect their intellectual property. As counterfeiting continues to spread, an even more serious consequence is the generalised loss of confidence in companies that nevertheless create jobs and added value. At national level, counterfeiting forces governments to invest heavily in the fight against fakes while losing out on tax revenues, and takes away employment opportunities. Finally, the phenomenal amounts of money generated by counterfeiting go on to benefit the mafias, criminal organisations and terrorist groups that reign over this illicit trade, where child labour is commonplace, and health and safety standards are openly flouted.

A powerful message
Faced with a scourge that undermines companies and countries alike, the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH) has joined forces with the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH) to launch a vast information campaign aimed at the general public. It will take the form of powerful visuals backed by a simple, hard-hitting message: “Fake Watches are for Fake People.” The campaign will be unrolled in the international media that are supporting this initiative. Clearly, the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, whose vocation is to defend and promote the values of Fine Watchmaking and its professions, could not stay silent in the face of counterfeiting. The time has come to challenge this plague on innovative, socially-responsible, high-tech businesses.

We can no longer stand by and do nothing, so let’s say it out loud: “FAKE WATCHES ARE FOR FAKE PEOPLE!”

Done? Yea that was a bit painful to read. Not because of the “travesty of fakes watches” but because this statement is so non-consumer oriented. It was as though they needed to release something, but didn’t know what to say. I am not the first person to comment about this press release. As soon as it was released, the well-thought Harry Tann had a few things to say that I mostly agree with, and I will be reiterating a few of his thoughts. I only do so to provide a complete thought.

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Lets get a few things straight, the watch industry is mostly the luxury industry. Meaning that the items are mostly expensive and well made. The fake watch industry is the complete opposite, as the items are typically cheap and ill-made. Are these two really serving the same market? The bottom line is that there is no real proof that the fake watch industry really hurts the luxury watch industry. The same people who are buying fakes watches are not the people who can even afford the real ones. Thus, you are really not taking away from the luxury market. If anything, fake watches only enhance the desire for the real, quality authentic watches that faces cannot truly replicate. And if the fakes can replicate them easily, then they aren’t luxury watches worth their high price.

Ah, but there is one scenario where fake watches are a problem, and I honestly don’t know how much of a problem it really is. This is when a person buys a fake watch thinking it is a real watch. The quality is sub par, and thus the good-will of the brand is eroded. This is a problem, and I can see how this might be an issue. Though, I don’t see how this could be a long standing issue. For someone to be tricked like this, they would need to buy the watch at a retail location. No one worth caring about believes you can buy a real luxury European watch off a street vendor. This retail location would be quickly found and shut down, at least I could not imagine any major city where it would not be. So in my opinion, while this is a potentially serious issue, it is probably not a common issue.

So then, why are the brands so up in arms about fake watches? Well for one thing it is frustrating. It is illegal and it does feel like it is taking customers right out of your pocket. How does a brand stay exclusive if fakes are all over the place? It just doesn’t feel right to them, but I haven’t seen a lot of convincing arguments that show how fakes watches really hurt them. Read the above press release again and think about the arguments. See how they lump numbers together. The titles are powerful, but the substance is lacking in my opinion as someone who is train in argumentation. I am totally sympathetic to the dilemma, but I just don’t like their approach to the issue. It damages the credibility of an entire industry when statements like the one above are released that don’t offer good support and thin arguments.

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Oh, and I know a lot of fake people that wear real watches. I’ll leave the topic open for discussion and I don’t need to go into a long essay on my continued thoughts. Finally, the “instructions” on the ad rub me the wrong way. Triggers the “don’t tell me what to do” segment of my brain. “Be authentic. Buy real?” Get real… Isn’t the luxury watch industry kinda intrinsically connected to the fashion industry. That industry that is notorious for sprouting “fake” people. I mean come on… the ad itself even features a mannequin hand! Go make a nice watch and leave me to trying to afford it.

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