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Mon 13 Feb 2012 10:31 AM

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17,000 fake watches seized in Dubai home

The workshop was the result of a clampdown by Swiss watchmakers

17,000 fake watches seized in Dubai home
(Picture for illustration purpose only)

Nearly 17,000 fake watches were seized as part of a raid on an apartment in Dubai, following an investigation by a trade association representing Swiss watch manufacturers.

In a bid to crack down on the supply of fake watches into Europe, the Bern-based Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FSWI) sent investigators to Dubai to track down those involved in the manufacturing of counterfeit timepieces.

“New investigators were put on the case, using more direct and invasive methods,” the FSWI said. “In just a few weeks, our men discovered an assembly workshop run by Chinese nationals, concealed in a private apartment. The police raid seized nearly 17,000 fake Swiss watches... a major breakthrough,” it added.

Owners of designer clothing stores, gaming distributors and music shops in Dubai have for a long time called for better regulation to tackle the ongoing issue of piracy and counterfeit products in the emirate.

Companies say their revenues are taking a hit where imports of counterfeit goods go undetected, dropping anywhere between 20 and 60 percent due to lower sales.

“Piracy and counterfeit products for DVDs and music is a big issue in the UAE as it negatively impacts sales for retailers,” said Varto Basmajian, music and video regional product manager at Virgin Megastore.

“Whilst this region has rules against counterfeit goods and piracy, these restrictions are not being reinforced at the level of severity that is needed in order to make a difference and bring the consumer back to the shop.

“It is difficult to measure the exact revenue loss, but we estimate it to be approximately 20-30 percent in our industry.”

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), which represents the music industry worldwide and has closed 300,000 illegal websites, is also missing in the Middle East, he said.

According to Dubai Customs data, authorities detected as many as 689 cases of intellectual property infringement in 2010, with the majority of smugglers using the airport to bring in counterfeit goods.

Shipments included anything from CDs, DVDs, shoes, clothes, telephones, baggage and watches, to construction equipment, car parts and food supplements.

In Dubai, stalls selling counterfeit designer clothes and accessories are rife in places such as Karama and the Bur Dubai.

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Jezinho 7 years ago

Whilst to I understand the entertainment industry's fight against piracy (although to an extent they have brought it upon themselves through the creation of DVD regions and iTunes' regional price variations), the fight against hooky handbags and (high end) watches seems fairly pointless. After all, how many buyers of fake Louis Vuitton and Rolex watches have any intention of ever buying the original? In Bahrain, a half decent fake handbag is no more than BD 20 whereas the originals start at BD 500. Isn't imitation the sincerest form of flattery?

Louis 7 years ago

While this is true, if everyone has a Louis Vuitton or Rolex, that dilutes the brand's exclusivity, which will undermine the ability to charge a premium price luxury manufacturers desire. This raid has more to do with protecting and preserving brand image than interpreting counterfeits as a direct substitute for authentic products.

Arif Jameel 7 years ago

This is utterly useless exercise. One of the key attractions of Dubai is this imitation market. If one buys an imitation Arsenal Shirt for his son, that does not mean he will ever buy the original by paying 10 times the price.

Those who want to buy an original Rolex or a LV, will never buy an imitation one. And these imitations actually popularize and make the original brands more and more prominent and famous.

telcoguy 7 years ago

@louis, you are spot on. Not to mention the fact that the fakes may pollute the distribution channel and produce some embarrassing situations (not that the luxury firms had not managed that themselves a few times)
And yes, there is an effect on sales, believe it or not.It is hard to bay 20x or 40x for something that looks really the same. Not all buyers of luxury times are rich, for many is something they save for for a long time. Doing that when you can get the cheap knock-off does not make so much sense.

Salonise 7 years ago

Maybe rolex and louis Vuitton need to examine if their stuff really needs to be so exhorbitant...or if it is worth the price they charge.....or if they need to give better quality for the price they charge.....

If fakes didn't offer value for money they wouldn't sell....

I have seen imitations that are as good as the original.....at 1/10th the price !!!

SAM 7 years ago

Wow! A team of Swiss investigators spending weeks in Dubai using sophisticated techniques to uncover 17,000 fake watches! I mean at $50 a pop you'll get $850,000 retail. It looks like this association had some extra cash to burn and decided to make a vacation of it to its senior members. I suggest this association and others like it do this on a regular basis; it's our only hope to increase hotel occupancy and boost tourism in Dubai to its previous glory; maybe even buy a villa on the Palm as a permanent surveillance HQ.

langyaw 7 years ago

why do people settle for a knock-off instead of the real thing?
1. they can get away with it (no one will think it's fake and it's not illegal for the buyer to do so),
2. they subconsciously punish the original manufacturer for making something they would like to have, but can't afford.
therefore, if the OEMs want to curb the production and sale of imitations, they should work with lawmakers to also make the purchase of such goods illegal. the thing they can do, however, is learn from those who are manufacturing the imitations - how are they able to produce the same quality at a tenth of the cost?
but then again, they wouldn't really want to do that because they want their products only for the "rich-and-famous" market segment. OEMs should find ways to make their products difficult if not impossible to imitate, such as authenticating features or even visibly embedded (bejewelled?) RFID or GPS chips making theft or loss impossible.

Telcoguy 7 years ago

You make some interesting points:
i) are the items "the same quality"? I seriously doubt,specially if we talk about drugs and aeronautical spares
ii) how can knockoffs be cheaper? because labour+materials is probably less than 15% of the total costs. Rest goes better materials (most counterfeit medicines use less of the active ingredients or none) on design (copy artists do not need that) marketing and brand building (ditto) or even R&D (developing a new drug is quite expensive, most of them fail in their tests so if you can just copy the ones that work is a great thing)
iii) owning counterfeit goods is already illegal in Europe, customs may confiscate them on arrival (not sure how aggressively this is implemented though)
iv) many items are already using RFID and other counterfeit

Stev 7 years ago

I like the fake watches because the quality is not bad. Most of my fakes last 3 to 5 years which is fine to replace. I've had 5 fake sin past 12 years with all watches lasting well. Only issue is straps which fail in 2 year, batteries 2 years and one watch that fell off table and minute hand broke. Each was fixed in moe by watch repair in time it took me to show at carrefour. Win win in my book.

Louie Tedesco 7 years ago

Fake watches are for fake people. I commend the work of the SWI. It is overdue that fake product sources are investigated and production stopped. From comments, it is clear that fakes proliferate and are considered good. A walk through the Dubai gold souk involves constant annoyances of peddlers selling genuine-fake-watch and real-fake-handbag. This under the eyes of police officers! The next step should be to go the after local sponsors and Landlords of people involved in selling fakes.