Editor’s note: this article has been updated to correct the rankings.
Los Angeles ranks second among cities in the United States with the most high-end fake watches in circulation, according to research released last month.
The survey, conducted by Watchfinder & Co., a resource for buying, selling and parts replacements for preowned luxury watches, estimates that more than 23 million fake watches are in circulation in the U.S. market. At least half of all the luxury watches sent to the company in the past year that were identified as counterfeit or having fake parts were Rolex.
New York City was the first/worst in the nation. Chicago was third.
One of the biggest problems as it relates to luxury counterfeits, the survey noted, is the accessibility of 3-D printers and computer numerical control (CNC) machines, a precision tool that uses preprogrammed computer software to manufacture items.
“Scammers are now able to make replicas look more convincing than ever before,” researchers stated, adding that watches account for approximately 20% of all counterfeit sales and that nearly half of all the fake watches sold cost upwards of $500 or more.
These so-called “super-fakes,” which are not easily identifiable at first glance and require close inspection, make up around 80% of all counterfeits sent to the pre-owned watch authentication company compared to just 20% five years ago.
While some counterfeit watches are completely fake, other legitimate luxury brands can be sold with replica parts, like fake bracelets, dials or clasps. It is often difficult to tell that they are not wholly authentic.
Yet another type of luxury counterfeit is the franken-watch where the parts are all authentic, but the timepiece itself is constructed with different watches of the same type. An alleged Omega brand luxury franken-watch, which went for $3.1 million at auction, was bought by pop star Adam Levine earlier this year.
Levine is not the only celeb that may have been taken by scammers selling high-end franken-watches, according to the Robb Report story. Musician John Mayer filed a lawsuit after learning that a Rolex and Patek Philippe, among several models he purchased for $656,000, were counterfeit.
“Sadly, it comes as no surprise to see how many people are being tricked into purchasing fake goods, especially since spotting them isn’t as easy as you would think,” the CEO of Watchfinder, Arjen van de Vall, said. “Our research showed that 54% of Americans that have been conned with a fake now say they will never purchase preowned [watches] again.”
More information on how to spot fake watches can be found here.