Homage vs. Replica vs. Counterfeit

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If you are a frequenter of any of the popular watch forums you most certainly have seen the discussion pop up regarding fakes, homages and replicas and each persons opinion on each. This is a common topic and often a heated one as some people have very strong feelings regarding one term or another. But, sometimes the discussion is muddled by varying definitions of the terms and which is appropriate in which situation. Having been part of these conversations I have my own thoughts on these terms as they apply to our hobby; my opinion is not the final word, obviously, but my own take based on the definitions of the terms.

Let’s start with what I feel is the most misused term when it comes to watches: replica. When this word is most often used it is in reference to a watch that makes its best efforts to look exactly like another watch only made by a different manufacture. The idea is to as closely replicate the real watch, hence the term replica. That does fit in with the definition of the word, at its core:

1. An exact copy or model of something, especially one on a smaller scale.

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2. A duplicate of an original artistic work.

So by definition the term fits, however there is another component. These watches are made to be deceptive, owners will frequently pass them off as the real thing, which is the intent of putting “Rolex” on the dial of a watch not made by Rolex. Therefore, the proper term to be used here is in fact counterfeit. (Or, in simpler terms: fake.) Looking at the definition of a counterfeit it is clear it fits the situation:

Adjective: Made in exact imitation of something valuable or important with the intention to deceive or defraud.
Noun: A fraudulent imitation of something else; a forgery.

In reality this term better applies to the watches you might find on Canal Street in New York, or on the various replica watch forums. The watches are made to deceive and defraud and at the end of the day are just not the real thing; they are fakes. So where does that leave the term replica?

If you look at recent releases by a number of brands you will see historic pieces re-released as replica designs. This is the same brand that owns the original watch making a new piece in the same design as the previous. A few examples include Hanhart, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Longines and Sea Gull, who have released replicas of earlier watches that have been out of production for some time. This usage seems much more logical and a better application of the term than for those watches not made by the real manufacture and that are meant to look exactly like they were. So where does that leave the term homage? In a bit of a sticky area, actually.

The term homage is defined as “respect or reverence paid or rendered.” So how in the world does this apply to watches? The answer is quite simple, actually: a homage watch is generally thought to be one that “pays respect” to another watch by using elements of its design or style. This is most easy to see in what could arguably be the watch most often used for such reasons: the Rolex Submariner. There are dozens of brands that have copied at least some of the Rolex Submariner’s elements for their own watches. Everyone from Timex to Seiko to Orient, Sandoz, Citizen, Steinhart and many, many more have made watches that bear their own name, but take some (or many) design cues from the Sub. Naturally this is not reserved strictly for Rolex, but other brands have iconic designs that have been copied as well. And it seems that for the most part if these brands are not trying to claim to be what they are not, made by the original manufacture, most of the watches are left alone and available for purchase. But, there is a sticky area that I mentioned.

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Perhaps a questionable one is a better way to put it. In the past few years a number of new “brands” have popped up on the internet that share the same design elements as popular watches yet do not bare the original brand name. So what’s the problem? The area of origin is frequently the issue; it is believed that brands like Alpha and Parnis will roll out of the same factor that makes the counterfeit watches many dislike. Given this belief many scorn these watches as being no better than the counterfeits that have the original brand name. Others, however, feel that as long as they are not attempting to pass them off as counterfeits the watches are fine as is, branded as Parnis, Alpha, or whatever, even sterile with no brand name.

Beyond these more straight close to 1-to-1 homages there is the category of homage watches produced from watches that are no longer in production. Watches like the Omega Seamaster 300 of the 60s, the Nav B-Uhr watches of WWII or marine chronometers are examples of styles or watches that are out of production and paid homage to by a number of brands. In these terms the homage watch may be more acceptable to some; these companies are trying to bring forward a watch with elements from one that is not readily obtainable by most people.

On some level the homage watch correlates to a cover song: some make efforts to sound exactly like the original piece whereas others make attempts to use elements of the original mixed in with different stylistic elements. Some may argue about watches being completely different than music, certainly, however the parallels are still there. This area really comes down to a matter of personal beliefs and where you feel comfortable standing on the line. At the end of the day there is no wrong answer here, just the one you are comfortable with.

These terms tend to sometimes bring out the ugly in people, especially when their opinions are very strong one way or the other. The above are how I see the definitions and how they fit into the watch world, yours may obviously vary. Using at least some common definitions can only help our conversations be more productive and engaging so we can help each other learn and enjoy this hobby even more.

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Residing in North Idaho, James has been wearing a watch for over 35 years. With growth of the internet in the late 90s watches as an interest turned into an obsession. Since that time he has been a watch forum moderator, watch reviewer, contributor to Nerdist, and operates Watches in Movies in his spare time.
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  • I think the passion with which people argue is a good thing but there are many people who simply don’t understand the reality of making a product and why this industry isn’t exempt from imitation. How many times have you went to purchase an item on Amazon and noticed there is a no name brand selling a similar item for nearly nothing. It’s because whatever is making money will be copied cheaply so someone else can undercut the big guy. Supply and demand sucks when you have an irrational love for an object or a brand (ahem… Rolex enthusiasts) because it means people will want a cheap version to be part of the club.

    I dislike counterfeit watches of course, but if a company wants to make an inferior or inexpensive product completely modeled on another one and name it something different, that is their business. People would want to bring up copyright laws but those aren’t universal and if you honestly study them, they really aren’t fair anymore either. So I say live and let live, love what you love, and let people who can’t afford the real thing buy an homage and stop judging them. Be happy that they enjoy watches since that is a minority opinion already.

  • I was in Las Vegas for the weekend and was wearing my Steinhart OVM when I walked into a Rolex store. One of the salespeople noticed it looked similar to a Rolex and seemed genuinely interested in the watch, but used the word “cute” to describe it. They showed it to another employee and he basically scoffed and carried on without looking at me.

    They clearly didn’t draw differences between homage and counterfeit!

    • I wonder if those rolex employees even know what a Rolex Mil-sub is. Many people who work in watch retail are remarkably ignorant about watches.

      It wouldn’t suprise me one bit if you came in wearing an actual mil-sub and the rolex employee then proceeded to tell you the reasons you should upgrade to a new ceramic dialed sub.

  • I don’t believe the simple dictionary definitions work. I wrote a article about this too, explaining that all branding is fake and the market concept of “stickiness”:

    http://www.outsidecontext.com/2012/11/23/watches-homages-and-branding/

  • So Davosa Argonautic Ceramic Gunmetal is a replica or homage of the Omega Seamaster 300 M Chronometer?

  • One could also argue whether most small size cars are fakes or replicas. A Toyota, Mazda and a Chevy pretty well all look alike now, except for trim and lights. So…if you can afford top quality, pay for top quality. If you are on a budget, well stay interested in the hobby and buy what you can afford.

  • I’m not entirely sure that when a brand rolls out a watch model that they’d discontinued in the past the term Replica can be used though. Because it’s still the real deal.

    These watches, often anniversary releases, are never 100% the same. Branding may have changed, or how they’ve applied the markers, or whatnot. I like to call them re-releases, myself. I can think of Tag Heuer as a great example of this, where they’ll release an old model, maybe or maybe not updated, but with only the Heuer emblem on it. More often than not the movement has changed, or the way it’s finished or the dial or pushers if it’s a chronograph. And even then, I’d still never call it a replica. In cases like that I think re-releas makes more sense.

  • It is insane how big a market there is for fakes and replicas. I found this article useful for telling fake swiss watches.

    http://swiss-watch-brands.com/how-to-spot-a-fake-swiss-watch/

  • Some people think that homage or replica or counterfeit whatever it is, are spoiling their genuine watch value. A person spending 10k for a genuine watch and a guy purchasing a homage in just 200$. For those who cant tell the difference both are wearing a rolex, they see both as the same. This makes an original user embarrass the person using a homage.

    Well thats their story, for me yes i do admire people having a good valuable watch, but when i dont have enough to buy them instead of getting a homage or replica, i go for a cheaper brand like swatch or tissot. I was in my secondary school when my mother bought me an ALBA watch, even today after like 11 years I am still using that same watch. Now my mother gave me a RADO. I also have a swatch. So i think using cheaper brands is also a good practice rather than having a watch which u know is worthless and is just appreciated by the name it is having in the dial.

    Well thats just my thought

  • original watch is original. i use to wear a china manufactured replica watch but when i got my first salary i bought the original rolex 😀
    my idea about homeage and forefeit watches was not clear but this article clears it (Y)

  • i hate fake watches fakes watches sellers should be punished
    http://www.buycheaprolexwatches.com/

  • Things are good or bad, do not solve the fundamental problem, some swiss replica watches is good

  • Things are good or bad, do not solve the fundamental problem, some swiss replica watches is good casadecuentos.com

  • Jason Luke Wright

    Breitling started several watches. In 1952, the Duplicate
    Breitling Navitimer View premiered, a wristwatch equipped with a so-called
    “navigation computer” that enabled pilots to compute flight
    strategies. This view became an immediate favorite amongst aviators. In 1962,
    the Cosmonaut was introduced supplying a 24-hour chronograph. Scott Carpenter
    wore this watch when he flew the second-ever manned flight in United States. http://buywatchestop.com

  • juki1342

    Great article, I completely agree with your view on homage watches. I can’t understand why people keep ripping apart the homage watch industry. Of course they don’t have an original design, that’s not what they’re all about. What they do offer is an affordable alternative to people who like the design of classic watches without wanting/being able to spend 5k$+ for a timepiece. The quality of these watches is getting better and better since big brands have started producing them, and they often come with quality mechanical movement. Just a short overview for the sceptics :

    http://invictawatch.com/collections/view-model/8926-pro-diver

    http://www.homagewatches.net/pilot-homage-hamilton-pilot-day-date/

  • McIain

    well said… the day I can afford a Rolex Submariner is the day I’ll buy one. Until then my Seiko homage will do fine 🙂

  • Fred Goraieb

    …I like the term Homage because an Homage is more flattering…it’s been said that imitation is the highest form of flattery, so I think homage is good as long as it does not try to completely replicate the original. I have an RX-8 that has the “look” of an Austin Martin. It does not compare, but it is fun for me to drive and people seem to like the RX-8 and know it is not an Austin. I am not rich, do not want to be, but I do like some things that only the super-rich can afford, such as a Rolex. Unfortunately, my Champaign taste does not match my Dos Equis pocket, so I stick with homages like Seiko, which is a wonderful watch company in its own right–not Swiss, but good nonetheless. However, there is one Rolex I love and that is the Daytona. I have not found a good enough homage Daytona, but have found “faux” Daytona that look just like the real thing…I have this thing about the rich, that they can buy the watches they love money not an object, and therefore I think it is fair for a poor guy like me to buy a faux Daytona. If the rich can steal my money, then I have the right to steal their mojo, sort of speak. So, I am seriously considering getting my faux Daytona because I LIKE IT, and if the rich or wannabe-rich have an issue with that, so be it…the rich have no qualms about taking things from people, so why should I feel guilty about wanting to enjoy some things they enjoy. Apropos, in America you can get California “Champaign”–the rich drink it–and the wineries have no issue calling it Champaign: “There are many people that feel the term “Champagne” can legitimately, legally and morally only be applied to sparkling wine that comes from the Champagne region of France. With this in mind, can the term ”California Champagnes” by properly used? The answer is yes it can… sometimes. If you wish to try and read the legalese surrounding the ability to use the term “champagne”, check out the U.S. Code found here: U.S. Code TITLE 26, subtitle E, CHAPTER 51, Subchapter F, PART III, § 5388.” And, what do the rich call their “faux” Champaign”? Champaign. True, they do not call it Möet, nor should they. So…when–and if I buy my faux Rolex Daytona–if someone asks me, “Is it a real one?” I am going to turn to them and say, “Do I look like someone WHO COULD AFFORD A REAL ROLEX?” Hopefully, they will appreciate the humour…

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