Watchmaking puts on a show at the Museum of Counterfeiting in Paris 1

Watchmaking puts on a show at the Museum of Counterfeiting in Paris

In Paris, there is a very peculiar museum focusing on the art of counterfeiting and tracing the history of this fraudulent activity.  Authen’TIC TAC is a temporary exhibition presented until July 2017 and on the subject of the watchmaking industry has been organised in collaboration with the FHS, Baselworld and several brands. Edifying.

By Benjamin Teisseire

A look back in History 

Counterfeiting appeared with the development of trade and the De Falsis Law (promulgated in the Roman Empire in 71 BC) forbidding the use of false goods, is proof of this. Artisans were already adorning their creations with their signature at the time… it was the beginnings of ‘brands’. The Renaissance, with its expansion of arts and crafts saw counterfeiting explode during the 14th and 15th centuries followed by the development of industry and technology in the 19th century marking another leap forward.. Nowadays, in 2016, counterfeiting represents 5%-10% of global trade (global customs estimates) which means significant losses in terms of jobs and revenues.  In particular in the luxury industry, the third largest sector targeted behind prescription medicines and textile. Watchmaking itself represents 9% of global customs seizures. The problem is clearly real.

What is at stake?

Some consider that counterfeiting actually helps brands in terms of brand awareness and that it shows their strength and attraction power. This is a simplistic and erroneous view. For example, if you examine intellectual property, potential image deterioration, loss of exclusivity, customer defiance incurred and funding of organised crime, the affects becomes more blatant. The explosion of e-commerce amplifies these repercussions. The Swiss Watchmaking Federation (Fédération Horlogère Suisse) estimates that 40 million counterfeit watches are sold annually. More than the estimated entire Swiss production of 27 million (FHS statistics 2015)!

Authen’TIC TAC sets the right time

The Parisian show, created in collaboration with Hermès, Hublot, TAG Heuer, Baselworld and the Fédération Horlogère Suisse (FHS), displays amount of work that goes in the production of a timepiece. The evolution of watchmaking since the clepsydra, the design, the creativity, the know-how, the micro-mechanics are cleverly put forth to help understand the fascination for the time measuring objects which became so much more as centuries passed: symbols of luxury, of taste, of social status or even of philosophy. The goal of the exhibition is to make people understand the reach of the corruption that counterfeiting represents.

50 Shades of Fake

The various types of «fakes» are presented, from the most ridiculously outrageous creation to the most deceiving «replica» that imitates the smallest details of the original model up to the packaging and even the invoice. Each type of fake has his own risks and level of deception. The real fake (interesting oxymoron) can damage your skin; the entry level copies will fail within days or weeks; the deceiving copies, which are getting better with better movements and material, but sell for a fraction of the price, can severely damage brand identity. Finally, the «replicas», a misleading name for fakes, literally cheat customers and directly loot brands through the shortfall they inflict on them.

Counterfeiters improve constantly, so does anti-counterfeiting

With the explosion of internet and the opportunities offered by 3D printing, the customs authorities, watchmaking federations and brands have to stop up their game to keep up with this market. Over 12.000 e-sites are under scrutiny, with hundreds are being closed every year. Over one million ads have been withdrawn in 2016 alone (from January until August!) and it is particularly prevalent on social media sites. The legal frame is being harmonised and strengthened. Intellectual property is being more recognised and criminal actions are being launched. Controls, raids and seizures are on the rise. Lastly, field agents are being throughly trained and customers’ information on the risks and the consequences on global trade is intensifying.

Ending the counterfeiting plague is not for tomorrow., but understanding the risks is vital to fight against its efficiently. This interesting exhibition contributes to this well. Insightful and interactive, it makes the visitor think and a must-see if you swing by Paris. It is open from now until July 2017.

Musée de la Contrefaçon, Paris / 16 rue de la Faisanderie / +33 1 56 26 14 03
From Tuesday to Sunday from14h00 to 17h30. Morning by reservation only. 
Authen’TIC TAC from September 2016 to July 2017

And receive each week a custom selection of articles.