Feature: Omega Seamaster – Real vs Fake
If you thought it was only ever Rolex watches being faked, you’d be wrong. I’ll cut straight to the point—one of these Seamasters is a fake. Which one is it? Let’s find out.
The Seamaster has been a mainstay of the Omega collection since it first splashed onto the scene in 1948. It’s been imagined and reimagined multiple times so far in its near-century existence, most recently in 2018 with a new movement and the reintroduction of the wavy dial.
This most new and shiny addition to the pages of the Seamaster anthology has been lauded by some and criticised by others, the in-house movement a big favourite; the laser-cut waves and additional millimetre diameter not so much.
The ink is barely dry on the press material and subsequent reviews on this watch, but the biggest surprise isn’t the new size, new dial or new movement—it’s that there are fakes of it available already. And not cheap, spot-it-from-a-mile-away fakes, either. These are the kind that would have even the most stringent enthusiast in a bit of a sweat.
We’ve seen high-accuracy fakes before, but the Rolexes we see most frequently are, to be quite frank, less of a challenge to forge. Simple cases, closed case backs, plain dials; there’s not so much to get to grips with there—but with the Seamaster, it’s a whole different ball game. Twisted lugs, multiple finishes across the bracelet, scalloped bezel—and those aren’t even the hard bits.
Where the challenge really hots up is with the details. The blue ceramic bezel is finely layered with white paint, the dial laced with blued markers and skeletonised hands, the dial itself a single piece of ceramic etched with the wave motif and finished with a prominent sunburst. There’s a lot to get to grips with here, and none of it has slipped the attention of the fakers. The fake even has the same green lume differentiating the minute hand from the blue of everything else, and—would you believe it—the red ring warning you that you’ve left the helium escape valve open, too.
If you’re thinking that’s it, I can tell you right now that it’s not. The clasp is identical, right down to the dive extension and fine adjustment mechanism. But the mechanism cloning that provides the biggest shock is the movement itself, the calibre 8800. Screw for screw, jewel for jewel, the 8800 has been fully replicated, right down to the black balance wheel and even the anti-shock spring locking down the cap stone. Both get Omega’s trademark radiating stripes and the funny little screw that holds down the rotor weight.
Surprised? You should be. Concerned? It’s hard not to be. The ability to accurately replicate a high-precision object with technology has clearly come on leaps and bounds in recent years, to the point where a watch as recent as this can already be competing not just with Rolexes and Breitlings —but with itself as well. It’s certainly hard to tell the difference between the two, the fake being so close—but is it infallible?
If you’re an owner of an Omega Seamaster of this variety, the biggest question on your mind right now will probably be, “Did I make a £4,000 mistake?”. Given how accurate this fake watch is, it makes you wonder how its genuine cousin can cost ten times as much—money that’s coming from your bank account that may not have needed to.
Let’s be frank—it’s all down to what you want. If you just want something that looks like an Omega on your wrist, it’s going to be hard to convince you to part with the bulk of that cash—but if you want a piece of high-quality Swiss watchmaking, however, the fake is simply going to be a few hundred pounds down the drain.
Within the sphere of watch owners and collectors, the Seamaster—and particularly this new one—is actually considered a bit of a bargain. But how can that be when a near-exact replica can be purchased for a tenth of the price? Of course, there’s the discussion of marketing, development, labour etcetera, etcetera, but there are real, tangible benefits to buying the real watch that will make it a no-brainer if they’re things that are important to you.
The first is that the genuine watch was made by a company that was established nearly two centuries ago, that took great strides in how this industry operates at its very foundation—and that’s evident in every detail of how this Seamaster is crafted today. It may be easy to produce a precise copy of a component that can fool the eye at arm’s length, but Swiss watchmaking is about more than that.
Take a look at the dial. On the genuine watch, the hands and markers look like they could have been cut straight from sapphires, so smooth and glossy is the mirror finish. Compare the fake, and its finish is uneven, the components themselves bearing the hallmarks of the machine that made them. The same goes for the print, the application of the lume, waves etched into the dial. The fake gets some of the way, but the genuine—and here’s the bit you pay for—goes much, much further.
If you’re thinking to yourself, “That’s such a tiny difference, why would I care about that?”, then that answers the question, really. If you see the difference in terms of skill, workmanship and tradition, the craft of a trade handed down through generations that requires decades to master, then you’ll see why the Seamaster is considered such good value. And if you’re on the fence, well—let me show you the movement.
It’s not so obvious, but the fake watch is a little thicker than the genuine, and that’s down to one simple little trick: this movement isn’t a full replica of the original, not at all. Even for the people making fakes, there are costs that become too prohibitive to spend. No—in order to make a movement that looks identical to the calibre 8800, the fakers have taken an existing movement and dressed it up to look like the genuine. The real movement lies underneath the fake, but even the dressing can’t hold a candle to Omega’s finishing. As for the co-axial escapement, silicon hairspring, METAS chronometer certification and anti-magnetism to 15,000 gauss? You can forget about that.
With the accuracy that’s been achieved with this watch and others, there’s a compelling argument to buy a fake over a genuine. Or at least, there’s a compelling argument to convince yourself to cut corners. But if you love the brand, love its history, the journey it took to being the Omega we know and admire today, and you want to celebrate that—given how believable the fake looks, it’s only yourself that you need to convince. Never mind the difference in quality, originality, development, heritage—can you really be happy knowing that you didn’t get what you wanted all along?
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