Timeless Troubles: Rolex and Counterfeit Watches Part II

Rolex counterfeits seized

Welcome to part II of the blog. If you haven’t read the part I of this blog, Click here!

We shall explore the recurring attempts of Rolex to combat counterfeiting.

The Notorious “Operation Pandora” (1998)

In 1998, Rolex turned to disrupting the distribution channels of counterfeit Rolex rather than relying on vanilla serial codes or holograms. The Italian authorities (arguably upon the request) (not cited) detained several distributors as part of the operation for their involvement in the trade in fake watches. 

A one-time enforcement has repeatedly proved that it cannot put a full stop to counterfeiting. With time, companies must shift to modern and technologically advanced solutions to keep counterfeiters at bay. 

2000s Hassles to combat fakes

Hence, Rolex took another significant step, introducing ALE (Advanced Laser Etching) on the crystals of its goods in the early 2000s. The method used here is a precise and intricate laser engraving technology that is difficult to replicate accurately.

Rolex added another layer of security in the mid-2000s by inserting an etched rehaut, the region between the watch dial and the crystal. This tiny alteration proved helpful because it is a challenging location for counterfeiters to copy accurately. The procedure deployed advanced engraving machinery during the manufacturing process. 

Rolex changed the hologram sticker on their watches in the late 2000s to a green hologram on the newer models. Advanced holographic technology was used during this shift to generate a unique, detailed hologram that was challenging to replicate. 

However, the efficacy of this method was compromised by counterfeiters who managed to replicate the green hologram, albeit with varying degrees of quality. The discontinuation of this feature in 2007 was likely due to its decreasing effectiveness against counterfeiters.

Counterfeiting methods have adapted over the years to mimic these features, using increasingly sophisticated laser etching machines. Despite the implementation of these measures, their overall effectiveness has fallen short. The common denominator to all these methods is the relentless determination and ever-evolving technological prowess of counterfeiters, along with Rolex.

Ineffectiveness may also be related to a general lack of customer awareness. Not all Rolex customers know about the brand’s authentication tools, such as laser etching. Taking this advantage, counterfeiters may find it simpler to sell imitation Rolex watches to unwary customers who are unaware of the authenticity markers.

The Blockchain Revolution

In a recent move in Rolex’s fight against counterfeiting, the brand has adopted blockchain technology. Rolex collaborated with Arianee, a blockchain platform, in 2020. This innovative approach involves creating a digital certificate on the Blockchain for each Rolex watch. 

Customers can connect to the Blockchain by scanning a unique QR code on the watch’s documentation or case with their cell phones. The Blockchain preserves the authenticity and ownership history of the watch. This solution takes advantage of blockchain technology’s inherent security and immutability, making counterfeiting extremely difficult. 

Despite Blockchain being the most effective anti-counterfeit measure deployed by Rolex, it has its limitations. As with any technology, counterfeiters may attempt to produce phony blockchain records. This stands as one major drawback of blockchain technology.

We still get to witness significant counterfeiting. $10.1 million worth of counterfeit Rolex watches were seized in a single operation in 2022. The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) confiscated 460 fake Rolex watches during the procedure. Rolex replicas make up approximately half of all counterfeit watches in circulation even yet.

A much more effective system is needed to keep counterfeits at bay and provide consumer safety. A system that can be used to track the supply chain, trace back through the supply chain, and empower consumers (and everyone else) to verify the authenticity. All the measures taken up by Rolex so far have proven ineffective, incomplete, and expensive.

The potential solution should be non-clonable (cannot be re-created with minimal effort) and verifiable using standard devices like smartphones. It should also be cost-effective to allow implementation across geographies and scale across drugs in all price brackets. Enabling consumers to verify authenticity and communicating this repeatedly is the only way to prevent revenue loss and deaths.

Brand protection solutions from NOOS ensure that we meet the below baselines in every product we build, namely:

Security: Product information integrity is retained without the ability to clone or tamper with.

Accessibility: Consumers can easily verify authenticity using a standard smartphone or by sending an image via messaging apps like WhatsApp.

Cost-Effective: With multiple layers of security, our solutions are cost-effective compared to conventional serialized 2D barcodes in the long run.

Convenience and ease of deployment: It can be directly printed on packaging or mono cartons, making it operationally efficient for online and offline retailers.

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