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Fake watches on eBay: what you need to know

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    An introduction to Fake watches in eBay

    If you would google for stories of people who acquired a fake Rolex, Breitling, or any other luxury watch on eBay – I guarantee you that it will take you no longer than exactly 1 minute to find numerous stories. Undeniably, eBay is a truly fantastic platform to sell and buy many types of goods, but unfortunately is in our opinion less suited for selling expensive luxury watches. There are numerous stories of people who paid quite hefty sums of money for -which they thought- were authentic genuine watches to later find out (for example when they would have their watch serviced) that it is actually a fake watch.

    Identifying fake watches from pictures alone is nearly impossible. Even when you would have it in your hand it oftentimes takes a trained eye and closely investigating the movement to spot a fake or incorrect watch. In this blog we also describe the staggering number of convincing replicas, which are available due to the simple reason that there is significant money to be made by criminals selling counterfeit watches in this multi-billion euro industry.

    We are writing this blog to make you aware of fake watches being sold on eBay and what you can do to make sure you will not make the mistake of purchasing a fake or incorrect watch from eBay.


    Are watches on eBay fake?

    Watches on eBay can be fake. Although the company initiated an authentication service in the US. "Custom" watches are not eligible, and these custom watches are almost always fake watches. For buyers outside the US, there is no possibility to use this service yet. 

    Be careful and if your not sure or want to be sure about the authenticity, involve this service to make sure to avoid buying a fake watch.

    What happens if you buy a fake watch on eBay?

    You have to email photos and a detailed description of why you think it is fake to the eBay customer service. Let a watchmaker help you describe the details and make good photos through a loupe.

    There is an online authentication service that can help you make your case or even help you buy a 100% authentic watch on eBay.

    Is it illegal to sell fake watches on eBay?

    In their policy eBay says it is not allowed. Unfortunately they don't check all watches so there are still fake watches being sold on the platform. See details below for a detailed explanation and examples of fake watches.

    Is it safe to buy watches on eBay?

    Criminals and fraudsters are still active on eBay. As it is easy to fool watch buyers with "super fakes". Make sure to have your watch authenticated by an experienced watchmaker to avoid buying a fake watch.

    About eBay and fake watches

    eBay is a Marketplace

    In our recent blog about the pre-owned online watch market we described that eBay is a marketplace-type platform. Which means that eBay does not have their own stock of pre-owned luxury watches, but instead serves as a platform where buyers and sellers (ranging from individuals to large watch resellers) are connected.

    Tip! For a very detailed review of the advantages and disadvantages of Chrono24 and many other platforms read this article.

    Our research and experience on eBay

    If you were to read the General Terms and Conditions on eBay (which nobody does, but we did with pleasure for you), you would read what we have set out for you in this blog. There are several policies and guidelines developed by eBay to protect their buyers. In addition we have contacted the Global Service team of eBay extensively to understand how the new eBay Authentication Guarantee exactly works.

    In this blog we have dissected these policies, based on which we make an assessment if respective policies are sufficient and appropriate to protect buyers from purchasing a fake watch on eBay. As you will read in this blog, there is a bit of a ‘grey area’ in the market for pre-owned luxury watches. For example, there are numerous presumably authentic watches being sold on eBay, with custom or aftermarket parts. Aftermarket parts are not produced by Rolex, similar could be true for custom parts, so in fact these parts are not authentic. Nonetheless there are numerous watches with such parts being sold on eBay, and thus allowed under the rules of the eBay Counterfeit Policy.

    Continue reading this blog to find out more about the specific guidelines and policies and how these potentially affect you as a buyer:

    • eBay Counterfeit policy
    • eBay Money Back Guarantee
    • eBay Buyer Protection
    • eBay Authentication Guarantee

    The purpose of this eBay review is not to bash eBay, we believe this is a great (auction) platform for selling and buying items that are not prone to convincing counterfeit products. For items like luxury watches, luxury bags, jewelry and similar items we feel that there is little that eBay does to protect their buyers to truly avoid the sale of fake or counterfeit products.

    We feel eBay should be more transparent about the process, and the fact that authenticity of a watch can only be verified when an experienced watchmaker has the opportunity to thoroughly inspect the watch, both from the outside as well as from the inside.

    But what can you expect from the guarantees that eBay gives you as a buyer? Determine for yourself what you think based on reading the rest of this blog.

    1. The eBay Counterfeit Item Policy

     1.1 What does the Counterfeit Item Policy on eBay say?

    We don't allow counterfeit items or unauthorized copies to be listed on eBay”. These are the words with which the eBay Counterfeit Item Policy starts with. Counterfeit products are illegal and not allowed on eBay it says with the following examples included:

    • Fakes, copies, or replicas of brand name items (for example, a shoe with the Nike name or logo that wasn't made by Nike)
    • Electronics or accessories that use or bear the brand name, logo, or trademark of a company that didn't manufacture the item
    • Bootleg recordings from concerts or other live shows
    • Unauthorized or pirated copies of movies, videos, or software

    1.2 What does this eBay Counterfeit Item Policy actually mean?

    In all honesty, the eBay Counterfeit Item Policy is very short, you are not allowed to sell counterfeit products, period. Good news, right? Well, it turns out that the term ‘counterfeit’ is broadly interpreted by eBay. For example when searching for a ‘Red Rolex Submariner’ it takes us zero point three seconds to find one. But wait –what? No counterfeit allowed? But there are fully Red (bezel & dial) submariners sold on eBay (which are never produced by Rolex), how can that be?

    Fake watch for sale on eBay

    ‍A fake watch sold on eBay as "customized" thus not eligible to the authenticity guarantee. Nevertheless sold for $8,650...

    When reading through the rest of the listing, we read that the Dial, the Bezel and the Bracelet are so they say ‘customer/aftermarket products‘. This means that these parts are NOT produced by Rolex. This would leave you thinking that apparently eBay allows for watches with not-authentic parts to be listed on their website – as long as the sellers indicates that some parts are not authentic Rolex parts? What level of authenticity is the guaranteed to buyers? 90%? 80%? Less? How many “aftermarket” or “custom” parts are allowed until a watch is flagged by eBay as ‘counterfeit’?

    ‍A fake watch sold on eBay as "customized" thus not eligible to the authenticity guarantee. The seller clearly indicates "custom" which is used to avoid that buyers can opt in for the authenticity guarantee or any money back in case they uncover this watch is a incorrect and unauthentic watch.

    This is something that we, at Relleb, find absolutely crazy to believe. What if you would indicate that the movement is ‘custom’ or ‘aftermarket’? Which is basically the heart of a watch? We believe that this puts buyers at a risk, because perhaps buyers overlook such details/descriptions, and are thus under the impression that they acquired a fully authentic watch. You will also see that the eBay Money Back Guarantee (next chapter) will not apply for you – as you have received what was listed, and thus cannot dispute the purchase either. In addition, please take a close look at the picture above. The detailing on the watch case seems not representative of Rolex quality as well, who is there to say that the authentic Rolex parts are indeed authentic?

    We even found a watch with a ‘Custom Case ánd Custom Bezel’, selling for $12,000.- and since this seller does not take returns either we truly hope the buyer knows what he is getting himself into when purchasing this watch...

    A seller not accepting returns for his "customized" watch which is not eligible for the Authenticity Guarantee of eBay and cannot be send back when the customer unveils the watch is incorrect and not authentic.

    Summarizing you could argue that the eBay Counterfeit Item Guarantee is operating in a grey area, as apparently it IS allowed to sell presumably authentic watches, which are equipped with non-authentic (e.g. custom or aftermarket) parts. Not to mention, who is there to say the authentic parts are actually authentic?

    2. The eBay Money Back Guarantee policy

     2.1 What does the Money Back Guarantee Policy on eBay say?

    To ensure all of our members have a great experience on eBay, most purchases are covered under eBay Money Back Guarantee”. And yes you have read that correctly, most purchases are covered in eBay’s Money Back Guarantee policy, but apparently not all. In their policies, eBay describes the specific cases when you can and when you cannot make use of the Money Back Guarantee. As a starting point, there are three cases when you should be covered under the guarantee:

    • You don’t receive an item
    • You receive and item that doesn’t match the listing
    • You receive an item that’s broken or faulty


    When talking about the sale of luxury watches on eBay, the eBay Counterfeit Policy prohibits sellers from selling fake watches. Thus, if you were to receive a luxury watch bought through eBay without any custom parts and it would turn out to be a consisting of fake parts, then the second bullet would apply under the rules of the Money Back Guarantee “you receive an item that doesn’t match the listing”, as the watch is listed as fully authentic.

    2.2 What does this eBay Money Back Guarantee policy actually mean?

    So far so good, right? You would think so, but as you can also read in the policies of eBay: you are NOT covered by the Money Back Guarantee in several scenario’s. For example when you buy the watch and pay with cash, bank to bank transfer, money orders or us of an escrow service. Only payments with PayPal and several credit cards apply for this eBay policy. So that is good to bear in mind when buying through eBay.

    Another thing to bear in mind, as you have read in the eBay Counterfeit Item Policy chapter in this blog, if you were not aware that the watch contained custom and/or aftermarket parts (which should be included in the description of the listing) then you might not be able to make use of the eBay Money Back Guarantee Policy as you received exactly what was listed.

    Even in case the seller would accept you to send back the watch within the seller’s given timeframe, it can still be the case that you as a buyer end up paying for the shipping back costs if the seller’s terms and conditions say so. These potential hidden fees should be considered as well. If the seller does not accept you to return the watch, or does not respond to your e-mails, you are as eBay calls in dispute with the seller and can ask eBay to step in.

    And once you enter that stage, by reading historical information and customer experiences there is no way of telling where you will exactly end up. Reading the Money Back Guarantee does at least not provide you with 100% certainty you get your money back when you buy a fake or incorrect watch on eBay.

    We feel that the Money Back Guarantee does give you, in very specific and clear-cut circumstances, a certain form of protection. However, a reactive policy such as may not be fully suiting when you plan to splash some big time savings on an new luxury watch. If it isn't authentic or you are scammed in any way, you want to be covered by this policy we can imagine. 

    3. eBay Buyer Protection

     3.1 What does the Buyer Protection on eBay say?

    If you, as a buyer on eBay, have not received the item you purchased, or if the item is not as described, then you can open ‘a case’. The case will be reviewed by eBay, and if you as buyer are considered to be victimized or duped by the seller in any way – you will receive your money back from eBay. We have no direct experience with the eBay Buyer Protection luckily, but given what we described in the eBay Counterfeit item Policy and eBay Money Back Guarantee Policy chapters we feel that it might be difficult as a buyer to dispute the receipt of a counterfeit watch or watch with counterfeit parts.

    3.2 What does this eBay Buyer Protection actually mean?

    There are numerous stories out there (for example this story on Reddit: link) where the seller claimed that the buyer switched the watch upon receipt. Good luck to the buyer proving that he actually received the fake watch and did not swap a real watch for a fake watch. You might even risk the loss of the money if the seller would make a strong case and could convince eBay that you, as a buyer “falsely claimed that an item was not as described”, as described in eBay’s policies.

    4. eBay Authentication Guarantee

    4.1 What does the Authentication Guarantee say?

    The eBay Authentication Guarantee is a service that is being offered by eBay for certain luxury products and since September 2020 to watch buyers as well. To ensure the authenticity of these items before they are authenticated by a third party before they are send to the customer. And for free, as eBay indicates "eBay covers the cost of authentication" but nevertheless mention "eBay reserves the right at any time, in its sole discretion, with or without notice to you, to institute, alter or amend fees or costs associated with the Services". In essence, this is a great service which sounds great, and valuable for each watch buyer on eBay to finally get some well deserved protection.

    When reading the details of the guarantee however, we note that unfortunately this service is limited to number and specific types of watches. At first it only applies to watches sold from and to somebody in the US with a value of >$2k. Additionally we read that smart watches, watch parts, watch accessories and customized watches are not eligible. eBay calls this "Eligible products".

    As you could read in chapters 1-3 in this blog however, a significant number of watches sold at eBay contains customized and/or aftermarket parts, making them not eligible for this Authenticity Guarantee. On top of that the supposed independent party is undisclosed, and there is no way to verify if this party is indeed independent. We have had contact with the Global Service department only to find out they will not disclose this party as they also don't disclose full names of employees of the Global Service department. To be honest, this doesn't make sense to me because I just want to understand who is actually opening my watch and why should we put any value on their conclusion?

    The prices are also not transparent, based on what we have read we are unable to easily find the exact fees charged to customers for this service. eBay mentions there are no additional costs for the buyer as "The Services are provided at no cost to sellers and buyers for Authenticity Guarantee Eligible Items that are bought or sold on". But from our information received from sellers we understood the commission is supposedly 20% (!).

    On top of the above, eBay mentions specifically in item 5.a. of their terms and conditions that "eBay reserves the right at any time, in its sole discretion, with or without notice to you, to alter or amend the eligibility requirements for Authenticity Guarantee Eligible Items, including, but not limited to category, and/or value of items and/or transactions". How is that for being clear and providing customers and sellers with certainty?

    4.2 What does this eBay Authentication Guarantee actually mean?

    Fundamentally we believe the eBay Authentication Guarantee could be a good service that protects buyers when purchasing a luxury watch. However, the number of watches that are eligible is at first limited, the prices and commissions are not transparent and this service is only available for watches >$2k shipped to and from the US. Custom watches are not eligible (representing most fake or incorrect watches on eBay). And last but certainly not least, the party that does the 'independent' authentication is undisclosed, making it impossible for buyers to find out if this party is independent from the seller and/or eBay itself and is indeed a reputable party able to conduct authentication services.

    The commissions will be factored in by sellers as they want to receive a certain amount of proceeds from their sale. So making a bold statement saying buyers don't have to pay anything just doesn't make any sense. And if I were to buy a watch online, I would happily pay a little bit extra for some protection over authenticity. But only if it is a reputable party.

    When testing out the possibilities we used a US VPN and selected the Authenticity Guarantee on Rolex searches. Finding out there are no hits (please note this was done on 20 September 2020, please let us know if you have another outcome when you select for it);

    In our discussions with the the Global Service department we weren't helped at best. To be honest, we got the feeling they had no idea how it actually worked. Now 4 days later, I still don't have a response in my mail about how it works from the Netherlands or EU and why I couldn't find any eligible Rolex items on eBay.

    Conclusion on eBay

    We consider eBay a great platform, on which we have purchased products in the past as well and you can score great deals. However, such a platform in our view is not suitable for selling high-value luxury watches, which is a product that is often faked – leaving many buyers duped. Ideally, each watch should be authenticated by a third independent party before it is shipped to the buyer.  They just launched there “authentication guarantee ”, but is currently limited to a number of eligible watches and the process including the involved authentication partner are undisclosed. Next to that commissions that apply for this service is covered up and in addition, when you buy a watch you still have hidden fees for shipping, which will be added to the buying price. All in all not really a surprise you are looking for and transparency is clearly not on the agenda.

    We consider it a must that pre-owned luxury watches are fully authenticated by an trustworthy independent third party before it is sold to a buyer, as there are simply to many convincing replicas out there harming the market and especially harming buyers and watch collectors around the world. Confusing buyers what is and what is not eligible together with covering up the commissions that actually apply is not in our ideal picture of trading watches safely online. In addition, we would like to understand who is actually performing the authentication and how it works. What checks are being provided and how does a buyer know what is actually checked? Something we at Relleb integrated in our process to enable customers to understand our process and enjoy the journey of a watch in a watchmakers hand.


    Get full buyer protection on eBay when buying with Relleb

    Again - our goal with writing this eBay review is not to bash eBay, but we believe that safe online buying should be available for everyone and that is exactly why we founded Relleb. Fundamentally we believe eBay is moving in the right direction with there Guaranteed Authenticity but it is just messy right now and not serving to the needs of true collectors and watch enthusiasts.

    At Relleb we consider the sale of watches with custom or aftermarket pieces unacceptable, as these watches are not 100% authentic. Additionally, we find it it unacceptable that a false sense of security is created by eBay as they -in our opinion- do not make potential buyers of these watches sufficiently aware that these watches might contain parts that are potentially not authentic.

    Written by

    Kenny Vaes, watch enthusiast, co-owner of Relleb

    Last updated June 5, 2023

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