He spent $2,000 on 7 replicas

Peter has spent about $2,000 on his fake watches.
Peter has spent about $2,000 on his fake watches.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Peter wears a different watch every day. The bank executive makes about $2,500 a month, but owns three Panerais, three Rolexes, and an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Safari - his favourite.

A genuine version of this ivory-coloured timepiece would cost $34,000, but Peter, who did not want to be identified by his full name, bought his replica online for only $500.

"Depending on what I wear, I choose a watch to fit," said the 27-year-old.

He has spent about $2,000 on his seven fakes, which he has been buying since the start of this year. The genuine versions would have cost him about $123,000. He is part of the growing market here driving demand for counterfeit timepieces.

"I'm a watch lover, but it's just not financially feasible to buy genuine watches unless you are super rich," he said. "You can buy one genuine (Audemars Piguet), but if you like another few more colours, how can you buy another, or two more? You can buy a car with that money."

He believes that most people who bought replicas generally also owned genuine watches. He said he had two authentic Rolexes of his own. And he also does not hide the fact that some of his watches are fakes. "If anyone asks, I'll tell them my watches are replicas," he said.

But not all buyers of counterfeits are like him.

Some second-hand watch dealers here say that each month, they encounter between one and five customers who try and pass off counterfeit watches as the real deal.

"Usually they start off by telling you their watch was a gift from their father or grandfather. And that's when alarm bells will start ringing," said Mr Alvin Lye, who runs watch dealer Monster Time.

He added that in some cases, sellers might get the watch as a gift, thinking it is the real thing, only to find out it was a cheap fake when they try and sell it. To protect themselves, dealers here are taking no chances.

"Nowadays, if the watch doesn't come with a box or guarantee card, I'm more wary," said Mr Alfred Png of Png Watch Dealer.

But even that was no guarantee - some fake watches these days also come with boxes and guarantee cards, he added.

The Singapore Clock and Watch Trade Association (SCWTA) said that since watches started getting sold online, it has been increasingly difficult to police the situation.

"Some of these sellers are not selling cheap, too, it's a form of cheating. (Sometimes) buyers also unknowingly buy counterfeits," said Mr William Leong, SCWTA's vice-president.

He added that previously, buyers had to travel outside of Singapore to get good-quality counterfeits, but the Internet has made the situation a "free-for-all".

Danson Cheong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 19, 2015, with the headline 'He spent $2,000 on 7 replicas'. Print Edition | Subscribe