Monochrome Watches
An online magazine dedicated to fine watches

Horological Cyber-Warfare: Swiss Brands Targeting Piracy-Dials for Smartwatches

| By Robin Nooy | 4 min read |

Downloading movies and music without paying is illegal, and if you are caught you can be prosecuted for it. Download a Rolex Milgauss face for your gizmo? Hold on just a second! You could be next in line for the Swiss industry giants to take down a peg or two. Brands like Omega, Panerai, Mondaine and IWC are taking action against the latest phase of horo-theft: smartwatch-piracy.

The global watch industry is an unusually large platform for piracy, as you probably all know. Hundreds of sites selling Bolex, Braitlin, EyeWC or Ublow have been taken down in the past, but they seem to surface again and again. Even more worrying, people are even rebadging a Cartier Rotonde to something called a “Reef Tiger” and try to pass it on as “original designs”, complete with a blue cabochon on the crown. And now we can add copyright infringing digital watch faces to the mix.

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Back at the turn of the century, people used the MP3 music format as the aegis to make ‘back-up’ copies of their music collections. Ostensibly we are seeing the same thought process in place here. It seems like a well thought-out option, especially when lacking funds to buy the real deal. Or think of it like this; you’ve spend ages saving up to buy that one special watch and hate to see it get damaged on holiday. So you buy a smartwatch, and download a digital version of your precious timepiece. That way you can still enjoy that beautiful dial without all the risks.


A quick search online shows it isn’t all about the usual suspects. We’ve obviously found examples of brands you’d expect; Rolex, Panerai, Breitling, Omega, Cartier, Tag Heuer. Smaller, less common brands are being targeted for digital dials too which came as a bit of a surprise. Just take a look at the examples we stumbled upon from Nomos, Bell & Ross, Sinn, Romain Jerome, Baume & Mercier, Mondaine, Ball, or even Nixie Watch. You can, if you’d like, even get the Patek Phillipe Sky Moon Tourbillon or the famed Mickey Mouse watch by Gerald Genta.


For the time being, Android Wear is the main platform that supports these dials. The operating system is the biggest in use to date, as it was launched through the Motorola Moto 360, the Samsung Gear Live, the LG G Watch, ASUS Zenwatch and the Sony Smartwatch. The system will also feature in products from HTC, Broadcom, Intel, MediaTek, Qualcomm and more, so there is a huge potential risk for watch brands. Just imagine when the Apple Watch joins the stage. We’re still very aware of Apple having to pay millions in damages for unauthorised use of the trademarked Mondaine-design.

Yes: it looks ‘cool’ and hints at the future possibilities of smart watches as more brands pick-up the platform but do take into very careful consideration that you are, in fact, crossing a very clear line here. When Rolex and Omega want to produce a smart watch – they will. And, while watch brands are targeting suppliers and distributors, we just as easily see them taking action towards individuals in the future too. (If you think that is unrealistic, Google: Lars Ulrich and Napster. That really happened.)

Not unlike the music industry, watch brands survive to produce pieces that we love so much because of the sales they generate. Every link in the chain of supporting counterfeit products, whether it is rebadged rip-offs, exact replica’s, or in this case digital copies, should be deemed unwanted. Every single effort in breaking copyright laws should be countered with appropriate actions. If we do not set out today to protect the brands we love, they may disappear tomorrow. In music we see it happening every day as the great jazz artists are forced to busk in train stations for money to pay their rent, and the likes of Justin Bieber laugh all the way to the bank. Believe me when I tell you – you do not want to live in a world where MB&F are relegated to the ‘where are they now?’ bin while people fawn over the latest solid gold FOSSIL tourbillon! We’ve seen glimpses of that world – it is ugly.

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