China produces a lot of pirated and counterfeit goods. Recently, the Korean drama Anna has been an enormous success, and one scene in the drama exposed the “fake Chinese-made watch.” The “glass heart” of the Chinese little pinks (young people who love the country and protect the regime) are broken again.

Bae Suzy, a former member of the Korean girl group Miss A, plays Yumi, the female lead in the movie Anna. To step into elite society, Yumi pretends to be the daughter of Anna. She constantly fakes degrees and resumes, lying that she studied in a famous American school.

South Korea’s Mae-il Economic Daily reported that the hashtag “Controversial Anna in Bae Suzy’s new drama” topped China’s Weibo search term rankings on June 30.

The scene in the drama that angered Chinese netizens is from episode 2 when Yumi (played by Suzy) goes to a retail store to resell an expensive Swiss watch she received from Hyun-joo (played by Jung Eun Chae). However, that watch was a counterfeit of a “fake luxury” brand in China, embarrassing Yumi.

Allkpop quoted the salesperson answering Yumi in the film, “That watch belongs to a brand that participated in the famous scam four or five years ago. Don’t you know? Parts of the watches are all from China, but the screws are from Switzerland, so it’s labeled “made in Switzerland.” It’s only worth about $77, but they sell it from $6,000 to almost $8000.

After watching this scene, many of the “glass hearts” of the Chinese little pink broke again. Chinese netizens were outraged. They claim that the footage portrays China as a country that only produces fakes.

According to Allkpop, some Weibo netizens posted:

  • “Korea always smears China;
  • “We don’t make fakes;
  • “Korea is spreading false information.”

Koreaboo also captured some Chinese netizens’ comments on Weibo.

A screenshot of Mr Kidney’s post said: “Have you seen Suzy’s new TV series, Anna? Many controversial videos. There is a scene where the lead actress is given a fake watch. When she went to resell the watch, the store clerk said: ‘Don’t you know this brand is not good?.’ They said the watch was made in China and then shipped to Switzerland for branding.'” (basically implying that we are a manufacturer of counterfeits).”

Another post has the following criticism by Koreaboo from two blurred accounts: “The new Korean drama is unbearable. They don’t have a market in China anymore, so they can say bad things about our country. So stupid.”

However, Allkpop said the scene was based on an event that caused great controversy in Korea in 2006. At the time, the Vincent & Co. company was caught selling cheaply made watches with parts made in China at outrageous prices. The brand previously promoted its watches as a luxury brand that only European royalty could afford to wear and quickly became popular with the wealthy class in Korea. The Anna film producers even revealed the watch brand’s name to clarify that they took the footage from an actual event.

In addition, according to Vision Times, another scene was criticized by Chinese netizens, who accused the film of looking down on Shanghai. It is a scene about a teacher talking to friends, saying he was sent on a business trip to Shanghai, China, and they “will use staff with a vague background like me.”

History of the fake watch industry’s development in China

There is no doubt that China is rich in counterfeit products. Even mainland media reported that, as China lost to Switzerland and Germany in watchmaking and innovation technology in 2018, the nation’s light industry needed a shortcut to development.

At the beginning of the Chinese Communist Party, also in the early stages of watchmaking, Zhou Enlai proposed a plan, in the 1950s, on the second floor of the Warwick Watch Factory in Tianjin. Four famous masters then learned from the Swiss-made “Sindacal” 15-diamond three-hand watch and made China’s first watch—a five-star brand.

Thus China’s counterfeit watch production was born.

After the tumultuous 1980s, with the emergence of a large number of cheap electronic quartz watches from abroad and automatic mechanical watches, the organizational structure of the Chinese watch industry underwent significant changes.

At that time, the Chinese form of watch production was still simple. So some watch manufacturers changed a few things. They already have an excellent geographical location. As long as the watch design is novel and the quality is stable, they can easily import, export, and circulate to developed areas such as Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan through ports.

Many local merchants are used to make sales and help manufacturers quickly sell their watches nationwide. Thus watch factories near coastal areas with many ports gradually enter the path of counterfeiting Swiss and German timepieces.

In the 1970s, due to its unique geographical location and socio-economic conditions, Guangdong became a testing ground for reform and opening up. As a result, it was allowed to implement particular policies in opening up to the outside world.

Over the past few decades, many watch factories have gone from glory to ruin, forcing the Chinese to reorient the direction of the watch industry. Only a few watch factories survived, such as Tianjin Seagull, Tianwang Watch, Rossini, etc. Still, thousands of other watch factories, such as those in Shijiazhuang or Guangdong, had to close. In that context, watch factories in coastal areas gradually embarked on the path of imitation. Unfortunately, the market for fake watches is so good that it can be said that fakes are sold everywhere.

Many people think sophisticated imitation watches are secretly produced in the dark underground, but that is not the case. Sophisticated imitation watches must be made by highly skilled watchmakers, not family workshops. Such workshops only perform the most straightforward assembly. The supply of fine imitation watches and their fineness in the market cannot be supported and achieved by a family workshop.

The production of watches cannot be done by an independent factory but depends on the joint efforts of many factories. Examples are the N factory, ZF factory, V6 factory, KW factory, JF factory, MK factory, 3A factory, YL factory, and so on. All have their particular brand style; for example, V6 Cartier Blue Balloon, Panerai pam111, Rolex Water Ghost, etc. Each workshop has its main product, and one workshop cannot create all fake watch designs.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Swiss brand Rolex was trendy in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Because of its significant influence and highly recognizable models, watch manufacturers had the idea to copy them. The incident also marked the predecessor of Swiss watches made in China and the introduction of fake watches.

After the fake Chinese watches were produced, some watch factories appeared in the coastal areas of the country’s Southeast region. As a result, the counterfeit watch industry is no longer limited to the appearance of a single fake but even the LOGO of the Swiss watch was copied.

Switzerland seized and destroyed a large number of ‘fake Chinese watches

At the end of 2018, Swiss Customs seized and destroyed nearly 35,000 counterfeit watches made in China, worth up to $350 million. The incident involved 80,000 tons of counterfeit Guangzhou watches sent to New York. Their seizure attracted significant attention from the International Watch Federation!

The Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported on March 28, 2018, that the Swiss watchmaking industry had suffered serious threats from China in recent years. According to the report, fake watches in China can only be detected by a very close examination. Even with a microscope, the flaws and defects of such counterfeit watches are complicated to detect.

Even watch experts find it challenging to spot them as fakes. As a result, many people cannot distinguish these “fake Chinese watches,” and many unscrupulous dealers will sell them for the same price as the genuine article.

Even since 2012, Switzerland’s Swissinfo website said that its country has been cracking down on fake watches from China.

The Swiss Watch Federation argues that the “counterfeit” watches being sold for the same price as the real thing has brought great economic damage to the Swiss watch industry and, of course, damaged the market image of Swiss watches.

Jean-Daniel Pasche, the Swiss International Watch Association lead writer, said: “Swiss Customs has intercepted a batch of sophisticated imitation brand watches smuggled from China to Switzerland, including Patek Philippe, Rolex, Vacheron Constantin, Audemars Piguet, and a host of other high-end brands.

Pasche was shocked. He had not expected that Switzerland, the birthplace of famous watches, would also be lost to counterfeit watches. However, if these watches enter the market, it will have a massive impact on the Swiss watch market.

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