Is it real? A buyer’s guide to spotting a fake TAG Heuer

by John Wallis

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January 11. 2018 - by John Wallis

Heuer has long been one of Switzerland's most coveted watchmakers. Founded in 1860 and legendary for pioneering what many consider to be the coolest driving watches of all time in the 1960s and 70s, the company became so successful in its modern incarnation of TAG Heuer that it has been subject to serious predation by that plague of the industry: fakes.

Replica watches have become every watch collector's greatest fear. Today, they are more widespread and more convincing than ever. When it comes to identifying fake TAG Heuer watches, we must stress that the only failsafe method is inspection by a certified watchmaker. Buying the timepiece with its original box and papers can also go a long way towards peace of mind. However, before reaching out for final authentication, there are certain telltale signs that you can look for on your own to help you weed out any TAG Heuer copies that you come across.


Spotting a fake TAG Heuer can sometimes be straightforward. Take the brand's popular diving watch, for example. If you need to know how to tell if a TAG Heuer Aquaracer is real, your first step should be to do your research. In particular, make sure to compare the watch in question very closely with the specs of what the model looks like. Often, fake watches seem fine on first inspection, but they have certain elements that are wrong or out of position.

A bezel might be too thick or too thin, or off-centre. The inscriptions on the caseback may be in the wrong order, or for a different model. The subdials may be used for complications that shouldn't be on this watch - or the complications may not work as intended. And a host of other problems that only come to light if you know what the watch should have.

Look closer

Smaller things might be less immediately striking, but you don't have to be an expert to notice them. They might be correct for the watch, but not quite of the requisite quality. Crown guards are often malformed or wrongly positioned. Thoroughly check the dial for even the tiniest trace of cut corners. All the text and markers should be immaculate - no smudging or inaccuracies allowed. The logo in particular should be perfect: bright and sharp, with no trace of blotching. Inspect all parts, such as applied symbols on the crown or dial, for signs of glue - a very clear giveaway of a poor fake.

Read the Runes

Another major quality issue for TAG Heuer watches is often the engravings themselves - on the caseback and bracelet. They should be flawlessly machine etched, deep and clear. This is an issue for many Aquaracer fakes as well as for another widely-sought watch family, the sporty Formula 1.

Racing Style

There are other similarities in the Formula 1 when it comes to authentic TAG Heuer identification. Both watches are worth triple checking the bezel. It should turn easily for the correct number of clicks. Just as the winding mechanism in the crown (for mechanical models) should be completely smooth, with no sense of disturbing the movement within.

Guiding Light

Check the luminosity of the watch in a dark room. All indexes should shine brightly and clearly. The lume should be applied evenly and smartly, not in misshapen blobs. Similarly, inspect the date window (if there is one) to see if it is excessively recessed or of poor quality. Make sure the numerals are the correct size and colour for the model.

Front and back

Often it is worth inspecting the sapphire crystal itself, which should be flawless. Some collectors recommend the water test: a droplet placed on a genuine watch crystal should hold its shape, while the rougher quality of a fake will make it disperse across the watch face.

If you really want to test the authenticity of a tricky watch, you may need to open up the case back - something that should only be attempted by a professional. The movement inside may provide many helpful clues to weed out replicas - not just the quality but also the precise specifications can be compared to what should have come out of the Heuer factory.

Get real

As always, we must underline the fact that the only way to be completely sure about your purchase is to totally trust the dealer or retailer. At CHRONEXT we use a certification process implemented in exhaustive detail by our expert watchmakers in our in-house workshop. Every one of the watches on our website - including many fantastic pieces from TAG Heuer - is tested for 100% authenticity, so you can always rest assured about their provenance. Happy hunting!

John Wallis

by John Wallis

Living and working in London, John has been writing about watches since graduating university. He got his start at SalonQP, London's finest watch show, where he was inspired by the breadth and creativity of the modern industry. His fascination with mechanical horology has only grown from there.

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