Two real and and two fake Omega Seamaster 300 m compared
I do not endorse Fakes in any way!
Fakes or replicas make excellent Guinea Pigs for experimenting and self taught watch making


 Which one is real? Can you tell for sure?
Please note that the fakes in this picture are ca. 10 years old. In the mean time the fakers have not been idle and sometimes come up with even better looking fakes that are much closer to the originals! I have written this article to sharpen your eyes so you can hopefully better spot fakes and avoid buying them in the the future! Click here to see which one is real or even better, read the article to learn to find out yourself!

 

Table of Contents

Chapter 2 is the original article written in July 2002. In March 2006 I have revised the article and added a comparison of a fake Quartz Seamaster plus general thoughts about fakes. In April 2009 in the face of a lingering world economics, I have revised the article for a 4th time.

 

1. The Goal of this Article

2. Comparing the Outside of the real and fake automatic Seamaster

2.1 The movement of the fake automatic Seamaster

2.2 The Bracelets and Clasps

2.3 Comparing the Cases

2.4 The Helium Valve

2.5 The Case Backs

2.6 The Dials

2.7 Conclusion

3. Comparing the real and the fake Quartz Seamaster

3.1 The Dials

3.2 The Case Backs

3.3 The Movements
3.4 The Bracelets

3.5 The Cases

3.6 Conclusion

4. Final thoughts

4.1 Lack of money is not really an excuse to fake designs because you can almost certainly get something similar and legal at the same price

4.2 Where to go to find something legal at a similar price?

1. The Goal of this Article

I will be trying to sharpen your eyes to be able to better identify fakes. I will also give you reasons not to buy fakes. And I am not just saying "Do not buy fakes!" but I will also point you to resources where you could find a legal watch at a very similar price!

"Homage" versus Replica or Fake

We differentiate between homage watches and fake watches. As an example: there are many diver's watches that look like a Rolex Submariner and many legal brands offer some diver's that look quite similar. Depending on country and legislation, a watch is protected for a given period of time and after that time, homage watches (that look very similar to the original) can be produced legally (as long as they do not use trademarked logos and writings of the original).
For a beginning watchmaker, a fake or replica might make a good Guinea Pig for some basic watchmaking work. The movements barely show copyrighted inscriptions, so for example, recasing that movement could make a fun project.

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2. Comparing the Outside of the real and fake automatic Seamaster

Dimensions compared watches (mm, resized to 6.5 inch wrist)
Original Omega 300 m Seamaster
37 mm James Bond
Fake Chinese Automatic ST-6

Diameter without crown: 37
Height: 11
Lug to Lug: 43
Lug Width: 18, bracelet is straight

Weight: 111 grams

Diameter without crown: 36.5
Height: 13
Lug to Lug: 42
Lug Width: 18, bracelet is straight

Weight: 110 grams

2.1 The movement of the fake automatic Seamaster

I decided to finally have a look at the movement of my fake Omega Seamaster Mid-Size that I had bought ca. 1998 ago for ca. USD 18.

Once the case back was removed, the following view unfolded: a rotor with what seemed to be many finger prints and some sort of patina on the surface. I am not sure whether that patina built up during the time I owned this watch or whether it was there before. As you can see from this pictures, this automatic can be hand wound. And I also think, that it is a Chinese made movement. The overall impression is that the quality is quite good. The inexpensive white plastic spacer is of course no surprise for this kind of watch. The click of the winding mechanism is a tiny feather only, but the winding itself is satisfactory. I also noticed that the rotor swings very well and that the power reserve reaches approximately 40 hours. There is no marking on the movement. The finish is coarse, but the screws' heads look alright. Later of course I should find out that the caliber used was a very popular Chinese automatic labeled ST-6. And later I also decided that this should be the movement I would work on for the first time to do a service. Follow the link if you want to see a lot more movement pictures and pictures of parts.

Time now to go one step further. In order to clean that rotor I decided to take it off. Of course I was also curious to see what was to be found below the rotor.

This definitely is a movement that was designed to fit many cases. You can see how many drillings there are to accommodate this movement into many different cases and to cover it with dials with different dial feet positions. On the larger movement picture you can also see those two brass studs that are used to mount the dial to the movement. I am not sure, but it looks like that dial is also held by an additional three screws of stainless steel studs in three of the 5 provided drillings. All relevant pivots seem to be jeweled - I did not go further in my disassembly, this would have been not such a good idea at 7 AM with only 4 hours of sleep - but I think that this is a standard 17 Jewels automatic movement. The gear train looks quite small. I admit, that I do not have that much experience with gear train sizes to really judge it, it just looked very small to me - especially when compared to the size of the balance wheel, regulator and balance bridge. Not a beauty for sure, but the movement had been running within within +4 seconds a day during the last three years consistently (please note that I had written this article quite a while before I disassembled this movement together with my watch tutor Rob B, so if you want to have more information, have a look at that article)

 

A bit of Rodico 6033-1, a soft cotton cloth, a couple of blows with the puffer and the movement looked like this after refitting the rotor.Quite a difference, is it not? And of course I did not touch the rotor with my hands when putting it back on. I used the newly purchased brass pincers #3. I am quite happy I could already apply some of the knowledge Rob B is generously passing on to me. Stainless steel pincers are generally not a good idea to grab larger steel parts and also threads of delicate tiny screws. One is so much more confident to pinch those small and large items with the brass pincers, because one knows, that the softer brass will not do any damage to the parts. On last glimpse on the shiny rotor and the movement and then it was time to put the movement back on and close the case back.

I always feel good after having looked at the movement of my watches. They are such magnificent testimonies of micro mechanical excellence, as cheap and roughly finished as they might be. And I feel somehow a lot more familiar with a watch after having seen the "engine". Could you imagine owning a car without ever having seen the engine, I do not think so. I would like to repeat, I hope you understand this paragraph correctly, I am not praising replicas here, I am just talking about inexpensive movements in general. Because they later 7S26 finishes I have seen, are so different from the finish of this movement and we all know, how perfectly and long they run without being serviced.

I hope you understand, that I did not wanted to break the seal on the back of my genuine Seamaster. That case will be opened only when service is due and since that watch is 300 m water resistance and in addition contains a Helium valve (whose purpose might be a bit questionable for most real and desktop divers) I would not want to open it myself without proper assistance. Since the Automatic 300 m Seamaster and the Quartz 300 m Seamaster share the same case, a ETA 2892-A1 must be at work inside the Omega. Omega is part of the Swatch Group, after having almost been taken over by a Japanese conglomerate in 1983. Thanks to Nicolas Hayek, investors could be convinced that Omega should stay a Swiss brand.

I hope you have seen the larger overall picture of the front of both watches at the beginning of the article. Here is a section focusing on the cases and dials. i will talk about bracelets, case backs and Helium valves later. The faces first: the most obvious difference is the color of course. Besides that, the copy manages to maintain a pretty good or deceiving impression. I believe that the color of the original Seamaster somehow darkened in those 7 years I own it. This is also clearly visible on the already yellowish luminous markers. That is always a good indication to judge the age of a watch by the way. But I think also the rest of the original color had been darkening a bit over time. And I admit it, blue is my favorite color and I quite like the lighter blue of the copy. But this does not mean I like copies, I feel I have to repeat that again and again, since watch replicas really are a delicate topic. There will be close-ups of both later in the comparison. First, just the really significant differences.

Another obvious difference is that the outline of the 5 minutes markers are painted on the original, whereas the replica has metallic framed dots. The luminous dot on the turning bezel is another significant difference as you can see on the following picture. The 12 o'clock or zero marker seems to have been glued onto the turning bezel. I am quite sure, that if the watch would have been worn by a "normal" person, I would probably have fallen off. But as a WIS, I just can not treat a watch badly and I noticed, that even I am wearing this replica, I will still hold my arm behind my back when crossing people on the sidewalk. WIS programming all the way :-)

 

 

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2.2 The Bracelets and Clasps

Here of course it becomes obvious, where the price difference between the original (ca. USD 800 MSRP in 1995) and the copy is justified. Although by looking at the finish of the fake bracelet's outside and inside I was really surprised. Solid links, nicely and consistently brushed, that was rather surprising. The only real difference between the surface of the bracelets is, that the difference between the polished and brushed areas is more obvious on the original Omega.

I feel I have to point out, that most of the replicas you will find, will not come with a quality bracelet like this. Most replica's bracelets will start to rust, before your vacation is over. And that is actually the biggest risk, skin rashes, I have seen more then one sore wrist here in Thailand. You will sweat a lot more then at home, the air is quite dirty and aggressive and then often your new beauty turns your skin into an itchy body part and if you are allergic, it could be even more severe. So please be careful.

Another really big difference can be found on the clasps: the fake has a cheaply stamped and embossed Omega Seamaster inscription, although the dimensions have been observed well. The original is a nicely engraved marking instead. Also the original comes with a very nicely integrated diver's extension which lacks of course on the replica. I will show you a picture of the case back later, but you already see, that there is a big difference too.

And if you look at the deployant clasps from the side, then you will see the big difference. The fake has something similar to a Rolex clasp (no pun intended, please!) with no safety buttons and the original has a massive clasp with two big safety buttons. And look at the dimensions of the folding parts, the original Omega sports really solid folding parts. And most of the times, you will be able to identify a replica for sure when looking at the bracelets.

2.3 Comparing the Cases

Again I have to say, that the dimensions of the cases have been very well replicated. Also the finish on the replica is very good. As I write this, I really start to believe that this was an exceptional good copy, since most of the replicas I see, are quite low quality and obvious copies. The replica has a much higher case back however and you can also see, that the drillings for the case opener are much deeper and thus safer to grip on the original. I had to be very careful while opening the replica that the studs of the opener did not slip out of those 0.3 mm deep holes. The crowns look almost identical from this distance, but later you will see a real close-up of the crown found on the Helium valve and then realize, that there is always a difference between the real thing and a copy. The turning bezel on the replica does its work so so. It is uni-directional, but lately it started to click back one tick when stopping and turning slightly clockwise. Probably the first signs of deterioration or that the movement has slipped away from its original position. A very common characteristic of fakes!

This pictures also shows well, that the links on the original are fatter and differently shaped. Even that replica's bracelet is outstanding (for the class normally found on copies), the original bracelet feels completely different. The links move a lot smoother and the whole bracelet gives you completely different feel when you wear the watch on your wrist.

I have taken new shots of both watches in March 2006 and then discovered something new: if the crown is pulled out to the time setting position or position two, one cannot see any threading on the original. I had never noticed this before, but the crown threads of the Omega must be further up entirely hidden inside the crown. And by the way, this Omega "trip-lock" system is a pure joy to use. Many "trip-lock" (I use quotation marks because Triplock is a Rolex brand name) systems are not that nice to lock. But this Omega crown is a joy to screw down. On the fake, you can clearly see that there is a thread visible. Also after having set the time a couple of times, I think the plastic spacer inside has allowed the movement to slip a bit sideways and now it is almost impossible to set the date on the fake. The crown dimensions are 5.7 mm diameter and ca. 4.5 mm height on the original. The fake's crown is 5 mm and that difference of 0.7 mm can actually be easily recognized when winding the watch. Also the much shorter height of only ca. 3 mm on the fake is very obvious if you look at this picture with the crowns screwed in.

But again, that is the deserved punishment for dealing with fakes. Not being able to set the time and date easily, I have simply stopped wearing the fake... I had been wearing it a couple of times for TGIF boys nights out, hoping to get it knocked and kicked. Beating a fake gets you probably a better place in WIS heaven. But today my attitude towards fakes has completely changed. I am not wearing fakes anymore, not even for fun or to beat them up. I just write about them in order to help a couple of fellow watch enthusiasts not to be taken by scammers! Please read my final thoughts at the end of the article.

 

 

2.4 The Helium Valve

Now this is a rather funny one. The Helium valve on the replica is just a hole and a thread. Nothing more, nothing less. If it would have been designed a bit bigger, it could have served as a mini compartment to store two small screws for sunglasses e.g. It is thus 100% non-functional and its presence is for deception purpose only. The crown that covers the non-functional Helium valve is quite poorly finished and it seems to be the same crown as on used on the winding stem. But of course, many parts look quite coarse under such a magnification. An even bigger surprise was to find an O-ring inside the crown that covers the non-functional Helium valve. I really had to smile when I saw it. Of course from a logistics point of view it makes sense, you produce only one part and that might be cheaper then omitting the O-ring for the Helium valve crown. The winding for the stem had been pinched with a pair of heavy pliers, or maybe just it had just been cut-off to be able to fit in that Helium "hole". Now looking at this feature, the replica shows its real character a lot better or should I call it, the lack of the real character.

 

 

 

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2.5 The Case Backs

The case back on the replica is probably the part that reveals the fake's character best, next to the very obvious bracelet of course. The wave pattern is shallow, not deep and rounded as on the original and the wave pattern area is considerably smaller. And I have been mentioning those opener holes' depth for the case opener already. The case opener holes are only ca. 1 mm deep on the fake (makes opening it a bit riskier because the bits could slip - but then again, who cares if one scratches the case back of a fake!) while the original has ca. 3 mm deep circular case opener holes at the walls pointing to the center of the case back. Opening would be a breeze here, but as I mentioned before, I do not want to break that seal on the back just yet. Once the watch needs servicing, then of course I will also add a movement shot of the real Automatic here.

I guess this would be part that would also allow a non-WIS to identify the copy or where also a non-WIS could start to be suspicious about the authenticity of the watch in question. And of course the end links are a completely different story too. The Omega original has solid end links, where the fake has hollow end links.

 

2.6 The Dials

The close-up of the dials reveals more significant differences. The date window's size is smaller on the copy and the font on the day disk is something similar to Times New Roman on the fake and much smaller then the Sans Serif of the original. In addition the day disk is really badly printed on the copy. But of course, if you stroll through Patpong at night hours and if you do not have a loupe handy, it might do the trick. Anyway, nobody I guess is naive enough to go watch shopping in Patpong for the real stuff.

The printing of the fake is not that bad or scaring, it is excellent. I have seen worse dial printings on genuine models from respectable brands. The difference is quite evident looking at the OMEGA inscription. The lower part of the printing is quality-wise well copied, but the original uses a different font. And of course the wave patterns are very different too. The original has small brighter lines, whereas the copy is almost reversed and features somewhat a bit "edgy" waves. Also very obvious the second hands' tips and ends and the hands. The hour hand on the original is a bit longer and most obvious, the luminous dot on the original hour hand is much larger. The minute hand is differently shaped: it is wider on the fake. But I have to say again, I have seen much worse examples of copying. The metal framed 5 minute markers on the fake vs the painted minute markers on the original have been mentioned before, it is probably the give-away that is most noticeable on the dial. The font on the turning bezel is also completely different from the original and the minute dots are a lot smaller. The color had been mentioned already and is probably the most outstanding deviation from the original.

2.7 Conclusion

On the picture below I have marked and numbered the 12 most obvious differences from the front. And as usual, fakes or often as easy identified as such, when looking at them from the back. This fake is no exception. Normally the bracelets and case backs and clasps of the fakes are where the fakers invest less scrutiny, the hope a good copy of the dial will dupe a buyer.

Overall a much better copy then you would normally expect to buy for that little money. But this is not about saving money, this is about respecting mental property and trademarks. I would have no problems at all with this watch, if it would be a no-name, it would be a good watch even. Imagine, a nice bracelet, an automatic movement with hand winding, flawless function and all for USD 18. Quite a buy. But when trying to incorporate an original that somebody else took the effort to design and style, the appreciation is of course not the same and it is just a another fake. And thus I decided to try my watch making skills for the first time doing a service on this movement. If it should break, no big deal.

Biggest give-aways to identify this fake: Color, the blue is not even close. Raised (stamped from inside) inscription on clasp versus a milled (recessed) inscription on the original. Stiff one piece links on fake. The middle parts and the outer parts of the links are one piece versus 5 individual pieces on the original. Wave pattern more a zig-zag line then a wave on fake. Small luminous dot on hour hand on fake. Fonts on outer bezel (too thin) and in date window (serifs) on fake.

 

 

 

Are you ready? Click here if you want to practise with the same picture without text to find differences!

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3. Comparing the real and the fake Quartz Seamaster

Dimensions of compared watches (mm, resized to 6.5 inch wrist)
Original Quartz Seamaster
Limited Edition
Lillehammer 1994
Fake Quartz Seamaster
Miyota movement
on bracelet

Diameter without crown: 37
Height: 11
Lug to Lug: 43
Lug Width: 18

Weight: 59 grams on strap!

Diameter without crown: 34.5
Height: 12
Lug to Lug: 40
Lug Width: 18, bracelet is straight

Weight: 86 grams on bracelet!

3.1 The Dials

Please note that the original Quartz Seamaster is a limited edition for the Olympic Games 1984 in Lillehammer, Norway. So it is obvious that e.g. the red print  on the dial will not be found on the copy. I just wanted to show the closest original Omega that was probably targeted by the fakers. As mentioned before, the white Quartz Seamaster is a pretty obvious copy of the original. BUT, I am honest enough to admit, that at the time I bought it, it looked a lot closer to the original. Only at home seeing it next to the original, all the differences were obvious.The case and case back of the original automatic and Quartz Seamaster are almost identical. The differences are the polished bezel and the inscription "Limited Edition" on the Lillehammer Quartz on the left.
I am sure you have already noticed the most obvious omission on the fake, the missing Helium valve.

 

The dial on the white fake Seamaster is the "best" part closest to the original. Yet a careful comparison shows that applied indices on the fake have a much thicker frame. This might be something that you do not see if you buy that watch in the real world and probably only becomes obvious if the fake is seen next to the original. And also for most fakes, the application of the luminous paint is rather sloppy. The fake has a couple of dots that are not centered at all. But this you would be able to recognize even the original is not next to the fake. The luminous dot on the hour hand is also considerably smaller on the fake. The Omega logo and printing are much bigger on the fake. Also the 4th line (remember that my original Quartz is a limited edition, so it does not have the typical 4 lines printed on the lower part of the dial) is missing entirely, it should read 300m/1000ft. The date frame on the fake is chrome, the original one has a fine line printed around the date window. Also the SWISS MADE at 6 o'clock is missing. The wave pattern on the fake dial is closer to the original then the wave pattern on the blue fake automatic to the original automatic. Definitely white is a color that is a lot easier to fake, white is white.

 

3. 2 The Case Backs

The backs are not even close and I think the bad quality of the stamped back inscription is often a good indicator to identify a fake. The original Seamaster has the famous Seahorse on the back and the case back opener holes are the typical round shapes of Omega. The fake is a cheap stamped inscription and if I am not all wrong, I seem to remember having seen a similar case back on other fakes, because it is brand neutral, there is no mentioning of "Seamaster" nor "Omega".

But again, if you are buying watches on Ebay, you can always quickly google and try to find an original picture. You do not have that option on the market or on the street. That is another reason a lot of the fake stuff is sold on the streets or the sales are accompanied by a lot of noise and talking to not give you time to think right. We even have a night market in Bangkok where the trick is that you can barely see the goods, another way to flip fake stuff.

 

 

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3.3 The Movements

Miyota (Citizen movement company) movements or TMI (Singapore, Japan owned) are the most common Quartz movements found. TMI movements are also found in legitimate promotional watches or e.g. Lego watches. Maybe it would be a nice idea if all movement manufacturers would stamp a tiny serial number on the back of their movements and then at least one could track where the fakers bought their movements. I think the movement manufacturers also have their share of responsibility to make sure that their movements are not ending up in the hands of criminals. Of course this is just my personal opinion. And maybe movement manufacturers already have measures in place to prevent that.

The original movement is the gold colored Omega Cal. 1438 base ETA 255 46, Battery Renata 395. I had to open my original Quartz Omega. Removing a dead battery and avoiding the risk of leaking was more important then to keep the seal intact.

Checking the movements is something that is easier in the real world then on Ebay. You can ask the seller to send you a movement picture, but he could send you a picture of about any watch. On a flea market or in the real world you can and should ask a seller of a vintage or 2nd hand watch to show you the movement. But then also, you will need to be very well informed in order to know which model of a given watch came with what movement. Quite often scrupulous sellers tinker with genuine movements and genuine watch cases and dials. Yet even all parts are original, the watches are not and thus their price will be a lot lower then if it was an original and genuine watch and not puzzled together.

 

3.4 The Bracelets

The folded links bracelet on the fake Quartz is an immediate give-away. Yet, the links are closer to the original then on the automatic fake. The automatic fake had one piece links while the fake Quartz had like the original 5 pieces per link. But the clasp on the fake Quartz Seamaster is also an obvious difference. It is much shorter then the typical heavy and thick original Seamaster clasp and it has no buttons to open it. The buttons are also missing on the clasp of the automatic fake, but the shape of the clasp and the inscription (albeit raised instead of recessed and milled) are quite close. Also the last link of the fake Quartz Seamaster bracelet touches the case. This makes it almost impossible to wear this watch conveniently. Either the bracelet is lifted above the lugs (red circle in wrist shot) or it is kept underneath them.
Despite the links being made of single parts like on the original, the bracelet is very stiff and not flexible at all. In the real world, something you would immediately notice even you had no original to compare too.

 

 

 

3.5 The Cases

I also shot some direct comparison pictures of the real and fake Quartz Seamaster. One thing clearly giving away the fake is the polished case sides. Interestingly the real Quartz Seamasters (Quartz and Automatic) share the same case.
Even a non-WIS would have probably noticed the lack of the typical Helium Valve at 10 o'clock on the fake. The helium valves used for compression diving are a trademark of the Omega Seamaster Professionals 300m/1000ft. The case of the fake is bigger and the turning bezel is also high gloss polished on the fake vs. the satin brush of both bezel sides and case sides of the original.

If you look at the cases from top back direction at the crown side, you will notice the difference polished (fake) versus satin brushed (original) and also the significant different sizes of the crowns and the shape of the crown guards. The fake's case is also slightly smaller but I think that would be very difficult to "feel" when looking at it at the street marked especially during night hours!

 

3.6 Conclusion

A really easy to spot fake this white Quartz Seamaster. Although on the first sight, the dial is pretty close and might be able to dupe you. Especially if you do not have an original Omega with you to compare it! I was puzzled when I compared my two Omegas at home that I had been thinking this was a pretty good fake. They are not even close next to each other! I have numbered and marked the 12 most obvious differences from the front.

Give-aways to identify this fake: Missing Helium valve, 300 m Seamasters have a Helium valve for compression divers. To small luminous dot on hour hand. Too big applied indices and frame of date window. Poorly applied luminous dots (not centered). Also: missing 4th line 300m/1000ft. Missing SWISS MADE. Case back is some generic fake case back and brand neutral. Clasp is nowhere near the original. Folded links on bracelets easy to identify from the inside of the bracelet.

 

 

Are you ready? Click here if you want to practise with the same picture without text to find differences!

 

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4. Final thoughts

I am sure now you can easily tell which one is original and with one is fake!
Fake Quartz Miyota Original Quartz Seamaster
Lillehammer 1994
Original Omega 300 m Seamaster
37 mm James Bond
Fake Automatic ST-6

Diameter without crown: 34.5
Height: 12
Lug to Lug: 40
Lug Width: 18, bracelet is straight

Weight: 86 grams on bracelet!

Diameter without crown: 37
Height: 11
Lug to Lug: 43
Lug Width: 18

Weight: 59 grams on strap!

Diameter without crown: 37
Height: 11
Lug to Lug: 43
Lug Width: 18, bracelet is straight

Weight: 111 grams

Diameter without crown: 36.5
Height: 13
Lug to Lug: 42
Lug Width: 18, bracelet is straight

Weight: 110 grams

4.1 Lack of money is not an excuse to fake designs, but sometimes we want instant pleasure from buying something nice

The pleasure of buying something in the real world and instantly wear it and play with it (watches etc.) is most certainly a great temptation in a world where more and more goods are purchased online. So from a buyers point of view, purchasing a replica might be something very human and natural.

4.2 Where to go to find something legal at a similar price?

If you need advice how to get those great watches for the money, join the "Poor Man's" Watch Forum. Please note that there are no posts about fakes on the PMWF. You could only educate fellow watch friends how to spot fakes or you could warn fellow watch hunters about a fake being sold as the real thing on e.g. Ebay. Another great starting point to buy a real watch is our "Top 20 Poor Man's Watch List" that is reviewed quarterly and collectively and has originally been composed by PMWFers in 2002. Today the updated list is a great starting point to find great watches for the money!

Best regards

Reto Castellazzi, July 13th, 2002, Bangkok

 

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