Counterfeit Million-Dollar Luxury Watch Seized in the US

Published: 23 November 2023

Funny Expensive WatchA counterfeit specimen of ultra-luxury Richard Mille watches, owned by celebrities such as Rafael Nadal, Nick Jonas, and Jay-Z. (Photo: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, License)

By Lieth Carrillo

A smiley and astoundingly expensive face surprised the U.S. Customs Service in one of their latest seizures in Cincinnati, Ohio. Last week they found a replica of a Swiss luxury company's newest watch, currently listed for resale at more than $3.78 million.

On Nov. 16, the U.S. authorities found a fake RM 88 Automatic Tourbillon Smile, a deluxe watch launched last year by the Richard Mille company, which manufactured only 50 of that model. The watch sold for $1.2m at launch, but in resale markets has been priced at $3.78 million.

The counterfeit watch originated in India and was destined for a residence in Palm Beach, Florida.

The genuine watch’s design features distinctive elements such as an umbrella, a cactus, a pink flamingo, and a pineapple, but its focal point is a smiley face in yellow gold. The counterfeit watch attempts to replicate the figures, but it doesn't take a second look to realize it's a fake.

Besides the absence of fine details, the shipment was not insured and was poorly packaged, the authorities said.

A day after this seizure, agents found a second shipment of counterfeit jewelry and watches from famous brands such as Rolex, Van Cleef, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton. The manufacturer's suggested retail prices totaled $846,695. This shipment originated in Hong Kong and was destined for Texas.

Alrick Brooks, the Cincinnati Port Director,  said, “Purchasing counterfeit goods enables criminal enterprises, and the profits made from these items fund their illicit activities. Officers at the Port of Cincinnati are dedicated to the [Customs and Border Protection] mission and work attentively for American consumers by stopping the flow of pirated merchandise.”

On the eve of the holiday season and looming discount dates such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, U.S. customs reminds shoppers to beware of counterfeit products. Says Tom Quaadman, executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, “Awareness is paramount in the fight against fakes, to protect consumers and small businesses alike."