Earlier this week, news was made when a New York City based billionaire filed a lawsuit against a watch dealer for selling him $700,000 worth of misrepresented vintage timepieces. The filed lawsuit papers clearly explain that the allegedly defrauded individual, J. Darius Bikoff, purchased what he thought were several ultra high-end vintage watches from a British watch dealer by the name of James Dowling, but now that the various watches have been analyzed by another prominent “Miami dealer” and industry expert Aurel Bacs of Phillips, Mr. Bikoff now looks at his collection in a very different way. The plaintiff was informed that in addition to presence of counterfeit parts in many of the “rare” vintage Rolex, he had also grossly overpaid on all of his acquisitions, to the tune of paying up to five times the going rate.
Immediately, this case brings to mind John Mayer’s dispute with Bob Maron in 2014, in which he too claimed to have been sold Rolex watches with counterfeit parts. With headlines like “collector duped over vintage watches” seeming to make the news more and more often, we can’t help but wonder if other wealthy individuals have been taken advantage of, and what the future holds for collectors of important vintage watches. Earlier this week, we sat down to discuss this matter, pieces with replaced parts, and more. Here’s what all of us had to say.
I think there are a few takeaways here and I’m going to go right ahead and judge James Dowling in the court of public opinion. The guy is clearly a crook and needs to be outed as such. That’s the first thing; well, assuming that suit filing is correct and he charged a dude $95k or something for an IWC Bund Ocean whateverthefuck. I mean, for that alone he should never be able to sell to a knowledgeable collector ever again.
Now, it’d be easy to write this off as one greedy dealer taking advantage of Rube Baker, but this is bigger than that. This is just a more egregious example of a dealer taking advantage of a less than well educated buyer. Collectors get up-sold on watches ALL DAY LONG. I consider myself educated and am often forced to overpay to get certain pieces. Where does the line between making a reasonable profit and gouging get drawn? And keep in mind, I’m not even talking about bad watches yet. Of the watches that Dowling sold to Mr. Vegetable Lasagna, only the Big Crown is claimed to be fake; the plaintiff here isn’t disputing the veracity of the other watches, just that Dowling misrepresented the prices. Don’t dealers do that all day long???
My take on the matter isn’t too far off from what Dean had to say. As the “Miami dealer” and Aurel Bacs’ assessments have shown, Dowling has obviously done wrong by his client, on multiple levels, and should be held accountable. Selling your client bad watches is one thing, but to repeatedly rip someone off that doesn’t know any better is a different story.
On a hopeful note in relation to the 6538 mentioned in the complaint, I think it’s important to recognize just how much easier vintage watch collecting has become over the past decade, so while fake dials and other fake components might get better as the years go by, so will the availability of useful information to help differentiate between the good, the bad, and the ugly. See? I do references too!
What a way to start the week! We finally get a 24-hr break from terrorist attacks and now there’s a vintage watch dealer lawsuit to speculate on! I’m not going to lay down a guilty verdict just yet, but I have to say, if the court filing is at all true, Dowling should be at least a little bit worried. Between Bacs’ and Tearle’s assessments of both the Tektite and 6538, respectively, I think Mr. Vegetable Lasagna has a claim.
Of course, you can say Mr. VL should have done his homework, but there are very few folks in the world who can confidently authenticate these watches, and Dowling is supposedly one of them. Why shouldn’t he have trusted Dowling? I think this is a major issue for the vintage watch market’s continued growth. With more and more “noobz” getting the vintage fever, they shouldn’t have to cross-reference every purchase with a dozen other experts; transactions should be as safe and worry-free as possible. Some of you are probably thinking this is a good thing, and that we don’t need the market to grow anymore, but I disagree. The more the market grows, the longer it will be a viable hobby. Technology will come to the aid of the hobby and enhance it. However, if “trusted dealers” continue to prey on the weak, it’s going to turn people away.
We want to hear from you guys. In the comments below, share your thoughts on the case and the vintage watch market in general.by