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Rolex drags Californian customizer into court on charge of being a counterfeiter

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A customization specialist in California is being sued by Rolex for creating counterfeits of its watches when it alters their appearance with non-Rolex approved parts, such as dials, bezels and crystals.

The case in California is against laCalifornienne, a company founded three years ago in Los Angeles by Courtney Ormond and Leszek Garwacki.

It was filed on November 15 at the US District Court for the Central District of California as Rolex Watch U.S.A., Inc. v. Reference Watch LLC d/b/a La Californienne; Courtney Ormond; and Leszek Garwacki, 2:19-cv-09796 (C.D.Cal)

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Ms Ormond is named as the defendant.

The case is unusual, and potentially precedent-setting because Rolex is accusing laCalifornienne of producing counterfeit watches, even though it only works from genuine timepieces, including contemporary pre-owned and vintage models from the likes of Rolex and Cartier.

In effect, Rolex is telling its customers they cannot alter their own watches and, while tampering with timepieces would always have invalidated warranties, now it is moving into the realms of legal disputes.

In court documents, reported by The Fashion Law, Rolex says it is enforcing its long-standing policy that the alteration of its timepieces to include non-authentic Rolex parts (or parts otherwise approved by Rolex) transforms an authentic watch into a counterfeit.

It also re-states that alterations “render Rolex’s warranty [on its watches] null and void [because] Rolex can no longer assure the quality or performance of such watches.”

Rolex claims that laCalifornienne’s watches no longer attain the aesthetic of original pre-owned Rolex watches and no longer perform or function to the same quality standards as unaltered pre-owned Rolex watches.

 

laCalifornienne watches promoted on its Instagram page, which has over 20,000 followers.

 

The company’s legal team appears to have acquired and tested watches from laCalifornienne watches. Rolex says that in addition to containing non-Rolex parts, both watches’ bezels were “bent and not properly fitted to the watch, and therefore [making it so that] water is likely to leak through, and ultimately, adversely affect the dial and movement of the watch,” among other alleged flaws.

These type of flaws could undermine the Rolex name, the Californian court is told, and has the potential to “mislead consumers” in a “calculated manner” by “falsely advertising and offering for sale ‘Rolex watches’ … on its website, Instagram page and Facebook page,” Rolex alleges.

The filing continues that: laCalifornienne is “engaging in a course of conduct likely to cause confusion, deception or mistake, or injure Rolex’s business reputation [and] diluting the distinctive quality of Rolex’s registered trademarks.”

The customizer is accused of “benefiting and profiting from [Rolex’s] outstanding reputation for high quality products and its significant advertising and promotion of Rolex watches and the [company’s] trademarks” and giving the impression that the watches are “authorized, sponsored, or approved by Rolex when they are not.”

As well as working directly with customers, laCaliforniene sells through a network of partners including ecommerce giant Farfetch.

13 COMMENTS

  1. Wrong. If a customer was to personally alter their own watch Rolex wouldn’t waste their time suing. It’s the fact that an LLC is altering their watches strictly for the purpose of profits and resell. If Rolex has in their policies their watches are not to be altered without being deemed a counterfeit, they actually do have a case.

    • Yeah, this isn’t a customer altering their own watch, this is a business, altering a product and selling it with their trademark.
      I’m thinking they’d have to remove all logos, and branding to get away with this as a business.

    • Wrong. Rolex “has a case” because it picks on tiny companies. Notice it isn’t suing Bamford, Titan Black, Artisans de Geneve, or Pro-hunter.

      Rolex’s interpretation of the word counterfeit only works until they run into a judge who isn’t impressed by the lawyers representing Rolex.

  2. Rolex should spend their time chasing down all the counterfeiters in China. If by some wild chance they win this, then Mercedes and every other “premium brand” will find a way to pick the pockets of artists and customizing shops. This reminds me of when the phone companies owned the guts of your home phone even when you bought it from them with a fancy styled case in the 70s before the breakup. They do not own any perpetual rights to a product once sold. They can certainly refuse to service any product deemed altered, but that is the end of their rights.

    • You just touched on what I believe is the crux of all of this. With cars you don’t have to worry about counterfeits— yet . With fashion and jewlery there’s just too much uncertainty. I do believe a part of this lawsuit is the ambiguity of how these watches were obtained in such a large amount. You can bet your bottom dollar there will be a lot of questions about the suppliers of these watches. The “customization” could very well be a crafty way to cover up that the watches are in fact counterfeit.

  3. I’m wondering how can they customize the dial and still has the Rolex logo? I don’t mind if they change different dials but If they purposely print a Rolex logo on their customized dial, that’s indeed counterfeit.

    • They reused the existing logo, which is able to be removed and reinstalled.

      They should have hired a lawyer first. All they had to do was perform the customization after the customer bought the watch. Then they aren’t “confusing the customer about the origin of the product.”

  4. It is the way off the world people think they need to revamp things from watches to cars but I fell Rolex will win this case and rightfully so.
    But for those who know I wonder if Rolex have the rights to use the Mercedes Benz logo on the hands of some of there watches they used a swimmer in the early 1900.
    To have a Rolex on while she swam the channel her first name was Mercedes do they have the write to use the 3
    pointed star.
    Personally i would not want one of these watches if you have a Rolex have a plain jane one all this bling don’t mean a thing .

  5. Chinese counterfeiters are making cheap Rolex copies and not asking $1,000’s of dollars for them. You can pick up a “replica” Rolex for $50 and the quality will be higher than these altered Rolex watches. The main reason for this lawsuit is for example you bought an Audio R8 and modified it poorly and replaced the parts to a point that the performance and reliability were lowered. But you still sold it based on the qualities of a true performance Audi despite your cars being inadequately modified.

  6. Rolex could team up with them. Like Roush Racing did with Ford Mustang. Who knows they might even create new sales for Rolex. That’s my 2 cents but I am just an ole country boy.

  7. If they’re making their own Rolex logos, Rolex has a strong case. (I don’t believe they are.)
    Otherwise, if Rolex prevails, they can still sell those watches as long as they remove the name & logo. They’d have to advertise something like “unnamable customized Swiss luxury watch.” which will get some attention.

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