08.07.2021 - Rolex

Rolex court battle over ‘counterfeit’ candy-coloured creations

A company that reinvents luxury watches by transforming them into bold candy-coloured creations has been slammed by Rolex in a ‘counterfeit’ case in California.

The Swiss watch company has filed a complaint against laCalifornienne, which restores vintage timepieces by adding a rainbow-style bold leather strap, bezel, new crystal and repaint of the watch dial.

Rolex argues in accordance with its 115-year-old policy that in doing this, the warranty is made null and void as the brand can not assure the quality of the watches on sale if they include non-authentic Rolex parts, thus making them ‘counterfeit’.

Other points of contention include that the original aesthetic qualities of the ‘revamped’ watches are no longer attained and can no longer perform to the desired standards of unaltered Rolex timepieces.

The complainant also stressed annoyance at the Rolex-registered trademark being used to promote these watches, which could lead customers to believe they were somehow endorsed by the brand giant.

The charges against laCalifornienne include counterfeiting, false designation of origin and trademark dilution. Rolex also seeks an injunction against the company selling “infringing” products.

Rolex investigators say they purchased a watch created by laCalifornienne watches, and a consumer watch sent to Rolex for a service and claimed that in both timepieces the 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.’

The defending company was created in Los Angeles three years ago by husband-and-wife-team Courtney Ormond and Leszek Garwacki, and even boasts a celebrity fan base including Gwyneth Paltrow.

On its website, the company does claim to give the utmost attention to detail to each watch it revamps, including ‘servicing the movement and refinishing the case to the original specifications in which the watch left the factory’.  They then sell the ‘Rolex’ watches to customers for anything between £5,000 and £10,700.

At the bottom of laCalifornienne home page is a clear disclaimer about it being an independent watch dealer, stating it is not authorised, endorsed, sponsored by, associated with and/or affiliated with Rolex or Cartier International. It even advises people seeking new Rolex watches to visit the brand’s website.

Potentially, this case sparks a precedent for other customisation companies, as laCalifornienne says it only uses genuine luxury timepieces, including brands like Cartier. But with so many other companies out there dining out on similar business models, we will await the outcome of the court case.

In terms of damages, if all goes its way, Rolex could be in line to receive up to two million dollars for each counterfeited mark plus investigative and attorney fees.

*The court case is 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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