Luxury watchmakers clamp down on smartwatch copycats

A Rolex watchface on the Moto 360. Photo: Rico Fox

An Omega watchface on the Moto 360. Photo: Rico Fox

That fancy Rolex face you’ve downloaded for your smartwatch won’t be available for much longer if luxury watchmakers get their way. A number of the world’s leading watch brands are clamping down on copycat faces designed for smartwatches and hope to get them banished from the Internet, according to a new report.

One of the novel things about owning a smartwatch is that you can chop and change its watchface as often as you like. Whether you have a Pebble, an Android Wear watch, or you’re planning to buy the Apple Watch when it makes its debut next year, there are a growing number of virtual faces that give your device a new look in an instant.

Some of them are designed to replicate famous faces from luxury brands like Rolex, Omega, Michael Kors, Mondaine, Cartier, and others. While they’re obviously no replacement for the real thing, many of them look pretty great — particularly when paired with attractive hardware like the Moto 360 or the LG G Watch R.

But a number of luxury watchmakers reportedly want those replica smartwatch faces gone.

“IWC, Panerai, Omega, Fossil, Armani, Michael Kors, Tissot, Certina, Swatch, Flik Flak and Mondaine are sending cease and desist notices to sites and individuals thought to be offering faces without permission,” TorrentFreak reports. “Richemont, a company behind several big brands including Cartier, IWC and Panerai, appears to be one of the frontrunners.”

Richemont has been known for its aggressive stance against counterfeit watchmakers and suppliers in the past, and it seems the company views virtual copies of its famous timepieces no differently. TorrentFreak claims it has issued notices against a number of websites offering smartwatch faces that breach its trademark rights, giving the owners just 24 hours to remove infringing content.

Swatch-owned Omega has also been targeting smartwatch forums where “pirate” smartwatch faces are being distributed among users, TorrentFreak claims.

FaceRepo, a website that allows users to share their smartwatch face designs, has confirmed that it has received cease and desist notices from luxury watchmakers, and it makes an effort to remove infringing content within a matter of hours. Users are notified when their content is removed, and repeat offenders have their accounts blocked.

FaceRepo has also introduced a keyword filter that automatically blocks uploads that use brand names in their description or tags.

Just like other pirated content, copycat smartwatch faces will never disappear for good. They may become more difficult to find if luxury watchmakers continue their efforts to get them taken down, but you can be sure that they will always be available somewhere.