There are multiple ways watches can get off the intended distribution path.
The distributors themselves are often a source. If a group of items has been discontinued, or slightly updated with a newer version, they will need to move the older versions out the backdoor, as retailers will not buy the older models. This allows them to clear up capital and make room for new watches and is a common practice. If the distributor has too many of a certain watch due to sales expectations not being met, they’ll again move them out the backdoor. They will typically sell a complete lot to one wholesale dealer who then pieces up the lot and sells it to Internet dealers who sell to consumers. The end result is a fully authentic item, at a much better price.
A common question is whether or not a watch may be ‘factory second’. This second quality practice is common in some areas of manufacturing, but has never existed in the Swiss watchmaking industry. You can be assured that any authentic Swiss watch has met the quality standards of that brand.
Sometimes retailers stop carrying a brand, a large example of this would be Neiman Marcus who dropped the Bertolucci brand a few years ago. The retailer no longer wants to carry the brand, but the manufacturer is unwilling or unable to purchase the inventory back. The retailer has no fear of losing their contract with the manufacturer and will sell the watches to wholesalers or directly to internet dealers, sometimes at a loss to recover as much capital as they can. The result of these closeouts is usually blowout prices.
Sometimes brick and mortar stores are in need of operating capital due to slow sales and must wholesale inventory out the back door to meet their cash flow needs. This is not a practice the watch manufactures approve of, as these authorized dealers are supposed to be selling watches at full retail or with pre-approved discounts. In order for the authorized dealer to stay out of trouble with the manufacturer, some will remove the serial number from the watch. Most companies, including Bernard Watch, will not even recognize those items as legitimate. Any sort of after-sales work on the watch (with a removed serial number) by the manufacturer will not be possible, even if you are willing to pay full price for the services, they will return it to you without looking at it.
As with any industry there are good and bad players in the parallel markets, and Bernard Watch understands the importance of carefully vetting our suppliers so that we offer only authentic and intact pieces.