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Apple Watch Knockoffs Are Already Available in China, and They Aren't $10,000

Some Chinese factories have raced to produce look-alike Apple Watches, and they're available already.

Dawn Chmielewski

The much-anticipated Apple Watch will be available for purchase April 24 in the U.S. and eight other countries, with prices starting at $349 and going as high as $17,000.

But if you just want the status of being seen with one — or something that looks like one — why wait? Some Chinese factories have raced to produce Apple Watch look-alikes, and they’re available already.

We saw, and briefly wore, one of these knockoffs in Hong Kong last Friday. It had been purchased in a no-name shop in nearby Shenzhen, the tech-manufacturing city on the Chinese mainland, for just $45.

 The fake watch uses a familiar Apple image on one screen.
The fake watch uses a familiar Apple image on one screen.
Dawn Chmielewski

The fake watch was brought to a Hong Kong lunch by Benjamin Joffe, a Shenzhen-based investor who wanted to show us how fast the local tech ecosystem can churn things out. Joffe, a partner in the HAX hardware accelerator, which mostly backs non-Chinese companies, stressed, “I don’t endorse this type of rip-off, and HAX does not invest in anything like these.”

Of course, while real Apple products (and those of other U.S. tech brands) are manufactured in China, the country also has a history of churning out ersatz Apple items, like fake iPhones and even bogus Apple Stores.

And this isn’t the first imitation Apple Watch we’ve seen. One Shenzhen manufacturer, Hyperdon, was showing its knockoff smartwatch at the International CES in Las Vegas, long before Apple officially launched the real thing in San Francisco earlier this month.

When viewed up close, the Chinese-designed watch was much cruder-looking than the real thing. But even from a short distance, it could easily be mistaken for an Apple Watch. Its shape, blue plastic watchband and, especially, its knockoff of Apple’s icon-constellation user interface, all seemed designed to mimic the genuine article.

 From a distance, the watch looks similar to the real thing.
From a distance, the watch looks similar to the real thing.
Walt Mossberg

We didn’t get a chance to test it out. And it had no brand name, just a box that said “Smart Watch.” We were told that it could accept a SIM card, like a cellphone, implying that it could make calls by itself. And it had a camera that produced grainy black-and-white images. (Neither feature is included in the real Apple Watch, which relies on an iPhone to answer phone calls.)

Ironically, the real Apple Watch will also likely be made in China, according to our sources. And China and Hong Kong will be among the first batch of countries where the wearable device will be sold, according to Apple.

 The knockoff watch is simply called “Smart Watch.”
The knockoff watch is simply called “Smart Watch.”
Walt Mossberg

We asked Apple about the knockoff, even sending a photo. The company declined to comment.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.