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Good luck trying to counterfeit one of these nano-watermarked Swiss watches

It isn’t always easy to tell a fake product apart from the real thing. Even trained eyes often have to fall back on expensive technology to validate whether an object, such as a watch, is genuine or one of the countless counterfeit timepieces out there. Now, however, a Swiss startup named Nanoga has developed an innovative nanoscopic watermark intended to help luxury watchmakers distinguish their devices from counterfeits using only an ultraviolet flashlight.

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Nanoga’s method, dubbed DNAwatch, is impossible to detect with the naked eye, according to a press release from the startup. The process uses state-of-the-art equipment and a proprietary cocktail of chemicals to set layer-after-layer of atoms on the watch surface in the form of a vapor. Specific areas along the layers are then activated to respond to ultraviolet light. The chemical itself doesn’t interfere with the material and, at about one ten-thousandth of the thickness of a strand of hair, hardly leaves a mark.

This sounds complicated because it is. Replicating the DNAwatch watermark is as complex as making a counterfeit Swiss 50-franc note, Nanoga claims.

Nanoga is based at the École Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, a Swiss research institute that specializes in physical sciences and engineering. The startup insists its method is proven and sound, and it is in the process of acquiring specialized equipment that will enable watch manufacturers to provide Nanoga with the glass and the image that needs watermarking, before the company completes the order and returns the glass. This would mean even classic watches could be watermarked without affecting the watches’ aesthetics.