In my first year at the Chelsea I wrote a story called “Movado,” about a guy who tried to sell me a fake Movado watch when I was moving into the hotel. It was published in Pif magazine, and then I promptly forgot about it. Ten years later, a guy from Washington, DC—Jose Padua—read it and wanted to make it into a short film. Since he was from out of town, my girlfriend and I volunteered to pick up a fake Movado to use as a prop in the movie.
Canal street was the obvious place to begin. We went down there on a Saturday afternoon, when the hustle and bustle of the street life was at its worst, the throng of tourists pressing in upon the shop-keepers and hustlers selling scarves and costume jewelry and DVDs recorded straight from the screen.
The first place we stopped was a tiny little shop crammed full of fake Gucci and Kate Spade purses. They didn’t have any watches sitting out, but at the mention of the magic word Movado a young Chinese girl hustled us toward the back of the store. I didn’t see any watches back there either, but then the girl swung open a hidden door in the shelves and ushered us into a secret back room.
“Don’t go back there," my girlfriend whispered.
“What’s the matter?” I asked.
“You could be knifed or robbed.”
“Yeah, and they’ll sell you into white slavery,” I scoffed.
I wasn’t going to miss out on a chance like this. I’d always heard there was a network of secret tunnels running beneath Canal street, linking all these shady establishments, concealing hidden sweat shops and gambling dens, and making for quick escape when the heat was on.
Disappointingly, we didn’t go down any tunnels, just into a small back room—though it did look like there were further rooms beyond that one. An old Chinese man lifted a cloth from a display case, revealing the hidden cache of Movados, along with a bunch of other crappy fake watches such as Rolexes, and I don’t know what all else. In fact, he didn’t have a real good selection of Movados, only about three or four, and I wouldn’t have worn any of them, even if they had been real.
Still, the watch wasn’t for me to wear. “How much?” I asked.
“Twenty-five dollars,” the grim-faced man said.
“That seems like an awful lot,” I said.
“For a Movado!? No one has ever complained before.”
That seemed implausible. The guy eventually came down to sixteen dollars, but it still seemed a bit steep.
We looked in the next little shop, but they didn’t have any Movados. Rolexes seemed to be what everybody wanted.
Out on the street, a large African man—he was at least six-five--came up to us. He had apparently been watching us and had seen that we were looking for watches. “Here, you need a watch?” he said. He showed us a Rolex he was wearing.
“A Movado,” I said.
“Rolex is better than Movado,” he said.
“No, we only want Movado,” my girlfriend said.
“I’m telling you, Rolex is much better!”
We started to walk away.
“Wait a minute! Wait a minute!” He grabbed me by the arm. “You want Movado, I got your Movado. Come with me. Step over here for a minute.” He directed us over toward a side street.
I was a bit hesitant—he was kind of intimidating--but there were plenty of people around even on the side street, so we went with him. Furtively glancing back and forth, he pulled a watch case out of the thigh pocket of his cargo pants, and opened it to reveal a blue-faced Movado.
I’d never seen a blue one before. “How much?” I asked.
“They’re selling them for sixteen dollars inside,” I said.
“Those watches are fake!” he declared. “You don’t want a fake one, do you?”
“Hell, I don’t care.”
“Alright! Alright!” he said. “But I’m losing money on this deal!”
The blue Movado looked pretty cool, and it had a case, which was a nice touch, so I figured it was worth it. Plus, I was afraid the man would kill me if I didn’t buy it at this point.
I took out a twenty and tried to hand it to him.
“I said sixty dollars!” the guy yelled in my face.
I decided to risk death. “Oh, OK,” I said. “No thanks, then.”
Hopping mad, the man snatched the watch back. “Mine is real!” he exclaimed. “It’s not fair!”
He turned and walked quickly away from him.
“It’s just not fair!” he yelled after us.
I don’t know if he was referring to my own refusal to be ripped off, or to the business practices of the Chinese who were undercutting him. But it turns out it wasn’t so hard to find fake Movados after all. We eventually bought one from a guy who had a table set up right on the street. No secret rooms or anything. It wasn’t a blue one, but it looked almost as good. We paid ten dollars, and though we probably could have got it for less, by that point we were sick of dealing with the
And come to think of it, I guess I could have saved myself even more trouble if I had just bought one ten years ago, since obviously, despite my resistance, I was destined from the beginning of time to own a fake Movado. (Copyright 2006 Ed Hamilton)