I think Borealis shouldn't get butt hurt especially when they rip off actual designs from Tudor etc.....What comes around goes around i guess.
Other than the academic discussion on how the cases are physically made, this whole thing kinda falls into the "so what, who cares" category for me for just the reason you mention.
That said, is it the Borealis owner who is butt hurt or just the author of the article?
By this I mean, let's say Carlos decides to create a homage to (or copy of) some watch and contracts some Chinese manufacturer to knock out 300 cases. Carlos sells his 300 watches and makes his profit. I'm not certain, if I were Carlos, I'd care what happened to my case design once I was through with my production run. I'd be off to my next thing.
If, however, the Chinese manufacturer sold my design while I was still selling my watches (thereby creating competition for my design) I'd be upset.
I think you are using this term incorrectly. I think "Noob Factory" refers to any number of Chinese replica watch makers. There isn't a single "factory" I don't think.
I would think the Borealis situation would apply to your business as well. Your case manufacturer could easily start selling your case design (with your recent modifications) to other brand owners and I doubt there is much your could do to pursue legal recourse. The only recourse I can think of is to simply use a different case manufacturer for your next design.
I'm guessing a similar situation is happening now with CREPAS as I recently saw here another vendor coming out with an O&W Caribbean homage. The new vendor's offering is slimmer, but that is probably due to the use of a less domed crystal and case back. The mid case and bracelet looks the same.
My original point is, while it is unethical, does CREPAS ultimately care?
I'm pretty sure that the folks at Marathon, Tudor and Omega would be amused if he even registered on their Radar. Ethically challenged manufacturer crying foul about ethically challenged manufacturer. The kind of factory that will contract to make essentially stolen designs, is certainly not going to think twice about doing the same to your company if there is money to be made.
" The sunshine bores the daylights outta me......"
I believe the crux of the author's post is the "rule" that says if you buy the mold, it is yours. I believe the author is misguided in this fundamental aspect. There is no "rule". There is only your contract with your supplier and your ability to enforce said contract.
First, I find it very hard to believe anyone would build a "mold" for only 300 stainless steel cases. Molds are very expensive and they wear out over time. For that short of a run, you would machine the cases.
If a mold was ever created, it would be one that was so rough, it could be used on any number of various designs. More of a "blank" than a "mold".
Where molds might be used would be to create something like this as posted on TZ-UK (I believe by Eddie P.)
The only real purpose of this mold would be to reduce waste material and tool wear in the machining process. If waste and wear weren't a factor, you could just start with a length of billet.
The contract case manufacturer likely buys these case blanks in various rough shapes and sizes. They then work with designers using CAD tools to design the finished case shape. They then convert the design model into CNC machine code and let the multi-axis grinder cut the final shape.
What the brand owner is really "buying" isn't a physical "mold", but rather the CNC machine code. This code can be easily copied, shared, or distributed any number of times. The only control you as the brand owner have over that code, is the business contract (and contract enforcement ability) you have with your partner. A poorly written contract, or an inability to enforce the contract, can easily result in what we see here.
No point buying a mold, when you can get a local (UK company in this instance) to cut the blank from solid with an EDM.
To save a few bucks to buy steel out of China makes no sense to me. Yeah OK, its a profit margin, but as you point out, its expensive to have the mold made in the first place, you may as well do it the way I have just said, because if you are low volume it will work cheaper and not tie up 10 or 15k of your money in the first place. The reality would likely be more a case of these blanks being fairly generic for a certain watch style and the only person who owns the mold in the blank maker, then a Chinese company buys them in to eliminate that tool wear and waste as you say, and creates the customer watch. Its at this point that watch design goes to whomever (maybe the very case maker doing the work) to create the same under a different name.
If you do business there, it is the risk
Rome wasn't built in a day, but i wasn't on that job!