Buying a Rolex watch should be an incredible experience. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for some people. For others, it will spark the beginnings of a new-found love for Swiss watches and create the foundations for a large and diverse collection of timepieces to follow.
Rolex is the number #1 most recognized watch brand in the entire universe. For that fact alone you pay a premium price. But when you’re preparing to part with such a considerable amount of money, one of the most daunting factors is how to tell the difference between a fake Rolex watch and a genuine one.
How can it be done? How can you be sure you’re investing in the real deal? The sad news is that more and more fake Rolex watches are flooding the market. It’s becoming easier to replicate the look of an authentic Rolex since new and advanced improvements in technology are getting closer to achieving convincing replicas. How do you spot a fake Rolex watch, then? It’s certainly not as easy as it used to be, but it’s also not impossible to detect the difference. We’re going to show you how.
Research shows that a large proportion of counterfeit Rolex watches come from China, but manufacture is spreading throughout Asia. Of course, we’re not suggesting that there are no genuine Rolex retailers in Asia – far from it. But the key is sifting through the good to avoid the bad and the ugly. It’s every watch collector’s worst nightmare to find out that their watch is counterfeit.
For many enthusiasts, it’s not a split-second decision to buy a Rolex watch. The process takes years of saving and researching. Whether a novice or not, you’re putting your trust in a retailer or a second-hand seller to provide you with a genuine product. That’s the same with everything you buy, right?
To learn how to spot a fake Rolex, it’s important to understand a bit more about the brand as a manufacturer and why these timepieces are so highly desirable.
About Rolex watches
Rolex was established in 1905 by Hans Wilsdorf. At the age of just 24, he had a strong ambition to create wristwatches of high quality, balanced by unbeatable accuracy. He wanted to prove to the world that his wristwatches could be just as elegant as they were long-lasting. He equipped his timepieces with innovative movements manufactured by a Bienne-based watchmaking company in Switzerland.
It was not until 1910, however, that Rolex received the Swiss Certificate of Chronometric Precision. Just nine years later, the company had moved to Geneva to create firsts within the watchmaking industry. The brand’s iconic crown logo began making an appearance on its dials – a feature that has come to be widely recognized throughout the world today.
In 1926, Rolex created the world’s first waterproof wristwatch called the Oyster, followed by the first watch to feature an automatic date on the dial. The Datejust is still in production to this day, along with the Day-Date, which remains one of the most expensive Rolex watches to own. The Cosmograph Daytona was introduced in 1963 and took its name from the famous racetrack in Daytona Beach.
It remains one of the most highly collectible Rolex watches ever, with prices starting from around 20,000 USD, reaching up to $17 million, which is the most expensive Rolex watch ever sold. These models make prime targets for a fraudulent Rolex watch, as does the popular Submariner line, which remains in manufacture today.
Why are Rolex watches so special?
It is the rarity of the materials used and developed in-house by Rolex that makes the company’s watches so popular, along with the quality of its designs. Rolex watches are incredibly robust – each one has been subject to a line of stringent tests before being passed by in-house experts responsible for testing their quality.
Despite having been made from precious metal alloys, sparkling diamonds, and beautifully manufactured bracelets, you could subject a Rolex watch to the most extreme of conditions. It would survive the toughest of ordeals, coming out completely unscathed – they are that robust.
The company manufactures many of its materials independently, combining them to enhance longevity and protect against magnetism, shock, moisture, dust, and heat. Rolex also makes many of its timepieces from the best steel in the world: 904L stainless steel. It’s a strong, robust, and anti-corrosive material that ensures the integrity of its steel tool watches.
Despite fake Rolex watches managing to trick buyers by replicating aesthetics alone, no counterfeit wristwatch would ever be able to match a genuine Rolex watch in quality and performance. These impeccable timepieces have been manufactured according to time-honored methods.
These methods have been handed down the company line from one generation to another. The brand’s impeccable production process explains the price tag of a real Rolex watch. They deliver unfaltering accuracy and precision that will long outlive you, hence why a Rolex watch makes for such a precious heirloom.
The brand also has a rich and varied history to look back on proudly. It is the company’s unique leadership skills that have enabled it to become such a globally-loved personality. John F Kennedy, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, and Cristiano Ronaldo are just a few Rolex owners who have helped stylize the look of the timepiece. The world’s first waterproof wristwatch fed into the steel sports watch cult, which became huge in the years that followed. Suffice to say, each model has a different role to play in Rolex’s story.
How to spot a fake Rolex watch:
If you’re new to buying Rolex watches, you may want to seek the help of an experienced Rolex collector. A novice can help you when it comes to spotting a fake Rolex. But for now, use this simple guide to help you decide whether you’re putting your money and your trust in the right hands.
This factor makes the top of our list because the price of a Rolex can be the most obvious sign of an imitation. If someone is selling their watch for a few hundred dollars, you’d be inclined to ask why they’d want to lose so much money.
Rolex watches hold their value incredibly well, even in the pre-owned market. In fact, it’s no shock that second-hand Rolex watches can often sell-on for more than their original retail price. Vintage Rolex watches are limited in availability on the market. Others simply aren’t manufactured any longer, increasing their desirability.
Everyone knows that these are not inexpensive items. They are luxury products that go on to become valuable investments, so if the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you doubt yourself, a quick search on eBay will clarify where the model should sit in terms of pricing. A real timepiece made by this prestigious manufacturer will start within the region of a few thousand dollars.
If someone is selling watches down a side alley, the chance that they’re selling a copy watch is higher than if you were to visit a boutique to view a timepiece. Likewise, if you’re buying from an online platform where a seller can vanish in a split second after you make your purchase (like eBay), then we probably wouldn’t recommend it.
When considering the location that you want to purchase your watch from, remember to buy into the seller before you buy into the watch. If the seller doesn’t convince you, you shouldn’t be convinced (or fooled by) the watch. Real watch stores are the best bet when dealing with buying or selling a Rolex.
In the same way that you’d want to sell your timepiece to an experienced stockist that sells others equally as valuable and authentic as yours, you also want to know you’re buying from a company that stands by its name and is accountable for its actions.
Checking the serial number
One of the easiest ways to tell the difference between a fake Rolex and a genuine Rolex is by checking the serial number on the watch case. These act as fingerprints for every luxury watch. Its DNA made up of a unique sequence of numbers and letters. If you’re an experienced watch collector, you’ll already be aware of where a watch’s serial number is located.
Some timepieces present the serial number on the back of the case, and others engrave it onto the side. You can use the serial number of any timepiece to locate its origin of manufacture. You’ll also need the serial number of a Rolex watch when you come to ensure it.
Like the number plate of a car, the serial number on a wristwatch can also play an integral role in identifying a stolen watch, which is another growing problem within the luxury watch industry. The reference number and the serial number of a Rolex watch is positioned between its lugs, so you’ll need to remove the band to see these and examine the quality of the numbers under a magnifying glass.
The serial number will be at the 6 o’clock position on the case and the reference number at the 12 o’clock end. Checking the location of the serial and reference number on a Rolex watch is one way to check whether it’s genuine or not, but you should also check the quality of the engraving. Rolex crisply and cleanly engraves its serial and reference numbers into its case designs.
The brand uses cutting edge technology to deeply emboss the numerals into the surface of the material. A counterfeit watch, on the other hand, won’t have been engraved to the same high standard. Many are “acid engraved” and display a sandy, scratched finish achieved through a lower quality marking process. If you turn a genuine Rolex watch towards the light, its engraved lines will catch the light beautifully.
Only the older vintage Rolex models display serial numbers that refer to their year of manufacture. Those timepieces crafted after 2010 feature randomized numbers. This is an intentional tactic by Rolex to make it impossible for anyone to determine what year the watch was made. It, therefore, makes detecting vintage Rolex watches easier, since models before a certain date will have more specific numbers engraved onto their case.
Know your seller
Taking the time to understand what you’re purchasing is important, but so is getting to know your seller. The safest way to ensure you’re buying a genuine product is to buy from a trusted retailer. Research the most established retailers in your local area before just dropping into any old shop.
You can save yourself a considerable amount of time. If you’re purchasing a watch online, you can still complete thorough research on Google to check that the business is genuine. Check people’s reviews and read-up on how each company ensures that all its Rolex watches are genuine. Most reputable companies will be proud to detail the way they quality check a timepiece before it’s re-sold.
If you’re buying from new, the retailer you purchase from will list that they’re a genuine stockist of certified and authentic Rolex watches. If you’re purchasing from the second-hand market, every timepiece should be thoroughly quality inspected before being serviced and restored to a beautiful standard. Not only that, but the watch technicians servicing the timepiece should use authentic Rolex parts and state this clearly on their website.
Keep your Rolex Box
That’s a silly piece of advice for anyone who knows and loves Rolex watches. A presentation box, after all, is considered just as important as the wristwatch itself to many a watch enthusiast. You can use a real Rolex watch box to guarantee authenticity if you want to sell your Rolex on one day, but it can also be used to tell if a Rolex watch is genuine before you buy one.
You can check the gold engraving on a Rolex presentation box, which will display a different shade to some brand new casings sold online. Unfortunately, there will always be sellers who decide to sell their genuine Rolex watch in a counterfeit box to increase its value, just as there will always be those who sell fake Rolex watches in fake boxes. You can spot a genuine Rolex presentation box a mile off, however.
eBay & Craigslist Reproductions
eBay and Craigslist are platforms that bring collectors and watch enthusiasts together. Because they’re such diverse places to share, sell and buy watches, it makes them a dangerous place to fall victim to a scam. eBay and Craigslist are flooded with fraudulent goods. You simply can’t rely on transparency and honesty alone on these sites, especially if you’re new to identifying the difference between a fake watch and a real watch.
The face of a fake Rolex watch can reveal some important tell-tale signs. Take note of the following factors that can help you spot a fake easily without having to waste much more time delving for deeper clues.
Stampings on the dial
A dead giveaway of a fake Rolex watch can sometimes be as obvious as not even having the stamped crown logo at 12 o’clock on the dial. The low-quality counterfeit watch manufacturers will cut corners as obvious as this and direct their products at vulnerable buyers who have little knowledge of the product itself. You may look at a “Rolex” watch without the famous logo and question how anyone could get misled in such a way, but trust us when we say it happens!
The writing on the dial of a genuine Rolex watch should be convex (outward) and crisp. It should look pristine with no bubbling, so if you see any elements on the watch’s dial that look anything less than perfect, we guarantee that it won’t be a real Rolex watch.
Imperfections on the dial
Every Rolex watch is finished to complete perfection – it’s how the brand has earned its place as the most recognized and popular watch manufacture in the world, of course. So, any slight imperfections seen on the dial of a Rolex watch are an instant giveaway to its inauthenticity. Any inconsistent spaces between the lettering, any smudges, and surprisingly, any spelling mistakes are clues to help you spot a counterfeit watch against a genuine one.
The cyclops lens
Rolex equips its date apertures with a convex lens that magnifies the numerals in the window by 2.5 times. If the watch you’re looking at features a flat magnification lens, it won’t be magnified anywhere near enough. Therefore it’s likely you’re looking at a fake.
Listen to your watch
99% of Rolex’s portfolio is made up of mechanical wristwatches as opposed to quartz movements. If you put your ear to a watch and you can hear a distinct “ticking” sound, there’s a high chance that the watch isn’t real. Quartz watches are also cheaper to produce, hence where the fake market makes its money.
The second hand of a genuine Rolex watch will travel elegantly across the surface of its dial. This “sweeping” motion, however, is not 100% smooth. It’s a common misconception that Rolex watches have a completely smooth rotating second hand. That said, this isn’t the ultimate way to detect a fake Rolex model, since many counterfeit manufacturers will equip their timepieces with a mechanical movement anyway, albeit a lower quality one.
No replica watch can ever match the beauty and performance of an authentic Rolex watch. The company is in a league of its own. As well as each genuine movement having the company lettering engraved onto its surface, the individual hand-assembled parts will also be immaculately finished. All clones will lack the same exquisite finishes and ultra-fine decoration of a true Rolex movement.
Counterfeit manufacturers are becoming increasingly better at replicating the look of a Rolex movement. Should they get carried away and choose to equip the back of the watch with a sapphire crystal glass exhibition lens, you’ll instantly know it’s not the real deal.
Rolex watches have a sealed, screw-down caseback as opposed to sapphire-backed cases that are frequently seen on other Swiss watches. While we’re on the subject matter of casebacks, a real Rolex watch won’t have any engravings etched into its surface. If the watch you’re looking at has an obvious “Rolex” engraved caseback, then it’s an imitation.
Rolex is renowned for its pioneering work in the field of waterproof technology. Don’t make the mistake of testing your watch in water, even if you suspect its not a genuine Rolex. If you damage the watch, it can’t be returned for a refund. Even if it’s a true Rolex watch, its water-resistant capabilities will have depleted over time, especially if it’s an old model. It will need to be serviced and inspected properly by a professional if this is the case.
It’s not uncommon for a counterfeit manufacturer to develop a “Rolex” watch from cheaper materials and try to pass it off as the real deal. This is where knowing your Rolex models really comes in handy. A Rolex President watch with a day and date feature made from stainless steel, for example, is definitely fake, since Rolex only developed the model in an 18k gold or platinum variation.
Knowing your Rolex watch inside-out before you look to buy one instantly puts you in a better position when you come face-to-face with a dealer, be them honest or not. A metal engraving can also be found on the interior of the watch, next to the “Geneva Switzerland” lettering.
Weigh your watch
This may seem like quite an unusual request, but weighing your watch is one of the most instantly notable clues in detecting a fake. We already touched on the fact that Rolex uses high-grade materials in all its models, many of which showcase precious metal alloys made in-house. The superior quality of a Rolex watch’s case, along with its in-house developed movement and durable bracelet, amount to a substantial weight on the wrist.
That’s not to say a real Rolex watch will weigh the wrist down, but it will certainly feel different to a counterfeit Rolex (which nine times out of 10 will weight considerably less). A fake Rolex watch will not only look cheap, but it will feel it, too. A cheaper construction will use lesser materials with limited qualities and properties compared to Rolex’s anti-corrosive, scratch-proof, water-resistant, and anti-magnetic materials.
Many experienced collectors could tell you whether a watch was fake with their eyes closed by merely throwing it about in their hands. But if you’re less experienced, sit it on the scales and compare it with the spec of a genuine Rolex watch to see if you’re looking at an authentic model.
We’ve already mentioned that Rolex watches don’t have sapphire crystal casebacks, but they certainly feature sapphire glass at the front. This special material is integrated with anti-glare properties to provide you with a clear view into the dial whenever you desire, be that under artificial light, or when stood under direct rays of the sun. The material is also equipped with scratch-resistant properties to preserve a pristine look for years to come.
What Rolex also started doing from the year 2002 onwards, was etching the brand’s iconic crown logo into the surface of the sapphire lens at the 6 o’clock location. This is a clear sign of a watch’s proof of authenticity. As discreet as the design feature is – it could be the detail that will either make or break a deal for you. The precision required to achieve the micro-etched crown logo is too technical for a counterfeit company to replicate.
Familiarise yourself with online buying platforms
It’s risky business to purchase from an online buying platform like Craigslist or eBay, as we’ve already touched on. But, in other ways, these platforms can be useful in helping you build up a good level of knowledge in the watch you’re interested in. If you are planning to purchase a Rolex watch online, however, here are a few of the most trusted and reputable online dealers. Some of which also have a Bricks and Mortar store should you be lucky enough to live near any of them.
The Watch Forum is a great place to find a genuine used Rolex watch alongside some expert advice. So, if you had your eye on a watch that you’ve seen elsewhere, you’d be able to clear up a few queries with the help of knowledgeable dealers who can clarify any misconceptions. You could even get some recommendations for the best reputable dealers that have been tried and tested around your area.
The Watch Company
The Watch Company supports overseas shipping of genuine Rolex watches, so you can be anywhere in the world and still receive the same expert service. It’s an incredibly useful online platform for carrying out your research. Not only are the prices very competitive at the Watch Company, but you also get a diverse range of genuine dealers all in one place to compare prices side by side.
Bob’s watches are a large and trusted name in the pre-owned Rolex world. The Californian-based company is a store where consumers can sell, buy, or trade their vintage and used watches. Plus, every timepiece is inspected, and quality tested as it enters their doors. All Rolex watches sold by this company are fully serviced using authentic Rolex parts. They also offer relevant and useful literature on everything you’ll ever need to know about Rolex as a leading manufacturer.
How can I eliminate risks when shopping for a genuine Rolex watch?
Think about how devastating it would be to find out a watch that’s taken you months to save for turned out to be fake. Would it dent your pride? Would it tarnish your experience of shopping either in person or over the internet? Would you never want to trust another retailer or seller again? It can certainly sap the enjoyment out of an experience that should fill you with complete delight.
Nothing comes close to owning a new Rolex watch or adding another vintage timepiece to your collection. Nobody wants to fall victim to being scammed, least of all a true Rolex lover. The best security you can guarantee yourself when trying to spot a fake Rolex watch is your common sense. Does the sale feel right? Does the seller seem genuine on first impressions? While this certainly won’t guarantee whether he or she is selling you a genuine Rolex, gut instinct, as they say, is sometimes the clearest indicator.
Keep these key factors in your mind when viewing a watch in the flesh or when shopping over the internet. To help you condense the information as clearly as possible, here’s a recap on some top clues that will help you spot a fake Rolex watch.
The quick fake Rolex checklist:
+ Serial number: The fine silvery lines of a serial number engraved into the surface of a Rolex watch’s case will shine under the light at an angle. Faint dots that are telling examples of a cheaper quality marking process. A counterfeit Rolex may have a sandy appearance from being acid-etched as opposed to clear cut.
+ The box: Counterfeit Rolex watch boxes are easy to spot and feature a gold engraving that looks different to new watch boxes sold online from untrue suppliers.
+The dial: Some fake Rolex watches won’t even display the famous company lettering on the surface of the dial or the iconic crown logo. Some fake dials will feature mis-spellings, smudges, and blemishes, while other imperfections, like spacing in between the letters on the dial, can be clear clues to spotting a fake Rolex. A flat magnification lens is also untrue to the conventional design of a Rolex watch, which sports a convex Cyclops lens above the date feature.
+ Ticking sound: If your watch has a distinct ticking sound, then it’s likely to be counterfeit. Aside from modes like the Rolex Oysterquartz, most Rolex watches are automatic as opposed to quartz.
+ The movement: every meticulously crafted Rolex engine is engraved with the “Rolex” logo. Its individual parts are all impeccably executed.
+ Caseback: Rolex chooses to equip their wristwatches with a solid caseback, as opposed to a sapphire crystal glass lens. They’re also smooth and forgo any detailing.
+ Water resistance: if a watch looks like it has encountered water damage, it’s either a vintage model with depleted water-resistant capabilities, or it’s a counterfeit Rolex. Get the watch checked over by a professional to determine whether you’re dealing with a fabricated watch or an aged genuine Rolex that just needs a little TLC.
+ Weight: A fake watch uses cheaper materials and less of them. You can compare the weight of a genuine Rolex vs. a fake Rolex if someone you know owns a genuine wristwatch that you can feel and weigh in your hand. If not, weigh the watch and compare it with your research. If the watch feels flimsy and lightweight, it won’t be a true Rolex.
+ Micro-etched crystal: Was the watch you’re looking at produced post-2002? If so, does it feature the signature crown logo etched into the surface of its sapphire glass lens?
For many, owning a Rolex watch brings pure joy to the wrist of a hobbyist. It’s a blow to learn that the fake Rolex industry is as rife as ever. To minimize its growth, it’s important to get to grips with everything you need to know about detecting a fake watch amongst the good ones. Don’t be fooled into thinking that a counterfeit will jump right out at you. While there are several downright ridiculous watches on the market that go by the name of a “Rolex” watch, there are also some clones that look the business.
It’s not surprising that there are so many fake models on the market. Rolex is the most widely recognized watch company, and it’s also created some highly coveted timepieces. From watches like the robust Submariner, which earned its reputation through unbeatable waterproof technology to the iconic GMT-Master Pepsi models geared towards the frequent traveler, there will always be an infiltration of watches on the market that imitate the style of a beautiful Rolex watch.
But if you’ve experienced any measure of success in life, you’ll understand the importance and significance of owning an authentic Rolex watch. That’s probably why you’re reading this article right now. Keep in mind the fundamental qualities of every true Rolex watch: value, materials, and performance. Use this guide to compare these qualities, and you’ve already acquired all the skills to help you detect a fake Rolex.