Whether at work or out with friends socially, whenever discussing watches the no.1 question I get asked time after time is 'how do you spot a fake Rolex?'. The production of 'replica' watches has become much more sophisticated in recent years with higher quality fakechanging hands for hundreds of pounds, it can be more difficult to ascertain the legitimacy of watches being made available. That's why I've pooled the knowledge of all the GWS Directors with over 50 collective years of working in the luxury watch business to pull this simple, but most comprehensive guide available on the internet to help make sure you can spot that fake Rolex, and not get duped into parting with your money for something that's not the genuine article.
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To make your task easier and increase your chances of telling a Fake Rolex from the real McCoy have the genuine article to hand. It’s so much easier to check the weight, the look and feel of things like the clasp, and the dial features by comparing a copy against the real thing.
Rolex are the market leading luxury timepiece producer and this is apparent in every detail of the watches they produce. The three factors to consider when examining a watch are 'Quality', 'Consistency' and 'precision'. Our starting point when assessing a watch brought to us is always to look at the quality of finishing.
Things to look for:
Are they stacked correctly? Check the order of the hands is consistent with that of the genuine article.
Check the detailed finishing of the hands under magnification. The edges should be sharp and the paint should be within their defined areas with no overspill.
This is the central column that the hands are stacked upon. Often, we find the quality of finishing on the rotor post is the most common giveaway on a fake. Again, under magnification examine the post. Is it smoothly finished or are the edges a bit rough. The quality of engineering that goes into production means that even the smallest parts are finished to fantastic quality standards, the rotor post should epitomise this with its clean smooth finish
the writing on the dial should be precise and demonstrate the quality that has gone into the process of manufacture. Under magnification the font should be consistent, with consistent spacing in between each letter, number and minute marker. Thecrown should be present in the 12 o’clock position and show the same perfections as the lettering. A common sign of a fake is the imperfections of the lettering. To the naked eye the lettering appears consistent, whereas under magnification on a fake the lettering may appear pitted.
As well as being finished to the highest quality with smooth edges and perfectly painted markers many models like the Submariner and the GMT-Master II will have luminesant hour markers. These should produce a consistent colour lumination. Try illuminating your dial by holding under a bright light for a few seconds and then take the watch into the darkness. If the luminesant glow given off by the markers is inconsistent then this is a good sign that yourcould be a fake.
The rehault is the area of the watch that stands up around the edge of the dial and runs up to the bezel. On moderntimepieces, this should have the word ‘ ’ repeatedly engraved around the rehault. In 2004 introduced the placement of serial numbers on their watches from between lugs, to being visible on the rehault centred around the 6 o’clock position. This was a phased introduction so depending on which collection you may find that the serial number remains between the lugs for certain models for a limited time. Make sure:
- The ROLEXROLEX and serial number on the rehault is engraved, not printedThe quality of the engraving is perfect.
- The serial matches against the warranty card of the watch, and that it has not been removed or changed by polishing and re-engraving.
In the case of genuinewatches that may have been previously stolen, or subject to an insurance claim it can be quite common that the serial number within the rehault has been tampered with to try to disguise the identity of the watch (no papers? Pay particular attention to the engraved serial number!!).
Since 1991 all genuinewatches have been produced with a highly scratch resistant sapphire crystal. This sapphire crystal has been chosen by as it enables maximum clarity of the dial below, and a hardness that gives a level of protection only rivalled by the strength of diamonds. Here’s how you can spot a fake by examining the sapphire crystal: -
Check the crystal itself is the genuine article by dropping a spec of water onto it. If the water separates on the glass and runs off in different directions then it’s not a genuine sapphire crystal lens.
To combat the counterfeit market, in 2001 Rolex introduced what is commonly referred to as ‘Micro etching’. In the 6 o’clock position upon the crystal itself, but invisible to the naked eye is a micro etched Rolex crown. Even under magnification this can very difficult to pick out especially to the untrained eye.
Here’s a couple of tips to help you find it: -
- Use a good quality loupe
- Focus the loupe on the crystal. A common mistake when trying to locate the crown is to focus the loupe on the dial, you will only see it if you train the focus of the loupe magnification on the crystal.
- Use good quality light, or a led torch to illuminate the surface of the crystal
- Try changing the angle from which you come at the crystal. A slightly different background behind the crown can make the difference (it’s easier to spot against a black dial than against a white!)
- Take a break! Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t see it first time. If the micro etching has been made so it stands out then it’s a fake! It’s not meant to be easy so give your eyes a rest then give it another try.
If your watch has a date and a cyclops lens (bubble over the date aperture) try looking at the numbers from the date wheel without looking through the cyclops. This will give you an idea of the strength of magnification that the ‘cyclops’ lens on your watch is working to. If it’s a genuine Rolex the magnification will be to a factor of 2.5 times and the lens will stand out from the rest of the crystal. This will also give you an opportunity to assess the date wheel as well. In a genuine Rolex, this will be perfectly centred within the date aperture, the numbers will be uniform and of consistent quality with the dial markings. There will be no pitting of the numbers even under magnification
Rolex do not currently produce any of their timepieces with a skeleton (clear) caseback. Many producers of fake Rolex watches manufacture using a clear caseback to display the working movement to help with the sale. If you see a skeleton back on a new Rolex, it’s a sure sign of it being a fake!
Another tell-tale sign on the case back is when there is engraving present. Except for the Rolex Deepsea and Rolex Sea-Dweller, Rolex do not, as standard, currently engrave any of their casebacks.
A genuine Rolex movement will drive the seconds hand to tick somewhere between 5 and 8 times per second (depending on the model). This extremely fast ticking is often referred to as a ‘sweep’ and can be difficult and expensive to replicate. Because of this a fake Rolex may tick once, or maybe 2 or 3 times per second telling you that the movement is not one produced by Rolex
The movement is the engine that drives the functions of the watch. Depending on model you are assessing make sure you familiarise yourself with the functions of that model, and how to control them from the crown. These functions could include time, day, date, second time zone (GMT), chronograph and regatta timer.
A common feature of fakewatches is found within the date change mechanism. On a genuine , the date will click into place in one movement when the time passes midnight. On some fake models the date wheel will move gradually onto a new day of a period of 10 minutes or often up to an hour.
Finally check that when adjusting the time, the hands move in the same direction as the crown. If turning the crown clockwise, the hour and minute hands should also move in this direction.
Abezel will have specific properties depending on the model. A Explorer II and a Daytona will have a fixed bezel, a Submariner will turn only anti clockwise, a GMT-Master II bezel will turn in both directions and a Sky-Dweller or a Yacht-Master II will have a ‘ring command’ bezel that controls functions of the movement. Make sure you are familiar with the functions of the bezel for the model you are buying and that the watch you are looking at operates in the way it should otherwise you could be about to purchase a fake!
The markings on theCrown (winder) signify two different properties of the watch, the crown type, and the metal the watch is made from. A line, 2 dots, or a single dot underneath the brand symbol tell us we have a twinlock crown (water resistant to 100m). The triplock crown is represented by 3 dots underneath the brand symbol and signifies water resistance to a rating of. All watches are fitted with a screw in crown. Make sure this is correct for the watch you are about to purchase.
The attention to detail and excellent manufacturing standards should not only be present in the watch, but all aspects of the packaging also. When assessing the box take out all removeable parts and turn them over. Have the corners been finished correctly to a high standard or are just folded over and stuck? Is the lettering and colouring of the box both on the inside and outside entirely consistent with that found in genuine packaging? If the box and packaging show signs of being fake, then it’s a definite signal to look closely at the watch itself.
Away from the watch itself it’s always a good idea to carry out a due diligence of the seller. Are they known to you, or have you dealt with them before? Are genuinely independent reviews available and in what quantity? Does the seller hold registrations with any national / government bodies where you can gain a better insight into their background (e.g. HMRC / Companies House / FCA)? Do they have a base that you are likely to be able to find them at next month or are you arranging to meet in a hotel or coffee shop somewhere? Rolex prices are very akin to that of precious commodities where there is rarely much difference from the expected market price. If a seller is arranging to meet you outside of their own premises and selling at a price that appears too good to be true, you know what the likely outcome will be!
So, you’ve followed all the steps in our ‘How to spot a fake Rolex guide and you’re still unsure? The final check to carry out is to take have the watch inspected by a credible watchmaker. A good watchmaker will be able to remove the caseback and thoroughly inspect the movement and its constituent parts to ensure that the watch is in fact a genuine Rolex timepiece. Be aware that if the watch is still covered by the 5 year Rolex international warranty then having the watch opened by a watchmaker not at a Rolex service centre may invalidate the warranty. If this is the case you may prefer the watch be inspected by Rolex themselves.
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