Watch Articles

How to Spot a Fake Rolex

November 7, 2019 - Watch Articles
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As the demand for Rolex watches continues to exceed supply and waiting lists for coveted models grow longer, counterfeiters are upping their game. So, while you can be pretty sure that the guy selling from a blanket spread on the sidewalk isn’t retailing the real deal, it’s harder to know how to spot a fake Rolex when a timepiece is priced at hundreds—or thousands—of pounds and looks just like the real thing. Before you buy, read our guide and learn what to ask to distinguish a real Rolex from a fake.

 

HOW TO SPOT A FAKE ROLEX WATCH

  1. Where are you buying it?
  2. How does it look next to the real thing? 
  3. How does it feel?
  4. What’s the material of the case and bracelet?
  5. What’s on the back of the case?
  6. What’s on the crystal? 
  7. What’s on the face?
  8. How do the hands move?
  9. How does the serial number look?
  10. How does it sound? 

HOW TO AFFORD A REAL ROLEX

WHERE TO FIND AN AUTHENTIC ROLEX

 

1. Where are you buying it?

At a traditional auction house, you’re usually safe bidding on a Rolex because an on-staff  expert has already authenticated the watch. At online auctions, not so much. With some Rolex models going for twice their original list price, online scammers are posting counterfeits faster than auction sites like eBay can take down the listings. Be especially wary of blurry photographs and multiple listings of the same model. And don’t be fooled by official-looking boxes, certificates, or seals—those are even easier to fake than the watch. 

If you’re buying from an estate sale or local reseller, remember that they may not know how to spot a fake Rolex either. So make sure that you can take the watch to a licensed Rolex dealer to have it authenticated, a process that may involve opening the back of the watch to check its mechanism. (And, because the back of a real Rolex does not open easily, you’ll want to make sure that someone with experience is doing this.)

The best way to buy a real Rolex for the best price, is to buy pre-owned from the watch experts. Gemma by WP Diamonds offers a wide array of pre-owned and expertly authenticated Rolex watches at a fraction of retail prices. 

2. How does it look next to the real thing? 

Even if they’re not watch experts, most people can spot a fake when they see it in a side-by-side comparison with the real thing. However, if you’re not lucky enough to have a real Rolex handy, take advantage of the watchmaker’s website, where you’ll find lots of detailed, high-resolution images. For older models, you may want to turn to a reputable blog like ABlogtoWatch.com, watch databases and encyclopedia sites like Watchbase.com and WatchWiki.net, or a specialty forum like RolexForums.com. Those sites are also great sources of information about which Rolex models were produced with which metals and faces. For example: Rolex makes its popular President model only in gold or platinum, so if you see that model in steel, you’re looking at a fake. 

 

3. How does it feel?

A real Rolex feels expensive. Both watch and bracelet have a comfortable heft, while a fake feels flimsy and lightweight.

Expect a Rolex bracelet to be smooth—no snags, no sharp edges—and close securely. Expect the winder to be deeply grooved, feel firmly attached, and feature a three-dimensional crown logo. The clasp of a real Rolex will be capable of minute adjustments and also feature a three-dimensional crown. 

The cheapest fakes tell time inconsistently, have limited functionality, and may be made with push buttons that don’t work, or a glass crystal that will shatter easily. 

 

4. What’s the material of the case and bracelet?

Sometimes the metal used in the watch’s case and bracelet will be a giveaway. And sometimes not. Because any jeweller or pawnbroker knows how to spot a fake Rolex by confirming the metal content of its platinum (Rolex uses only 950 platinum) or gold (Rolex uses only 18 karat), counterfeits are most likely to come in steel. And, as you’d expect, Rolex doesn’t use run-of-the-mill steel. Genuine Rolex watches use the kind of high-grade alloy preferred by the aerospace industry: Its Oyster models, for example, are made from what the brand calls Oystersteel, a 904L-type steel that’s highly resistant to corrosion.

Unfortunately, good fakes now use a similar alloy. The upshot: If you see a model made from low-end steel, it’s definitely not a Rolex; and even if you see a model made from high-end steel, you still can’t be sure. Beginning in 2005, Rolex also began using bezels made of Cerachrom, an extremely hard ceramic. After engraving numerals and decorations, Rolex coats the entire bezel with a super-fine layer of platinum or gold that is then buffed away until it remains only inside the engraved numerals and decorations, making them reflective and more legible. 

How to tell counterfeit ceramic from the real thing? Look for deep, clear engraving combined with an absence of scratches and fading—authentic Cerachrom is almost impervious to abuse. 

 

5. What’s on the back of the case?

You may also hear a seller say that a hologram sticker on the back of the watch case is a sure sign of authenticity. And he may be right. Or, again, he may not. Genuine Rolex watches used to be shipped with a hologram on the back—until counterfeiters got better at faking the holograms. Whereupon Rolex discontinued its hologram stickers. These days, you’re best off checking a specialty site to see which years and models came with hologram stickers and which did not. 

The back of the case on a real Rolex is understated and unadorned—never clear, never decorated, never engraved—unless it’s with a personal engraving of the previous owner. (On the famous Rolex Daytona that she gave husband Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward had “Drive carefully, Me” engraved on the case back.) If you see “genuine Rolex” engraved on the back, it’s not. 

 

6. What’s on the crystal? 

In 1953, Rolex created a tiny magnifying lens to magnify the date in its Datejust watches.  Known as the “Cyclops,” it’s incorporated into the watch’s crystal to enlarge the date exactly two-and-a-half times. Fakes skip that step since it’s far too expensive to reproduce. 

Rolexes made after 2002 will also have a teeny, tiny crown engraved on the face of the crystal, right over the numeral six on the dial. Although counterfeiters have long since caught on and now add their own crowns, theirs are rarely as clean. Compare their imitations and you’re apt to see differences in the shape and size of the crown. 

 

7. What’s on the face?

A misspelled product name, bubbled or uneven printing, and the absence of the crown logo are all dead giveaways. But you can also watch for subtler tells like Rolex’s “watchmaker’s four,” meaning that a dial featuring Roman numerals will read IIII instead of IV. 

 

8. How do the hands move?

Cheap fakes will have a second hand that lurches from second to second, while the second hand of an authentic Rolex moves with such subtle gradations that the sweep appears to be continuous. 

On a fake Rolex, the GMT hand (a hand that rotates once every 24 hours to allow use of the watch in more than one time zone), may be included only for show and drag along with the hour hand as a “dead” hand. 

 

9. How does the serial number look?

On a real Rolex, the serial number is deeply incised in the metal. Even under magnification, the edges of the engraving will still be sharp. If you see stamping, smudges, or acid-etched numbers, the watch is a fake.

Beginning in 2010, Rolex began adding a serial number to the inner bezel. Not long after, counterfeiters did too. Again, though, the giveaway is the engraving. If it’s smudgy or shallow, it’s not a Rolex. 

If the seller is offering more than one watch, compare serial numbers: Counterfeiters tend to stamp the same number on each one. 

 

10. How does it sound? 

The bezel of a real Rolex adjusts with a click so subtle that it will remind you of the thwump of a Rolls-Royce door. Likewise, the watch mechanism will have a muted ticking sound, although you’ll probably have to put your ear right up to the watch to hear it. Too loud—or no sound at all—and you’ve probably got a fake. 

Rolex did make quartz watches starting in the 1970s, but stopped making them over a decade ago. If you think you’re looking at a vintage Oysterquartz, go online to confirm that the watch falls inside the correct date range. 

And it goes without saying (although we’ll say it anyway) that a real Rolex would never rattle or clank. Shake it—gently!—and you shouldn’t hear a thing. 

 

HOW TO AFFORD A REAL ROLEX

Now that you know how to spot a fake Rolex, you may feel ready for the real thing. That’s where we come in: As specialist online diamond, jewelry and luxury watch buyers, WP Diamonds makes affording authentic luxury timepieces easy. Sell your luxury jewelry and watches for cash or store credit, with a 10 percent increase when you opt for store credit.

With us, selling your diamonds, jewellery, and watches is easy. Simply fill out our online form and follow its information prompts to receive a price quote from one of our experts. Whether you prefer to sell from the comfort of your own home or make an appointment at our offices in Birmingham, London, New York or Hong Kong, our service is always simple, fast, secure—and free. You can feel confident in our trust guarantee and hundreds of positive customer reviews.

Click the button below to find out how much you can earn. 

WHERE TO FIND AN AUTHENTIC ROLEX

Better still, eliminate the stress of how to spot a fake Rolex—go for the real thing. Datejust? Submariner? Daytona? Yachtmaster? On our sister site, Gemma by WP Diamonds, you’ll find a large selection of authenticated, accurately described, pre-owned Rolex watches that range from the never-worn to vintage collectible. 


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