How To Spot a Fake Rolex

how to spot a fake rolex
Adam R. Harris

By Adam R. Harris | May 19th, 2022

According to Forbes, Rolex is one of the top 100 most powerful, recognized brands in the world. Rolex is so famous that it’s virtually synonymous with the luxury watch category, as well as a symbol of success itself. It is no wonder, Rolex is being copied in so many ways.

Over the years, many international watch manufacturers have answered the demand by producing high-quality fake watches. Many fake Rolex watches are even, to trained eyes, nearly exact copies of their genuine counterparts.

It is no longer possible to spot every fake Rolex by simply looking at it. The only way to know for sure is to take the watch to an authorized dealer, qualified watchmaker, or high-end watch shop. There they will remove the case back and see the movement inside. However, there are some signs of fake Rolex watches that can be caught by the naked eye.

Given the increasing sophistication of fake Rolex watches, our experts tell us: How can we detect red flags at a glance when examining a timepiece? What do experts check for inside the watch? Keep reading our extended guide for further details and learn what it takes to spot a fake Rolex.

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Good fake Rolex replicas are hard to spot but there are a few key indicators that can help you separate the real from the impostors:

Spotting Fake Rolex Watches: Tips and Indicators

The Look of a Fake Rolex

Case Back

The easiest way to spot a fake Rolex is to look at the watch’s case back, which is almost always plain metal. So if the watch you’re examining has a glass exhibition case back which allows the watch mechanism to be seen, it’s a fake Rolex watch, or one of the very rare 1030 see-through watches made by Rolex.

Engravings

Genuine Rolex model case backs are smooth, completely free of engravings. So if you see an engraving, you should be suspicious. With that said, you should note that Rolex made two watches with an engraved case back: the Sea Dweller which has “Rolex Oyster Original Gas Escape Valve” in an arc around the outside of the case back and the Milgauss model which has a similar design.

Genuine Rolex caseback
Genuine Rolex caseback

Metal Quality

Rolex does NOT make 14k gold or gold-plated watches or bracelets. A real Rolex is either stainless steel, 18k gold, or platinum. If you see a Rolex with faded gold or metal showing below the gold, it is a fake.

Magnification

On real Rolex watches with a date, Rolex adds a magnification glass window above the date called “Cyclops”. The Cyclops lens on the face of the true Rolex will magnify the date by 2.5x the normal size. This makes the date jump out at you. The date should take up the entire glass bubble.

Most counterfeit timepieces will appear 1.5x or lower, making the date look small and more difficult to see. Additionally, The Cyclops’ date window in a real version is dead centered above the number. It’s not always like that in a replica.

If the date through the Cyclops or from the side looks the same size or is difficult to see, it may well be a fake. It is important to note that there are some fake Rolexes that have a bigger font printed wheel to imitate this magnification look.

Genuine rolex date magnifying Cyclops
Genuine date magnifying Cyclops

GMT Hand

On a genuine Rolex, the green GMT hand is sandwiched between the hour and the minute hand. The GMT hand on a fake Rolex often sits close to the dial and is NOT sandwiched between the hour/minute hands. This is not a simple oversight by the counterfeiters, but caused by specific constraints on the counterfeit movement they use.

Blurry Photos

Photos that look like they were taken from a satellite or a reconnaissance drone are usually the first sign of something amiss. Even the most amateur
photographer with a phone camera should be able to take decent dial, case, and movement shots. If a seller refuses to provide several clear shots – walk!

The Feel of a Fake Rolex

Heft

Another way to spot a fake Rolex watch is by the heft of the watch. Genuine Rolex watches, especially modern ones, have a “solid” feel. This solid feel generally comes from the heavy weight of the genuine metal throughout the watch. Rolex Oyster cases are made from a solid piece of 904L, steel, or precious metal. You can feel this extra weight from the center of the movement. Fake Rolex watches are generally lighter than real ones.

Winding Crown

Check the winding crown on the side of the watch at the ‘3’. The winding crown on a fake Rolex will typically have a basic looking crown to move the minute and hour hands while a true Rolex will have engravings and grooves that are a finely-crafted and can be felt by the touch.

Genuine Rolex winding crown
Genuine Rolex winding crown

Details

Most of the signs of a fake Rolex are small details that show a lack of rigorous quality control. Everything about a Rolex is well-constructed: the quality of the finish is refined, the dials are perfect, the lume is perfect, the markings are perfect, and the case and bracelet should feel rounded with no sharp edges.

The Sound of a Fake Rolex

The second hand on a real Rolex sweeps almost smoothly. To the naked eye it should seem very smooth, while a fake’s tick jumps more clearly.

The reason is that on a genuine Rolex movement each second is broken down into eight steps giving an almost smooth and continuous sweep feel (that’s 28,800 per hour). You need a high quality watch movement to reach that.

Even when a replica uses a Swiss-made movement, the second hand’s ticking is usually visibly jumping instead of sweeping. So, if it “jumps” it’s a fake, but if it sweeps smoothly, you may need to look a step further and investigate the actual movement inside the watch.

Unlike most watches, Rolex watches do not make the ticking noise, if you hear loud ticking from the watch it is probably a fake Rolex.

The Numbers on a Fake Rolex

Model and Serial Number

Rolex watches have a sealed back case. Very few sellers can easily open the case to show the movement, so we have to look carefully at the outside of the case. Rolex etches the model (case) number between the lugs at 12 o’clock and the serial number between the lugs at 6 o’clock. After 2005, Rolex started to engrave the serial number on the inside bezel under the crystal at 6 o’clock. A fake Rolex often has an incorrect model case number that can be detected with a simple Google search. Looking up the model case number will let us see if it corresponds to the same model or a different one.

Real vs. fake Rolex reference numbers

Rolex reference number between lugs

Lettering on the Dial

On a genuine Rolex, the printed lettering on the dial should be precise with very clean edges (easily seen under high magnification).

Sharp Engravings

The serial and case reference numbers, located between the lugs are engraved with great detail and are sharp. On a fake Rolex, these numbers often look like they have been sand-blasted or roughly etched into the case. As you can see in the example below, the engraving between the lugs of a genuine Rolex features very fine lines, which catch the light in a manner similar to a diamond-cut edge. However, many counterfeits will feature a sandy acid-etched appearance, as seen in the example below. Furthermore, the spacing on these numbers is often too close together. It is worth mentioning that counterfeiters frequently use the SAME numbers on their watches.

Holograms

Until 2007, genuine Rolex models were shipped new from the factory with a Hologram-encoded three-dimensional sticker on the case back. This sticker features the trademarked Rolex crown positioned above the watch’s case reference number.

The hologram can be easily identified by viewing it from different angles, thus causing the background pattern to change. Most counterfeit stickers are not holograms. Instead, they are rather simply a repetitious Rolex pattern that does not change in appearance when viewed from different angles.

However, Rolex discontinued its use of holograms as counterfeiters became much better at reproducing them. So now the use of a hologram for a post-2007 watch is a sign that it is a fake Rolex, not genuine. For example, if you see a Blue/Black “Batman” bezel only launched in 2015, you know it is counterfeit, despite the genuine-looking hologram.

If you have the chance to compare a real Rolex with a fake one, you will be able to see the differences by checking all these points. But it is often hard to tell a real vs. fake Rolex unless you know what to look for. The best advice is to work with someone knowledgeable and trustworthy. What always works, is to keep in mind: “If it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t.”

How to Sell a Rolex

If you are selling a Rolex watch it is imperative to know if what you’ve got is real or fake. With an abundance of fraud out there, buyer and seller confidence is important in striking a win-win deal. When a buyer is confident that a Rolex is real, they will likely place a better offer on it rather than leaving a margin for errors or deducting the cost of having it authenticated.

That is exactly why we at Worthy authenticate everything that goes through our doors. Every watch is checked at CentralWatch in Manhattan, just a few blocks away from our NY headquarters.But that’s not the only reason why Worthy is the best place to sell your Rolex. Click to learn more about how selling your Rolex with Worthy can get you the most money for your watch

Adam R. Harris

Adam R. Harris


Adam R. Harris is an instructor with the National Associate of Watch and Clock Collectors.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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