Rolex is believed by many to be the most esteemed Swiss watchmaker in the world. For more than 100 years, Rolex has set the standard for watchmaking, creating luxury timepieces known for their precision, accuracy, and unmatched quality. Worn by world leaders, athletes, and entertainers alike, Rolex watches have become a symbol of wealth, prestige, and of course, impeccable style. With such star-studded appeal, it’s no wonder Rolex replicas are in high demand. This has created a market for knock-offs, most of which are produced overseas in China and nearby countries. Spotting a fake Rolex was once fairly easy, but as manufacturing techniques have become more sophisticated, it has become increasingly difficult to tell a counterfeit from the real thing. Try as they might, the quality and accuracy of an authentic Rolex simply cannot be reproduced, and although it may be a bit more challenging, there are tricks to distinguishing a real Rolex from a fake. In this article, we’ll determine how to spot a fake Rolex by examining some of the watch brand’s most defining characteristics.
How to Identify a Fake Rolex
Serial & Model Numbers
One of the simplest methods for verifying the authenticity of a Rolex watch is to examine its serial number and model number. These numbers can be used to determine when the watch was manufactured. Where is the serial number on a Rolex, you may ask? Older Rolex models have a serial number located between the 6:00 lugs, and a model number between the 12:00 lugs. Newer models, on the other hand, have a serial number beneath the watch’s crystal, along the inner bezel at the 6:00 position. When closely inspected, these numbers should feature clean, fine lines that are flawlessly etched into the metal. Engravings with a rough or sandy appearance are clear indicators of a phony Rolex. Additionally, a fake Rolex will have numbers that are cramped together, whereas real Rolex markings and engravings will be adequately spaced.
The date window on Rolex watches is aptly named “the Cyclops.” This handy lens helps to magnify the date for easier reading. The Cyclops on an authentic Rolex will magnify the date to 2.5 times its original size, whereas a knockoff may display minimal to no magnification. Turn the watch on its side and try to view the date from a different angle. If it appears to be the same size as when looking at the watch head on, it’s likely a fake. This date window should also be perfectly centered over the date, and should feel like a small bump. These small details are usually giveaways for counterfeit designs.
Rolex watches are designed with complex, mechanical movements that self-wind with every day wear. Counterfeit Rolexes are generally made with less expensive quartz or battery powered movements. To tell the difference between the two, simply watch the second hand. If it appears to make a “ticking” motion, the watch likely contains a quartz movement. If it propels smoothly and fluidly, it is a mechanical movement. The exception to this rule would be Rolex’s OysterQuartz and QuartzDate models, which were designed with quartz movements. Luckily, these models are exceptionally rare, with less than 20,000 originally produced.
The underside of a watch is known as the caseback. Legitimate Rolexes have casebacks that are free of any markings. If your caseback has any stamping, etching, or engraving—it’s not a genuine Rolex. In fact, many fakes will actually include extra detail on the caseback in an attempt to dupe buyers into thinking they’re getting the real deal. Don’t be deceived by these tricks, a clear caseback is a foolproof measure of authenticity.
Rolex spares no detail when designing their luxury watches, and the winding crown is no exception. The brand’s signature crown logo is on every Rolex winding crown, no matter the model. There should be grooves that you can see and feel, and the mechanism should be all one piece. If these details are absent, and the winding crown is plain, you’ve got an imitation on your hands.
Around 2002, Rolex began adding another small detail to their watches that has been difficult for counterfeiters to duplicate. If you look closely with a magnifying glass or jewelry loupe, you’ll see Rolex’s tiny trademark crown etched into the watch’s crystal right at the 6 o’clock position. Most counterfeiters don’t attempt to copy this detail, and if they do, it’s often done sloppily. If the etching is large and easily seen by the untrained eye, you’ve got a fake.
Rolex is known for designing their watches using only the highest quality precious metal and crystal. These materials are strong and durable, and also much heavier than cheap alternatives. A quick internet search can give you an idea what your watch should weigh. A genuine Rolex will feel solid in the palm of your hand. If your watch feels uncharacteristically lightweight, there’s a good chance it’s an impostor.
Rolex designs all of its watches to be essentially waterproof. If you doubt the authenticity of your Rolex watch, you can perform a simple water-tightness test at home. First, be sure that the crown is tightly screwed down, then submerge the watch in a cup of water for several seconds. When the watch is removed, it should work without any issues and there should be no moisture inside the dial. Bear in mind that if your watch is in fact fake, an at home test such as this one could potentially damage the timepiece. While the Submariner is the only Rolex model designed for use in deep water, every Rolex watch can withstand everyday activities like a shower or dip in the pool.
The best way to know you’re buying a genuine Rolex is simple—the price tag. If you’re in the market for a Rolex watch, chances are you’ve done a good deal of research and are prepared to pay top dollar. Even the cheapest Rolex model retails for thousands of dollars, so there’s absolutely no reason that any reputable jeweler or watchmaker would sell a real Rolex for less than its worth. Be wary of prices that are too good to be true, or of dealers who seem too eager to sell.
Know Your Seller
When shopping around for Rolex watches, we suggest choosing a seller you trust. To be safe, it’s best to avoid online transactions, especially on sites like Craigslist or eBay. Not only is the seller unknown, but the photos and description they give could be completely different than the actual product. Most of the tips we’ve provided for how to spot a fake Rolex require that you examine the item in person. Similarly, buying from a pawn shop can be risky. Though they occasionally receive real Rolex models, some stores do nothing to confirm a watch’s authenticity, so it’s left up to you to determine. The best way to be confident in your Rolex purchase is to shop with a trusted seller, like Leo Hamel Fine Jewelers.
Shop Genuine Pre-Owned Rolex Watches in San Diego
If you’re searching for the best place to find one-of-a-kind Rolex watches, you must visit Leo Hamel Fine Jewelers in San Diego. We carry one of the largest selections of pre-owned Rolex watches, all restored to like-new condition and ready to wear! Our watches are 100% authentic, and are meticulously inspected by our expert watchmakers before they’re put in our showroom for sale. We’ve been a trusted San Diego establishment for nearly 40 years, offering our customers unbeatable prices on luxurious Swiss-made watches. Visit our San Diego jewelry store today and explore our wonderful selection for yourself!
*All images courtesy of Bob’s Watches