Rolex is widely regarded as one of the most important watch companies in history. The sheer number of Rolex watches sold each year is a testament to their quality. A Rolex is more than a watch – it is a status symbol. For many, owning a Rolex watch brings pure joy; and that joy, in turn, creates a huge demand for these luxury timepieces. However, due to the widespread demand for Rolex watches, it’s no surprise there are all types of Rolex Replicas in existence.
Sadly, the fakes are getting better and better. No longer can you can spot a fake Rolex from 20 feet away. These days, some fakes are so good that they must be partially disassembled before they can be identified as counterfeit and can fool even the most well-versed Rolex aficionado or expert!
Bob’s Watches has over 30 years of authenticating pre-owned Rolex watches, so and want to share that experience with you in a guide on how to spot a fake Rolex. Read the guide and watch the video below, so that you too can weed out the replicas from the real deals.
Table of Contents:
- 1 Watch our video to learn how to tell if a Rolex is real
- 2 Real vs Fake Rolex Watches
- 3 Before You Begin, Know Your Seller
- 4 Beware of eBay & Craigslist Reproductions
- 5 Rolex Only Produces Quality Timepieces
- 6 Six Red Flags
- 7 The Top Ten Ways to Spot a Fake or Counterfeit Rolex
- 8 Authenticating a Rolex
- 9 Eliminate Risks When Buying Authentic Rolex Watches
- 10 You Can Find The Original Version of This Page Below
Watch our video to learn how to tell if a Rolex is real
Great demand also attracts a booming counterfeit market, and unfortunately, buyers can be tricked into handing over their cash for a fake Rolex, all the while thinking it’s the real deal. So, if you’ve decided that you’re ready to invest in a Rolex, it is important to take the time to understand what you are purchasing. See the information below from our Rolex expert with over 30 years of experience. All of the watches on our site come with a certified authenticity report upon request.
Real vs Fake Rolex Watches
Rolex timepieces are one of the most coveted luxury items in the world. So, consequently, there is a huge market for replica (fake) watches. Most of these fraudulent watches are made in China but research shows that production is spreading throughout all of Asia and other regions too. These forged timepieces typically sell for $25 to $200, and the quality has gotten increasingly better over the past years. The modern Rolex Datejust collection and Rolex Submariner are prime targets for these replicas.
Even experienced dealers can get fooled by bogus watches. Some knock-offs are easy to spot right away, while other, more sophisticated, fake Rolex watches may be much more challenging to identify. With that said, it can be difficult for a novice to know how to tell if a Rolex is fake. To help protect yourself from dishonest sellers and imitation merchandise, we have compiled a list of the hallmarks of a genuine timepiece. Read carefully to ensure that you are not fooled by counterfeit watches.
Before You Begin, Know Your Seller
The easiest way to prevent the purchase of a reproduction or phony wristwatch is to buy from a reputable and trusted seller. There are plenty of reputable dealers, but it never hurts to do your homework to ensure that you get a genuine timepiece. Google does a very good job of showing you the most established, trusted retailers to help safeguard against non-genuine models from entering the market.
Think that’s enough? Think again. Your due diligence should not end there. Many of these trustworthy dealers, including but not limited to Bob’s Watches provide a guarantee of authenticity with every sale. Our in-house buyers meticulously inspect each watch in our inventory, and when necessary, the timepieces are restored and serviced by our authorized service providers using only 100% authentic Rolex parts. Additionally, it is definitely recommended that you find a dealer that specializes in Rolex watches.
Beware of eBay & Craigslist Reproductions
On the other hand, websites such as Ebay and Craigslist are well-known, but they are only platforms that bring buyers and sellers together, and thus are not accountable for what is being sold. Such sites are often plagued with fraudulent goods, and it’s difficult to find trusted and honest Rolex vendors. It could be a dangerous place if you don’t already know how to know if a Rolex is real. For that reason, we never recommend eBay or Craigslist.
Rolex Only Produces Quality Timepieces
Rolex is one of the most coveted luxury brands on the planet, and is known for quality, durability, style, and prestige. The company uses the best steel on earth called “Oystersteel” (904L stainless steel), which is more rust and corrosion-resistant. Rolex also creates its own precious metal alloys to ensure the exact integrity of every watch. Everything is crafted to absolute perfection, so take a closer look at the case, crown, hands, bezel, bracelet, and clasp – if anything comes across as sub-par quality, then you can be pretty sure it’s not the real deal.
Six Red Flags
Before you start the process of authenticating a watch, there are some essential tips and tricks to always keep in mind that will help you immediately spot the obvious fakes:
- The weight: real Rolex watches typically weigh more than most fakes.
- The swiping motion of the second hand: there should be no rigid movements (excluding Oysterquartz watches).
- The Cyclops lens on the crystal: the date on genuine Rolex watches with be magnified inside the Cyclops lens on the crystal and it should almost fill up the entire bubble.
- The crown on the crystal: on newer Rolex watches, there is a small coronet insignia laser-etched on the 6 o’clock side of the crystal.
- The model and serial number: on all Rolex watches, there is a model (on the 12 o’clock side where the band meets the lug) and serial number (on the 6 o’clock side where the band meets the lug, or on the inner bezel on newer Rolex watches). You also want to look for the engraving “Original Rolex Design” above the model number. To see how to remove your Rolex band and find the watch’s serial and model number visit our “How to Find the Serial Number and Model Number on a Rolex” video.
- The details: everything about Rolex watches, whether they are new or used, is perfect (that’s just how Rolex does things). Make sure the lettering and the details are crisps on every aspect of the watch.
The Top Ten Ways to Spot a Fake or Counterfeit Rolex
1. Serial & Model Number Engravings
One of the best way to assure a Rolex is genuine is to refer to the serial and case reference numbers. The serial and model numbers on a genuine Rolex are deep and perfectly marked in solid, very fine lines that will shine in the light at an angle like a diamond cut edge. Conversely, the numbers on many fake, or replica watches, are typically made up of faint tiny dots due to a lower quality marking process. In other cases, these numbers on counterfeit watches will have a sandy-like appearance from being “acid etched” as shown in the photo above on the left.
Additionally, another point worth mentioning is that counterfeiters often use the same reference and serial numbers on many watches of different styles. All genuine Rolex watches should have reference numbers that correspond to their specific models and configurations, and each one will have its own unique serial number.
Replica watches come in different grades, and the really low-quality phony ones may not even bother to put the Rolex name or famous crown logo on the watch. This, of course, is a dead giveaway that you are dealing with an inauthentic piece.
The movement that powers a Rolex is an exercise in master watchmaking skill. A replica watch cannot match the craftsmanship, dedication, precision, and knowledge of a true Rolex caliber. Each genuine movement will always have “Rolex” engraved on it, and of the individual parts will be immaculately finished (as you would expect) which you can only see if you open up the watch.
Something else to consider is that the majority of Rolex’s watches have mechanical movements, so if you’re looking at a quartz, that could be a red flag since only a very limited quantity of quartz watches throughout their history have been produced.
Additionally, with the use of modern technologies such as optical scanning and 3D printing, counterfeiters are getting increasingly better at copying Rolex’s designs, with some of the most convincing fakes even going so far as to “clone” the movement of a genuine Rolex. These watches (often called “super fakes”) will have a movement that mimics the design and appearance of a genuine Rolex movement; however under closer examination and magnification, the cloned movement will lack the ultra-fine precision finishing of the genuine movement (along with its reliability and precision).
4. Dial, Hands, & Finishing
When it is first manufactured, the dial of an original is more-or-less perfect, so if you see any uneven fonts, inconsistent spaces between the lettering, smudges, and/or misspellings on the watch then that is a big red flag, and definitely a sign to start looking further into its authenticity.
Additionally, Fake Rolex have less refined watch details and features. From the printing on their dials to the finishing on their hands and hour markers, everything about a fake Rolex will not be as well-executed as on the real thing. This is why it important to carefully study official photos of the exact model of watch you are intending to purchase. On some watches, the hands, dials, and bracelet clasps will differ considerably.
The Cyclops, in Rolex parlance, is the magnifying lens (on the crystal) above the date window on the face of their watches. On a genuine timepiece, the Cyclops is convex and magnifies the date 2.5 times for increased readability. If, on the watch, you’re considering, the magnification lens is flat and the date isn’t magnified as such, then you are likely dealing with a forgery. To spot counterfeit watches you need to pay close attention to every detail.
6. Water Resistance
Rolex wristwatches are built to be waterproof, while forged versions will not withstand a proper water pressure test. However, we strongly discourage using a water test if you doubt that the piece is real, since it will likely ruin the watch, preventing you from being able to return it. Additionally, if a watch is old and in need of repairs or service, there is a good chance it may not pass a water pressure test – even if it is genuine, so it is best to not try to do this yourself. If you believe you have a non-genuine timepiece, have it inspected by a reputable professional.
A genuine Rolex will have some weight to it because they are exclusively manufactured from the finest materials with no corners cut in their production process. A counterfeit watch will feel lighter and flimsy due to a cheaper construction and lesser materials. If your watch doesn’t have any heft to it you are likely dealing with a counterfeit.
8. Clear Caseback
With the exception of a couple of very rare vintage models produced in the 1930s, Rolex does not equip their watches with clear case backs. Many counterfeit Rolex watches often feature clear case backs that allow for you to see inside of the watch and into the various parts that make it work. Consequently, beware of replica watches that have a clear window with a view of the movement on the back of the watch’s case.
9. Caseback Engravings
Except for just a few rare instances, like the Rolex Sea Dweller, Milgauss, COMEX, Military watches, and some older rare models, Rolex does not engrave the exterior of their casebacks with words, logos, or pictures (a majority of the time). If the watch you’re looking at features engravings on the back of the watch’s case – and they are not the personal engravings from the previous owner, then chances are you have a fake Rolex or imitation replica watch.
It should be noted that some authentic older lady Rolex Datejust models like the 6917, 69173 and 69174 do have “Stainless Steel” and “Registered Design” on their casebacks. However, for the most part, genuine Rolex casebacks are always smooth and never engraved or clear.
10. Micro-etched Crystal
In 2002, Rolex began micro-etching a tiny crown logo at the 6 o’clock position on the crystal that protects the dial. If you’re looking at buying a Rolex made in 2002 onward, look for this marking for proof of authenticity. Since it’s so small, it is difficult to see with the naked eye without the help of a magnifying glass, and sometimes requires just the right lighting to properly view.
The precision of this detail makes it difficult for counterfeit watches to replicate, and should always be something that you look for when buying a modern Rolex. Look for the crown logo, and if you don’t see one visit a Rolex certified Rolex dealer for their professional opinion.
Authenticating a Rolex
In addition to the top tips for spotting a fake, it’s also important to keep a few things in mind to ensure you’re buying authentic Rolex watches. While that will never be a concern when buying from Bob’s, it’s still useful to arm yourself with some knowledge. So we’ve compiled a quick rundown of the anatomy of authentic Rolex watches with some basic guidelines to keep in mind. Please note that these rules are only applicable to Rolex watches made after 2002.
THE METALS OF AUTHENTIC ROLEX WATCHES
As expected, Rolex only uses the finest materials for its watches. For instance, Rolex watches exclusively use 904L stainless steel and 18k gold. Furthermore, Rolex also uses a patented rose gold alloy with some platinum mixed in that the brand calls Everose. For Rolex platinum timepieces, only 950 platinum will do, which comprises of 95% pure platinum. The term Rolesor refers to the use of both gold and stainless steel on a particular model. On the other hand, Rolesium refers to the use of both platinum and stainless steel on a specific watch.
- 904L Stainless Steel
- 18k gold
- Everose rose gold alloy (18k)
- 950 platinum
- Rolesor: gold and stainless steel (available with all 3 colors of gold)
- Rolesium: platinum and stainless steel
- Good to know: the fluted bezel is only ever in solid gold
THE OYSTER CASES OF AUTHENTIC ROLEX WATCHES
Rolex Oyster Perpetual watches are of course famous for their water resistance. In fact, Rolex made history in 1926 by creating the first waterproof wristwatch. Today, Rolex Oyster Perpetual watches have a minimum water-resistance of 330 feet (100 meters). However, Rolex divers’ watches have much deeper water resistance. The Rolex Submariner is water-resistant to 1,000 feet (300 meters) while the Sea-Dweller is water-resistant to 4,000 feet (1,220 meters). Finally, the Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea is water-resistant to 12,800 feet (3,900 meters).
- Rolex Oyster Perpetual Minimum Water Resistance: 330 feet
- Submariner Water Resistance: 1,000 feet
- Sea-Dweller Water Resistance: 4,000 feet
- Sea-Dweller Deepsea Water Resistance: 12,800 feet
To achieve this water resistance, the cases of authentic Rolex watches have certain hallmarks. Firstly, they have a solid middle case. Secondly, they have a fluted screw-down caseback. Additionally, the cases are equipped with screw-down winding crowns to keep the water out. Depending on the model, there’s the Twinlock or Triplock screw-down winding crown, with two or three sealed areas, respectively.
- Twinlock: Day-Date, Datejust, Oyster Perpetual, Sky-Dweller, Pearl-Master, Explorer II, Milgauss, Air-King, GMT-Master II (pre-2008)
- Triplock: Yacht-Master, Yacht-Master II, Submariner, Sea-Dweller, Daytona, GMT-Master II (post-2008)
THE SAPPHIRE GLASS OF AUTHENTIC ROLEX WATCHES
Modern authentic Rolex watches are outfitted with a scratchproof sapphire crystal to protect the face of the watch. What’s more, on Rolex date watches, there’s a magnifying lens on top of the date window to amplify the number for greater legibility. This lens, dubbed the Cyclops, is also made from sapphire crystal and it magnifies the date 2.5 times. Up until very recently, the only Rolex date models that did not have a Cyclops lens were the Sea-Dweller and Deepsea. But that changed at Baselworld 2017 when Rolex introduced the new Sea-Dweller with a Cyclops lens. Now, the only Rolex date watch without a Cyclops lens is the Sea-Dweller Deepsea.
As of 2002, Rolex started including a tiny micro-etching of the Rolex crown, aka the “coronet”, on the crystal at the 6 o’clock position. Extremely difficult to see without a loupe and almost impossible to replicate properly, this mini marking is a hallmark of authentic Rolex watches. Another marking of authenticity sits under the sapphire crystal on the rehaut, which is engraved with “ROLEX ROLEX ROLEX” all around, along with the serial number engraving at 6 o’clock.
THE BRACELETS AND STRAPS OF AUTHENTIC ROLEX WATCHES
As much a part of the overall look of a Rolex watch is the bracelet that it is presented upon. Today, there are many different types of bracelets and straps to choose from depending on the model. Here’s a quick cheat sheet:
- Oyster bracelet: flat three-piece link construction. Available in steel, gold, platinum, or Rolesor.
- President: semi-circular three-piece link construction. Available in gold or platinum.
- Jubilee: curvy five-piece link construction. Available in steel, gold, or Rolesor.
- Pearlmaster: rounded five-piece links (exclusively on Pearlmaster watches)
- Leather: alligator leather. Available with gold folding clasps.
- Oysterflex: nickel and titanium metal blade coated with black elastomer. Available with gold folding clasps.
The newest Rolex bracelet option is the Oysterflex. It first made its debut in 2015 on the Everose Yacht-Master and later became available on gold Daytona models. We hope that you find this quick guide to the anatomy of authentic Rolex watches to be useful. However, when searching for genuine Rolex timepieces, nothing beats buying from a trustworthy source since all the homework has been done on your behalf.
Eliminate Risks When Buying Authentic Rolex Watches
While there are countless people who are incredibly happy with their watches, there are some owners who are looking to sell a Rolex. When you’re in the market for a pre-owned wristwatch you want to be absolutely sure of your choice before making it final, so eliminate the risk of ending up with an imitation watch by trusting in Bob’s Watches. You won’t find counterfeit watches on our site. That is because our specialists have done the homework for you, so you can rest easy knowing that any timepiece you buy from us is guaranteed to be 100% genuine. We are also always available to answer any questions you may have regarding the models we have in stock, and we encourage you to get in touch with us should you have any questions.
You Can Find The Original Version of This Page Below
If you’re looking for a real quality watch to buy that will last you more than a lifetime, there is really no better choice than a Rolex. Over the years, the brand has withstood the test of time, and has proven to be not only durable, but a great investment too. Some folks purchase a brand new model from an authorized Rolex dealer and thus do not need to be concerned about buying a watch that may not be 100% genuine Rolex. But for those looking to save money by buying a pre-owned Rolex watch, or used Rolex, or even a vintage Rolex watch, we have created this quick tutorial guideline to help you with your purchasing decisions. A good used Rolex watch can last a lifetime and is a great asset to pass down to future generations. However, counterfeit fake Rolex watches are getting much better and becoming increasing more difficult to identify. So we at Bob’s Watches, decided to compile a list of the ten best ways to spot a fake Rolex. Be sure to watch our video here on how to spot a fake Rolex.
1. The Price
If you’re looking at a Rolex and it is being sold for three hundred dollars or less, then its is almost certain to be a fake Rolex. The simple truth is that luxurious Rolex watch models are not inexpensive items, and almost everyone knows of the Rolex brand name, so if the deal sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Be careful. An easy way to check is to find a similar model watch on our website and reference their prices. You can also visit eBay to see what similar items have sold for. Real, genuine, 100% authentic watches, even used, start in the thousands of dollars, not hundreds.
2. The Location
Just like in real estate, “location, location, location” is very, very important with watches. If you’re buying a Rolex on a side alley or at a local swap meet, the chances are a lot higher that the watch is a fake. You are much better off buying a watch from a reputable business that has a good reputation to uphold. Even eBay can be questionable, as sellers can appear and then disappear very quickly, leaving you with counterfeit watches. We do NOT recommended eBay to people since you are not really buying from eBay; you are buying from the seller that is just using eBay like Craigslist to sell their watch. As we all say in the business, “Buy the seller, then the watch”. This means that the seller, or merchant, is more important than the watch itself. It is his guarantee behind the watch that matters most. You want to buy your Rolex from a business that you can hold accountable for their actions. Before ordering your Rolex online, we highly recommend that you call the merchant and ask questions. You want to make sure you are dealing with a “real watch store” and one that is preferably located in the United States. All of this should help you ensure your Rolex is 100% authentic.
3. The Magnification
Once you have the Rolex in front of you where you can can view it with your own eyes, there are a lot more ways to tell if it’s real or fake. On Rolex watches with a date (Datejust, Submariner, etc…) the date has to be very small to work properly and so Rolex adds a magnification lens (known as a Cyclops) to the crystal, to allow the wearer to see the date more easily. On all Rolex models the magnification is 2.5X so the date really jumps out at you. On fake Rolex watches, the magnification is often much lower, so the date looks small and is more difficult to see. This is a huge tell tale sign of a fake Rolex.
4. Water Resistance
Although Rolex Submariner timepieces (along with the Sea-Dweller collection) are the only watches designed for deep sea diving, all models like the Rolex Yacht-Master are water resistant and perfectly sealed. Once you have the watch dip it in a cup of water for a few seconds and take it out. Before doing this, PLEASE be sure that the crown is securely tightened/screwed in. If there is any leaking of water into the watch on the dial or anything the watch is definitely a fake. All Rolex watches are 100% water tight and many counterfeit watches are not. However, it should be noted that a genuine Rolex watch that is in need of service or repairs may not be water resistant, so this is not a guaranteed way to identify a fake, and should only be done on modern Rolex watches, not vintage models or those that are visibly damaged.
5. The Model Number Compared to the Metal
Often times counterfeit Rolex watches will try to cheap out by making a normally expensive model in cheaper metals to gain more profit. You should always check the model number of the Rolex you are buying online to make sure that it matches up with type of metal in the watch you are buying. A rule of thumb with the commonly counterfeited Rolex President: All Rolex President watches with the day (Monday, Tuesday, etc…) and the date (21,22,23…) are made out of solid platinum or 18k gold; not stainless steel and not two tone. If someone tries to sell you a stainless President they are likely cheating you.
6. The Writing on the Dial
Everything on a Rolex is made to perfection. Without having to open up the watch it is easy to see this from the writing on the dial distinguishing the model and other features. With a magnifying glass, examine all the lettering on the dial. The writing should be neat and convex (outward), and there should be no bubbling. It should be relatively pristine. If the writing is far from perfect (or if there are any misspellings) then you know you are not dealing with a real Rolex.
7. The Case Back (the part of the watch opposite to the face)
Another easy way to spot a fake Rolex is that many have case backs that are made out of glass, plastic, or crystal so you can see the inner workings of a watch. Almost all Rolex watches do not have clear case backs and the only reason we have to say almost is there are two extremely rare models or Rolex from the 1930s that did in fact have case backs made of glass. So if you are buying a relatively modern Rolex with a clear case back it is almost certainly a fake. Also Rolex does not engrave anything on the case back’s exterior. However things are engraved on the interior.
8. The Engraving
Again, everything on a Rolex is perfect – there are no mess-ups, misspellings, or anything. The engravings are a perfect example of this. The engravings are a little harder to reach sometimes. (This is why this is number 8 on the top 10 ways to spot a fake Rolex). There are usually some on the interior of the band of the watch towards the actual face, but to see the engravings for the serial and model number you have to take off the band. Taking off the band is relatively simple, you just need a thumb tack with which you can push in the joints holding the band to the watch through the holes on the side of the watch, or the bottom of the watch if there are no holes. Once you have it open, you should examine the engravings with a magnifying glass. They shouldn’t appear sandy or misshapen. They should be perfectly cut. Also you should use this model number when you look up the watch to check if it’s the right one. The model number is on the 12 o’clock side of the watch, while the serial number is on the 6 o’clock side.
9. The Inner Workings
You need special tools to view this one. With special Rolex tools, you can unscrew the case back and view the gears and inner workings of the watch. Everything should generally be different colors and again everything should be pretty much perfect. There should be an engraving on the inside of the watch that says something like “Geneva, Switzerland” the metal type and the model number. This engraving should be perfect as well. View the pictures below to see what the inside should look like.
Do Rolex watches tick?
One of the most common questions that you are likely going to ask yourself when trying to spot a fake Rolex is “do Rolex watches tick?” This may seem like a simple yes-or-no question but it actually requires a bit of a complex answer because technically speaking, all Rolex watches “tick” – however, the vast majority of them don’t tick once every second like your average watch. Listen closely. If you can hear a loud ticking (occurring once every second) coming from your watch, then there is a strong possibility that the Rolex is a fake. The vast majority of Rolex watches use fully mechanical movements (no battery) and do not make the traditional ticking noises common with other watches that are powered by quartz movements.
Since mechanical movements are more expensive than quartz movements to produce, many counterfeiters rely on quartz movements for their watches. Consequently, many fake Rolex watches have a loud, once-per-second ticking coming from the movement, and the seconds hand ticks in one second intervals, rather than appearing to be a smooth sweep.
Misconceptions: One the biggest misconception is that the second hand of Rolex watches is a perfect sweep. This is not true – most models of Rolex tick at eight ticks or movements per second so it is not a continuous sweep. Also some models move at slower speeds (around six ticks per second), while others (such as Oysterquartz watches) actually use quartz movements made by Rolex, and will tick once per second – just like a counterfeit Rolex with a quartz movement. Additionally, some of the more convincing fake Rolex watches will even use fully mechanical movements, so the ticking test is not always a guaranteed way to spot a fake watch.
If you want a real Rolex you can always find them at the first pre-owned Rolex Exchange Bob’s Watches where you can trade, sell Rolex, or buy pre-owned Rolex watches at great prices. If you have any questions or want to know if your Rolex is fake or real give us a call at 1(800)494-3708 and we’d be glad to help you out.