When it comes to luxury watches, Rolex has unparalleled popularity. In fact, it’s also the world’s most valuable watch brand according to a recent global report. However, with its status and great demand comes a vigorous counterfeit market — therefore one can easily be duped into buying a fake Rolex watch.
Watches with too-good-to-be-true prices can be spotted right away, but more sophisticated counterfeits can be more challenging to identify. Remember, a Rolex is made to the highest standards – if even a minute detail comes across as sub-par, you can be certain that it’s not the real deal.
Below, we’ll go through the hallmarks that a true Rolex possesses, to help you spot a fake Rolex, and ensure that you’re getting a genuine Rolex timepiece.
The weight of the watch
The weight of a watch can tell you a lot about its quality. Rolex watches are made out of high-quality materials all the way through. From the band of the watch to the inner workings of the hands and gears, each item of a Rolex is made with the best metals available. That means that your Rolex should be hefty.
Fake watches tend to be a lot lighter in their weight due to being made with lower-quality materials. The difference between the weight of a real Rolex and a fake Rolex can vary, but will still be noticeable.
If you have access to a scale, you can weigh your watch to see if it matches the weight a real Rolex should. Real Rolex watches will weigh between 100-160 grams for stainless steel models and between 240-270 grams for gold watches.
Vintage Rolexes may weigh a little bit lighter due to their models being hollow, but even then, they will be heftier than fake watches. If your watch feels oddly light, it is likely to be a fake.
As we touched on, Rolex watches are made with the best materials on the market. With stainless steel and gold pieces, Rolex watches have high-quality materials that are not likely to be found on fake watches.
When you are looking at watches, try to find all the information about what materials the watch or particular model is made with. If you are looking at a watch in person, such as in a pawn shop or a thrift store, you will need to use other methods to check the materials of the watch.
First, check the weight. Pick up your watch and see how hefty it is. If the watch has some weight, that is a good sign that the materials are the high-quality materials real Rolex watches are made with. On the other hand, if the watch and case feel oddly light, you are probably holding a fake Rolex.
Next, check for uneven or incorrect finishing. Rolex uses a combination of finishes on its timepieces, and they can be very difficult for counterfeiters to achieve. Research on the type of finish used on your preferred model, and try to see if the actual piece you want to buy matches it. For example, a Rolex Yachtmaster in steel and platinum would have a platinum bezel with a sandblasted background and polished raised numerals. The Rolex Day-Date’s Presidential bracelet has semi-circular links that alternate between polished and satin finishes. Be on the lookout for these finer details.
In the case that you are looking at what would be a vintage Rolex, then there is a chance you will see wear and tear due to the age of the watch. Any scratches on the case should be the same color as the case itself not considering shadows, as Rolex watches are made of solid metals.
Serial numbers and markers
A Rolex’s serial number is found where the bracelet meets the case of the watch, below six o’clock. The model number on the other hand, is above 12 o’clock, accompanied by the text “ORIG ROLEX DESIGN” right above the number. The band has to be removed in order to see these.
Rolex’s serial and model numbers are deeply engraved into the metal, while fake watches only have it etched by acid, leaving a shallow, sandy-like appearance. A genuine Rolex’s numbers are cut deeply enough that they will glow in the light when raised at an angle.
Moreover, on Rolex watches made 2002 and onward, there is a tiny etched crown logo on the crystal, at the six o’clock position – so small that you may need a magnifying glass to see it clearly. For an in-depth guide on locating your Rolex serial number, here’s our guide on Rolex Serial Numbers: How to Check Yours.
Dial and ‘Cyclops’ Lens
The dial of an original Rolex watch is perfect – markings, inconsistent fonts and spacing, as well as smudges are a giveaway of cheaper printing methods used in fake pieces.
The “Cyclops” magnifying lens, or the lens that magnifies the date of the watch, is one of the hardest hallmarks to replicate. When looked straight on, the date should be magnified, about 2.5 magnification to be exact.
Do also try to run your finger over the lens – you should feel a bump which is dead-centered over the date.
Counterfeiters also tend to use whatever materials are available, and they will cut corners on the minute details. Look closely at the Rolex dial and watch out for the
following tell-tale signs:
The cyclops lens is a good tell for whether you are looking at a fake Rolex or not. Most Rolex watches will have a cyclops lens, but keep in mind that there are a few models that won’t have cyclops lens, such as the Oyster Perpetual, which does not have a date. If you see a cyclops lens, check to see if it is adhered to crystal and should have magnification. If the cyclops lens makes the date hard to read, then that is a sign of a fake.
If your Rolex has a date on the dial, it should change in one sweep at 12 o’clock. Don’t worry if your watch is a few minutes off – around +4 / -6 minutes – it’s likely to happen if your watch is due for maintenance. If the date changes very slowly, then the watch is likely fake.
The seconds hand of a true Rolex watch should look like its moving in a smooth, continuous motion. If it jerks with each tick of a second, then it might be a fake. One exception to this is the Rolex Oysterquartz, which runs on a quartz movement instead of a self-winding or mechanical one.
Ticking of the hands
The seconds hand is a very important indicator of a fake Rolex. While the main hand of the watch will tick as it moves throughout the hours, the seconds hand should not tick. Instead, on a real Rolex, the second hand will move in a smooth motion around the clock.
You can spot a fake Rolex if the second hand is ticking around the clock. Then, on some fake Rolex watches, you can hear a faint ticking sound. If you see or hear the ticking of the second hand, that is likely a fake watch.
On a real Rolex, there are clear markings on the crown of the watch. The crown is what you use to wind or set the watch time.
First, the crown should have a fluted design. Then, there will be a crown engraved onto the dial, also known as the famous Rolex Coronet. If this design is missing from a watch, or has a sub-par finish, you are not looking at a real Rolex.
In recent models, the coronet has two dots underneath. These dots may also be bars, but they are there, nonetheless. While not having these dots or bars is not a single indicator of a fake, if you know you are looking at a recent model of a Rolex, that extra design is supposed to be there.
Rolex movements are mechanical and self-winding, while replicas are usually quartz or battery-powered. Do note that a very limited number of Rolex watches, specifically Oysterquartz Rolexes from the 1960s to 70s, were produced with quartz movements.
Additionally, the Rolex movement occurs in tiny micro-ticks per second, so the seconds hand moves in a semi-continuous motion. This means that, as we previously mentioned, there is no clear ticking sound on a real Rolex.
All Rolex watches, except for the Cellini dress watch, are equipped with an Oyster case. Its patented system of screwing down the bezel and case back against the middle case, was meant to protect the movement from water.
Today, the hermetic construction of the Oyster case guarantees Rolex watches to be waterproof up to 100m / 330 feet, and up to 3,900m / 12,800 feet for the Rolex Deepsea, their saturated diving watch. As of 2022, Rolex has released their most water-resistant watch yet, the Oyster Perpetual Deepsea Challenge, which has a depth rating of 11,000 meters (36,090 feet).
Of course, a counterfeit Rolex will not measure up to these standards – but the only way to find out is to subject the timepiece to a water pressure test. We strongly discourage you to perform the water pressure test on your own, for the following reasons:
– If the timepiece is indeed fake, a water pressure test will ruin the watch, and you will be unable to return it.
– If the timepiece is genuine, but is vintage or in need of repair, it may also not withstand a pressure test.
If you suspect that your timepiece is fake, it is best to bring it to an authorized Rolex dealer for inspection.
Rolex watches have bracelets specifically made for each model or family of watches. For example, a Rolex Day-Date watch should sport a President bracelet. If the bracelet style is mismatched with the style that you bought, then it is most definitely fake. For more information on this subject, SwissWatchExpo covered Rolex’s different bracelet types.
Another thing to watch out for are genuine timepieces paired with fake bracelets. As bracelets can get stretched from wear, a seller may choose to pair a genuine timepiece with an aftermarket bracelet.
A genuine Rolex bracelet must lie straight and not kink once laid flat on a surface. Also, check that the links align together nicely.
Genuine Rolex casebacks have plain polished metal, and do not have engravings of words, logos or pictures. They do not have a clear window showing the movements on the back of the watch.
There are some exceptions to these however:
– Some very rare vintage models from the 1930’s have clear casebacks.
– The most recent Rolex Daytona Platinum watch (ref 126506) was introduced in 2023 with a transparent caseback to show the new Caliber 4131 movement
Choose a reputable dealer
With a burgeoning counterfeit market, Rolex replicas have become better, and more difficult to detect.
Your best defense against buying a fake is to avoid purchasing a Rolex privately. Instead, purchase your Rolex from a reputable dealer. Doing so will ease your concerns of authenticity and condition, and you can be sure that you will be given proper assistance.
Here are some qualities of a reputable watch dealer:
– A reputable and legitimate watch dealer would have solid presence online, as well as testimonials from previous buyers.
– A long-standing retailer would also have affiliations with respected organizations, such as The International Watch & Jewelry Guild, or the American Watchmakers & Clockmakers Institute.
– They would have a guarantee of authenticity and warranties on the watch. These serve to assure you that they have reviewed each watch for authenticity and quality before putting them up for sale.
– They would also be open to you taking the watch to Rolex, or an authorized Rolex dealer, for authentication. At SwissWatchExpo, we welcome clients to do this with their purchased watches, for their peace of mind.
All these are proof that they stand behind the products they sell, and can guarantee your complete satisfaction.
Reasons why you shouldn’t buy a fake rolex
It can be tempting to buy a fake Rolex. They are typically much cheaper than a real Rolex which can make having a Rolex more accessible to the general public. However, there are very good reasons why you shouldn’t buy a fake Rolex.
When you buy a fake Rolex, you are not getting the same quality as you would if you bought a real Rolex. While sometimes, the aesthetics can be matched, the construction and mechanics of a Rolex watch will be hard for a counterfeiter to match. Rolex invests heavily on research, materials, design, and manufacturing – a watch from an illegitimate operation will not come close.
The time-telling of a fake Rolex would not be as accurate and you would spend a lot of time and resources fixing the time-tracking capabilities. You may also find a fake Rolex made with materials that can cause an allergic reaction to sensitive skin.
Overall, it’s not worth it to buy a Rolex for a few hundred to a thousand dollars if it’s not going to last. That is still a lot of money to be wasting on a watch that you know won’t last you nearly the same amount of time as if you were to get a real Rolex.
Your personal information may be stolen
Fake Rolex watches are often sold on sketchy websites where you may be asked to put in some personal information. If you don’t pay attention to whether or not the website that you are on is secured or not, you may be giving your credit card information to a fake seller.
This can lead to a huge loss of money and credit card fraud. In extreme cases, you might experience your identity being stolen.
Your watch can be confiscated
Rolex takes their watches seriously and the selling of fake Rolex watches is considered criminal activity. Whether you are aware that you are wearing a fake Rolex or not, your watch can be taken away by the authorized dealers and by service centers.
There have been cases where fake Rolex watches have been confiscated at airports during security searches along with being confiscated at the mall. If you spend a lot of money buying a fake Rolex, you could easily have all that money wasted if your watch is taken away.
Damage your reputation
Typically, those who buy Rolex watches want their purchase to be known by collectors and other professionals. While the average person on the street may not realize that you are wearing a fake Rolex, collectors and those in the know may realize and your reputation can be damaged.
If you are in the watch community, having a strong reputation is important. Being found out for having a fake watch will lead to embarrassment in the community and the others in the community won’t take you seriously.
This is even direr of a situation if you sell watches. Others in the community won’t buy watches from you if they know you are selling or even own fakes.
How to Spot a Fake Rolex Watch: Final Thoughts
We can’t guarantee that you will never stumble upon a fake Rolex. For the situations where you end up having to examine a watch to know if it is a real Rolex or not, you will have the information you need to make sure you don’t waste your time and money.
Rolex does a lot of work to make their watches the best they can be, and a genuine Rolex watch is well worth it. If you’re ready to make that investment, our watch experts can help. Explore our vast selection of Rolex watches at SwissWatchExpo.com.