Learn the devious techniques that counterfeiters use to sell fake pieces at real prices. Of course, you do not have to worry about that at 1stDibs, where every Rolex is highly verified.
The vast majority of counterfeit Rolex watches in the world are cheap, easy to detect. "You know that if it costs $ 50, it's not a real Rolex. It's a very obvious counterfeit," said Matthew Bain, a Miami-based watch expert who operates Matthew Bain, Inc.
But others are not so conspicuous. Bain says that just last year, a group of forged ceramic Rolex Submariners entered the market. "If you weren't looking at one next to the real one and just looking at it alone, you probably wouldn't be able to say it was fake," he says. "A lot of people were burned."
As counterfeiting technology and methods advance, understanding the intricacies of original Rolex watches is increasingly important for prospective buyers. Illegal counterfeiting of watches is a billion-dollar industry, with about 30 million to 40 million fakes entering the market each year, according to the Swiss Watch Industry.
Sometimes counterfeiters mix and match parts of fake Rolex watches and real ones, making distinguishing the two even more difficult. "They can have a real Rolex move and then make a fake case about it. It's very difficult to discover its authenticity," explains Bain.
While only one expert - and fortunately, we have many - can really be trusted to detect if the watch is real or not, we have compiled a list of 13 indicators to help train your eye to spot a fake Rolex.
1. Look for Engraved vs. Etched Serial Numbers
Original Rolex watches have their serial numbers engraved deep in metal, while counterfeits often simply have it "engraved" with acid. The serial number is placed behind the place where the link connects to the body of the watch, on the six-hour side. At the side of number 12, you will find the model number, typically marked by the text, "ORIG ROLEX DESIGN", followed by the number below. To see the number, you need to remove the bar; this requires a peg or small paper clip to remove the peg holding the strap in place.
Counterfeiters often do not bother to change the numbers, instead of printing the same digits on each copy. A simple Google search for your watch serial number should reveal if that particular counterfeit was mass-produced. Many times they will engrave the wrong model number in one hour. For example, a Rolex Submariner model number for a Rolex Yachtmaster.
Since recently, Rolex has also improved its methodology in this regard. "Newer Rolexes have mixed series," he says. "You can no longer go out with them without going to a Rolex dealer. Also, the serial numbers are engraved on the silver frame under the crystal at six o’clock. "
In addition, it is important to note that Rolex's manufactured before 2007 included a hologram of the crown logo on the back of the box. Because counterfeiters became so capable at copying the hologram, Rolex discontinued its use. However, you can now be sure that any seller who claims that a watch was manufactured after 2007 and also has a hologram almost obviously is selling a copy of Rolex.
2. The movements must be self-winding and mechanical
Rolex movements are self-winding and mechanical, as opposed to quartz or batteries. They also have "Rolex" engraved on them, though the placement of that engraving varies depending on the piece. This is a bit more complicated to control, though Rolex is convinced that only brand-certified watch manufacturers should have access to the watch. Warning: Olester quartz Rolexes from the 1960s and 1970s were produced with quartz movement.
3. Text is Clear and Even
The text printed on the Rolex watch page should have a fairly thin appearance, without blur, spots or unevenness. Look closely for unstable spaces in letters or ink bleeding caused by the cheapest Rolex copy printing methods.
4. Cyclops should actually be magnified
The magnifying glass that magnifies the date on the clock face - called "Cyclops" - must, well, be magnified (2.5 times magnification, to be exact). Keep the watch aside to take a look at the date without the magnifying glass. If you are wondering whether or not it actually looks bigger when looked straight, it is probably fake.
Cyclops on an authentic Rolex is convex - you can feel a bump when you put your finger on it and it is focused on death during the date. If any of these criteria are not met, the part may be of dubious origin. But another caveat: some Rolex holders actually prefer to remove the Cyclops, so a previously owned part may simply have been modified.
5. Waterproof, not just water-resistant
This is quite self-explanatory. Note that "waterproof" is higher than "water-resistant", and most Rolex watches on the Oyster line should hold for a whopping 100 feet underwater. If you stop working while you are out to swim, you should best leave that fake Rolex at the bottom of the sea.
6. Check Model Weight and Compare
Rolex watches are usually heavier than their counterfeits. A quick Google search for the weight of your particular model should yield the correct amount of grams.
7. Cases of cases should be clear
The back of most Rolex watches is plain polished steel and is missing in engravings, drawings or other decorations. Exceptions include Sea-Dweller, which bears the watch name, and some variations of the "Gas Escape Valve" written on the back of the titanium.
A transparent hut that lets you see the inside of the watch - with the exception of some very rare parts from the 1930s - is also a common sign of a fake Rolex.
8. Look for Crown Engraving at 6 p.m.
On all Rolex watches manufactured in 2002 onwards, you will find a small crown logo engraved in the six o'clock position. It may take a magnifying glass to make it clear. Because it is so small, counterfeiters find it difficult to copy it. Older models may display the crown engraving at 12 o'clock.
9. The hands should rotate normally
The second hand on a real Rolex, with the naked eye, should rotate smoothly around the face. If you can see the second-hand burst with every tick, it's fake. This is because the high accuracy of a Rolex movement is broken down into eight small micro-ticks per second, making it look like a continuous movement. Moreover, there should be no audible sound on an original Rolex.
Each Rolex model comes with a specific hand style. The Yacht-Master, for example, has a much thicker minute than most models, while a Daytona's arms stretch a little longer and are rounded at the bottom, reaching up to the hash marks. The Rolex Day-Date model features shorter arms with flat tips. Counterfeiters often use whatever parts are able to save more money, hoping that buyers will overlook this detail.
Can you hear a Rolex tick?
Generally, no, you can not hear a Rolex sign. This is because they are powered by fully mechanical movements, compared to the quartz battery used by less expensive watchmakers. This battery is what causes the "mark, mark, mark" difference heard every second. Some Rolex models mark every second, so it is a strong blow every second that will allow you to spot a fake Rolex.
10. Make sure the Crown is in one piece
The crown - we are referring to the part on the side of the watch used to set the time - will always have the Rolex crown logo engraved on the bottom. The crown and stalk on a real Rolex are made up of a single piece of metal. However, many Rolex replicas consist of two parts glued together, so look closely with a magnifying glass.
Some Rolex models feature a "Triplock" crown, marked with the crown logo on top of the three dots. The Triplock crown represents a gasket that closes from the inside of the clock by water. These include Sea Inhabitant, Submariner and Daytona. When the crown is completely removed, you can see the black ring. Some good counterfeits will have gaskets with similar looks, but they only serve to deceive the buyer and are purely cosmetic.
11. The date must be correct
The date should change sharply at midnight. Do not panic if your watch is a few minutes away - this is likely to be just a sign that the watch needs maintenance. But if the date changes slowly, or is more than 15 minutes away, it is an indication that the clock may be false.
12. Bands should be placed straight
The strap - or bracelet, as it is often referred to by Rolex enthusiasts - should stand up straight and not be surprised when placed on a flat surface. The bonding space can be stretched and expanded over time, but the individual bonds still need to fit together correctly.
Bain warns that authentic watches can be paired with non-authentic bands. "A lot of counterfeiting happens with bands because, if you buy a gold Rolex Presidential, you wear it a lot, the band stretches," Bain says. "So there are a lot of gold bands in the offspring market that were not made by Rolex. They have been very deceived."
13. Check the merchant credentials
Proper care is extremely important before making a purchase. If you are planning to buy online, check the merchant rating. Ask the retailer for references from watch associations such as the International Watch and Jewelry Guild. A good step is to closely compare your watch with photos of the same model from a reputable dealer. A lot of forgeries are just in the small details.
How to Find a Reputable Seller
And lastly, use common sense: If a deal seems too good to be true, it certainly is. Avoid markets like eBay where fake Rolexes are common and make sure the picture is worthy in the worst case. Smartphone cameras are good enough these days to capture clear product photos, so anything blurry or out of focus is automatically a red flag. If you buy at 1stDibs, you will never have to worry about bad traders, as we only work with expertly verified sellers. Learn more about our promise to you.