Here are some key features that will help you recognize a fake Rolex or, of course, a real Rolex.
We have to add though: a rather bad fake Rolex. Because a “very good” counterfeit does not differ from the original by appearance nor when comparing the features mentioned below. Here you need more expertise. The exception: The serial or reference number. This is the hardest to fake.
Apart from the overall quality, of course, which in a fake is ALWAYS incomparable to the original! It needs to be understood that this is because it is a mechanical watch, which is a sophisticated product where the quality is all-important, unlike a “simple product”, such as a scarf that costs €2 as a no-name product and €200 with a luxury brand logo.
Each Rolex is delivered in a stylish and high-quality box to protect its precious content. If you have one in front of you, you can already recognize a lot from it. The original Rolex caskets are of course perfect! So if you discover processing errors on the box, that’s a bad sign…
2. Engravings on the back
The Rolex crown on the back is missing? This must be a fake – no, on the contrary. If you are offered a Rolex with an engraving on the back, then this is basically noticeable, because Rolex backs are in most cases bare and without engraving. Personal engravings al la “For my son” or “For 100 years of employment” or similar are of course excluded.
And there are further exceptions: e.g. various special models of Submariner and Sea-Dweller were manufactured, which were delivered to the British Navy, or the deep diving company Comex. These watches almost all bear the customer’s name, or military markings on the case lid. And some models of the 90s had an engraving (“Original Rolex Design” in circular form), also Sea Dweller models have an engraving on the back along the edge in circular form.
Note: If you know of any further exceptions, please feel free to post a comment under this article. Thank you!
There is actually no Rolex watch with glass back. If they are offered one, you are most likely dealing with a fake. Except for a few older models of the Cellini collection, which you will hardly find. Should Rolex become unfaithful and introduce a glass bottom, which we do not assume, we will report about it here on est1905!
4. The hologram sticker is missing
Rolex watches were fitted with a hologram sticker with the gold Rolex crown above the reference number until 2007. Instead of the 3D hologram effect, many forgeries have only two-dimensional stickers, often shiny silvery. On models before 2002, however, the crown was not yet part of the hologram and the numbers were also printed in gold instead of black.
5. Dial and labels
Here you can nearly always spot numerous differences. The only problem is: you have to find them! If you have the opportunity to compare directly with an original model, this is of course ideal … otherwise you can, for example, consult reputable publications. For images of current models, the Rolex website is of course a good address. The labels on the clock-faces are less accurate on most Rolex counterfeits, and often not exactly centered. This also applies to the crown at 12 o’clock. The original is perfectly aligned and more consummate in its curves than most copies could ever be.
6. Minute hand
In the real Rolex Yacht-Master, the minute hand is visibly thicker than, for example, in other Rolex sports models. Forgeries of the Submariner models often have the exact same minute hand. In the real Rolex Daytona, the minute hand is particularly long, reaching the minute indicators. The newer Daytonas have slightly rounded hands.
7. Quality of the luminous material
For perfect readability even in low light conditions, the hands and indices of most Rolex models are coated with extremely high-quality luminous material. Especially the watches designed for practical use, such as Submariner, Explorer or Yacht-Master, show a correspondingly clear and concise luminous image in the dark. However, some of the brand’s most elegant representatives, including the Rolex Day-Date and the Cellini collection, do without it.
So if you now have a Rolex in front of you with a so-called Chromalight display, it is best to check in the dark whether it keeps its promises. Obvious irregularities were already a clear sign of a problem case. Which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a fake. If it is a used model, it will be much more difficult anyway. Here it could also be an original with signs of age, or possibly also a more or less severe damage.
8. The date magnifier
One of the most typical Rolex features is the date loupe at 3 o’clock, with a magnification factor of 2.5. Most counterfeits only reach a maximum magnification factor of 1.5. The date digits must fill the entire section. Some counterfeiters therefore print the date numbers larger to compensate for the weak magnifying glass. This can be seen with a keen eye.
9. No or wrong serial number and reference number
Every Rolex watch has a serial number. On older models, this is located on the side of the case between the lugs at twelve o’clock, since 2007 it has been engraved inside the watch at six o’clock on the Rehaut.
The engravings of the forgeries, if any, are usually much coarser and often the same serial numbers are used.
10. Perfectly polished surfaces
The highly polished surfaces of a genuine Rolex are flawless … those of a counterfeit usually not. This can be easily seen for instance on the bracelet and clasp (as long as they are highly polished – there are also matte variants!). Replicas rarely get along without scratches or the like.
11. The functions
If you have a”bumpy” fake in your hands, the matter is quickly resolved. But this is often not the case, at first sight everything looks great. But what about the functions of the watch on closer inspection? Setting the time and date is easy and often reveals visible or noticeable irregularities.
If the model has other functions such as a chronograph or a second time display, it is of course also necessary to test these. In the case of poor to medium counterfeits, such functions are often only for display and cannot be operated. Unfortunately, good counterfeits can now do this very well…
12. The inside of the watch
Opening the watch and taking a look at the movement is not only an indispensable step in case of doubt. Although the counterfeiting industry is becoming more and more perfect, a Rolex calibre is quite unique.
Of course, the corresponding expertise is very advantageous, but good comparative images will help you to find your way around. However, it could be difficult, as not every seller is willing to open his Rolex and, in the case of an original, to have difficulties with his warranty claims..
And that brings us to the final and perhaps most important point: no matter how thoroughly they examine the watch, there have almost certainly been deceivers even greater connoisseurs than one might be oneself. As tempting as the offer may be, nothing should distract you from the fact that only a purchase from a trustworthy specialist dealer can offer you the security you wish for when buying your dream watch.
A very detailed account of how and by which criteria to spot counterfeited Rolex copies can be found in this video:
Constantly updated article, originally posted in April 2017