Rolexes are, by and large, the most popularly counterfeited kind of watches. The brand’s association with wealth and luxury makes its watch models vulnerable to forgery—and, unfortunately, the forged copies are not as easy to spot as they once were. Because counterfeiters have made the effort to produce watches that are very close to the real thing, it is paramount that you know exactly what to look for to ascertain that a piece you’re eyeing is the real deal. To that effect, we have put together this guide that you can use to protect yourself from purchasing a fake Rolex.

  1. The Face of the Watch

The Dial

The face will be more informative as to the authenticity of your Rolex: the brand engineers its movements with an incredible attention to detail that is difficult to replicate. For example, while many Rolex models have minute hands that stop and start along inside the watch, as opposed to a sweeping motion, the real indicator of a Swiss made mechanism is its noise. Real Rolexes, whether their minute hands “sweep” or not, won’t make an audible ticking sound, while cheap copies that use low quality movements will.

While you’re examining the dial, take note of the watch’s hands. Counterfeiters will sometimes switch the hands between two models from the same brand, so make sure those hands are the correct ones for the model you’re looking at.

The date window of the watch can also identify a fake, since Rolex uses a 2.5x magnification lens called the cyclops. Many fakes only use a magnification of 1.5x. The date should perfectly take up the entire bubble; anything less or more is probably fake.

The material on the watch’s face is very telling, as well. Rolex, like many other luxury watch brands, uses sapphire crystal to protect the face of the watch from scratches. Counterfeiters will try to save money by using glass instead. To make sure your watch is sapphire crystal, spill a drop or two of water on the face. If the water pools together, the watch is probably sapphire; the crystal is incredibly smooth and should not disrupt the water’s surface tension. Glass, which is less refined, will make the drops smear.

Engravings

The writing on the dial and engravings on the crystal and on the case are often flubbed or even completely overlooked by counterfeiters. As such, every letter etched onto the dial should be clear and precise. Font irregularities, smudges and spelling errors are clear indicators of a fake. Rolexes produced after 2002 also have a tiny micro-etching of the Rolex crown logo engraved into the crystal below the 6 o’clock position. There should also be an engraving on the rehaut, which is the inner rim of the watch face between the dial and the crystal. Typically the word “Rolex” with the serial number engraved at 6 o’clock under the crystal is displayed. Check to see if it’s actually engraved and not just printed on the rehaut. Many fakes now incorporate these engravings, but they are crude and imprecise and are not as detailed as a real piece.

  1. The Case

The Crown

For many of the models such as the Daytona, Submariner and Sea-Dweller there should be a trip-lock crown seal within the threads of the winding crown’s tube. The gasket is a black ring that’s visible when the winding crown is fully unscrewed. Many fakes will not feature this or will include a ring that’s not functional.

The Caseback

Rolex casebacks are usually very simple: these solid pieces are opaque and free from engravings like hallmarks and logos, with few exceptions:Rolex Cellini Prince watches have clear casebacks, though they are no longer being sold from the factory, and Rolex Sea Dwellers are engraved with some variations of “Rolex Oyster”. Otherwise, “Rolex” watches that have clear or engraved casebacks are most likely fake.

The Body

Cheap fakes weigh considerably less than genuine Rolexes, considering the base metals of fakes are much lighter than the stainless steel and gold materials that are used in the real thing. However, this is getting considerably difficult to use as a gauge since counterfeiters are getting much better at making the fakes weigh just as much as the real timepieces.

If you can, look up the serial number that comes with the watch you’re eyeing. Every genuine Rolex has a unique 5-8 digit serial number which helps determine the approximate year of production for that particular watch. Most counterfeiters will probably come up with a fake serial number that wouldn’t register, or the serial number would indicate the year of production for that watch that doesn’t match the counterfeiter’s description.

As always, a foolproof way of determining whether a Rolex is fake or not is to bring it to a jeweler who can open up the piece and tell you with absolute certainty whether the model you have is genuine or not. And if you have any questions about the authenticity of your Rolex we can help.