When you buy a Rolex you want to be sure you’re not buying a fake. Unfortunately, there’s plenty of money to be made from selling fake Rolex watches so the problem isn’t going away any time soon.
But what you can do to protect yourself from this kind of fraud is learn how to spot a fake Rolex.
Let’s start with how you identify a genuine Rolex.
How to Identify a Genuine Rolex Watch
To be confident in the authenticity of your timepiece you need to do some research.
Start with the reference number on the watch. This is also known as the model number or style number. If you know how to decode this number, it can tell you plenty of information about the watch, including:
- Model type
- Material type
- Bezel type
You can compare the information contained in the reference number with the condition of the watch itself to help you identify whether it’s a genuine Rolex.
Rolex reference numbers are four, five or six digits long. This is the first clue to the age of your watch. The length of the number is a rough indicator of the model’s age.
Four-digit numbers apply to vintage Rolex watches. Five-digit numbers appear on discontinued models. Six-digit numbers indicate watches made in or after 2000.
The last digit in the sequence indicates the material of the watch. For example, 0 is for stainless steel, 5 for rose gold and 9 for white gold.
The second to last digit indicates the bezel type on the watch. This is where it gets more complex because certain numbers are for different bezel types according to different collections of Rolex watches.
Some number sequences include letters at the end. These characters are codes for various bezel colours. For example, LN stands for Lunette Noir, a black bezel. LB is for a blue bezel and LV is a green bezel.
Therefore, a Rolex Submariner with the code 11610LV will have a green bezel (in this case, the Rolex Hulk).
The letter part of the code on a genuine Rolex will always match the colour of the bezel.
However, reading the reference code on your Rolex is only one part of how can tell a genuine from a fake. You should also examine how the watch looks, feels and operates.
Check the Weight of Your Watch
Even with fake Rolex watches becoming harder to tell apart from genuine timepieces, a genuine Rolex will, generally, weigh more than a fake one.
Before you check things like the code and other details, just get a feel for the watch. An authentic Rolex is made from high-grade materials, including stainless steel.
These materials have a degree of heft. You can feel how substantial they are and this translates into the weight of the timepiece you’re holding in your hands.
What’s Your Watch Made Of?
Materials matter. Some models have only ever been made in stainless steel. Therefore, if the model you’re looking at is one of these but it appears to be made from gold or platinum, then it’s a fake.
Other models are made exclusively from precious metals such as platinum and 18-carat gold. This includes the Day-Date collection. If you come across a Day-Date watch that’s made from stainless steel, it’s a replica, not the real thing.
This comes back to doing your research. If you know which models use specific materials, you can equip yourself with the knowledge to spot a fake.
Face to Face with the Rolex Dial
The first thing most people will notice on a Rolex is the dial. The dial is an immediate, recognisable showpiece of ultimate quality and craftsmanship.
All the details on the dial should align perfectly and look meticulously put together.
With a fake Rolex, some of these details may not quite ring true or reflect the attention to detail you’d expect from this type of timepiece.
Let’s begin with the logo. The iconic Rolex logo is a five-point crown. It will always appear on the dial of a genuine Rolex watch.
- On most classic Rolex watches, the logo appears in the 12 o’clock position. The exception to this is the Day-Date collection, where the logo is set immediately beneath the curved day window, at 12 o’clock.
- On most professional Rolex watches, such as the Submariner and GMT Master, the logo is directly beneath the 12 o’clock triangular dial marker.
If the logo appears anywhere else on the dial, then this should be a clear warning sign about the authenticity of the watch you’re looking at. A wrongly positioned logo indicates a fake Rolex.
There are some very rare vintage models without a crown logo, such as the Rolex Explorer 5504, but otherwise, beware of missing logos.
Other dial features to examine closely include the text and whether it is crooked or misplaced. Also, watch out for spelling mistakes. Features should all have even spaces. Any awkward spacing indicates a counterfeit watch.
Do All Rolex Watches Have a Sweeping Second Hand?
The second hand on a genuine Rolex does perform a smooth sweeping motion but in fact, this is eight movements per second.
This means it isn’t a continuous movement but it looks like it is.
All Rolex watches have a sweeping second hand, but you can check the movement of this hand to see whether the watch is a genuine model. An imitation is likely to have a jerking movement of the second hand.
Does a Real Rolex Tick?
The sweeping second hand on a real Rolex watch (see above) gives the impression that despite its movement, the watch doesn’t tick.
In fact, mechanical Rolex watches do tick, but not in the same way as a standard quartz watch would.
You don’t hear a one-tick-per-second movement in a genuine Rolex watch. There is no jerk of the second hand, but instead a smooth, uninterrupted rotation.
If you can hear a loud ticking coming from your Rolex then, unfortunately, it’s a fake.
Does the Case Look Authentic?
There are various tell-tale signs on the case of a Rolex watch that can help you decide whether it’s a genuine model.
We’ve already mentioned materials and how these should give the watch a certain heft so that it feels weighty and substantial.
Here are some other case features to check.
- The lugs should be thick neither thin nor tapered. They must be made of brushed metal. Between the lugs, you should be able to spot the engraved serial number of the watch.
- Your watch will have crown guards and typically, counterfeit models have sharper guards that look more pointed in profile.
- On the winding crown, the Rolex logo should stand out in relief, as well as the three dots beneath it. You tend to get much flatter markings on fakes.
The back of the case should be completely metal, with no transparent areas. The case-back on a genuine Rolex is fluted and screwed into the case to ensure proper resistance to water.
Most Rolex watches will have no etchings, logos or text on the back of their cases. The finish should be a smooth, brushed metal surface, with a consistency of colour running throughout.
Certain models do have markings on the case-back, such as military Submariners. Where markings do appear, do check that these correspond precisely with the model of watch you’re buying.
Fake Rolex Bracelets and How to Spot Them
The bracelet is a key feature of a watch, but not always the thing you’d naturally check to authenticate it.
However, within the Rolex brand’s four styles of bracelets, there can be signs that show whether a watch is a fake.
The four styles of Rolex bracelets are Oyster, Jubilee, President and Pearlmaster.
- Check the clasp and the positioning of the Rolex crown logo on it. The bottom of the logo should protrude from the edge of the clasp to make the clasp easier to open.
- The bracelet links should all have a consistent brushed metal appearance. They should be thick and robust, giving the bracelet a substantial width.
Do Rolex Watches Come with a Certificate of Authenticity?
Ideally, a genuine Rolex watch will always come with a signed certificate of authority and a full warranty. There should also be a branded Rolex box containing the watch and its certification.
If the watch comes with its official papers, then you should check that the serial number referred to matches the number on the watch itself.
But not all watches will come with a certificate of authority. Previous owners may have lost this documentation, especially if it’s a vintage watch that has passed through several hands.
Where this is the case, you’ll need to have the confidence that you can authenticate your Rolex watch.
How to Authenticate a Rolex Watch
Examine all the features of the watch as we’ve described them, checking carefully for any inconsistencies.
But also consider the seller. You should only buy a Rolex from a trusted source.
It’s not always easy to spot a fake Rolex. Counterfeit models have become more sophisticated in response to the explosion in demand for these prestigious timepieces. Therefore, if you know from the outset that the seller is trustworthy, you’re already a long way towards ensuring your watch is genuine.
If you’re buying a pre-owned or vintage Rolex from a trusted seller, they will do all the detailed, forensic investigating and inspecting to authenticate your Rolex.
This level of investigation is important. There have been fake models that have replica Rolex movements, taking mimicry to a whole new level of deception.
You certainly don’t want to end up with an imitation Rolex for which you’ve paid the price of the genuine article.
We specialise in sourcing and selling Rolex watches. Our reputation rests on our ability to source the genuine timepieces our customers are looking for.
For more information about how to find the perfect Rolex watch for you, please get in touch.