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How To Spot a Fake Rolex – The Official Guide

June 19, 2018

BY Paul Altieri


Rolex is widely regarded as one of the most important watch companies in history. The sheer number of Rolex watches sold each year is a testament to their quality. A Rolex is more than a watch – it is a status symbol. For many, owning a Rolex watch brings pure joy; and that joy, in turn, creates a huge demand for these luxury timepieces.  Read all the information below from our Rolex expert who has more than 30 years of experience.

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Watch our video to learn how to tell if a Rolex is real

Great demand also attracts a booming counterfeit market, and unfortunately, buyers can be tricked into handing over their cash for a fake Rolex, all the while thinking it’s the real deal. So, if you’ve decided that you’re ready to invest in a Rolex, it is important to take the time to understand what you are purchasing.  See the information below from our Rolex expert with over 30 years of experience.  All of the watches on our site come with a certified authenticity report upon request.

Real vs Fake Rolex Watches

How to Spot a Fake Rolex Watch - Bob's Watches

How to Spot a Fake Rolex Watch

Rolex timepieces are one of the most coveted luxury items in the world. So, consequently, there is a huge market for replica (fake) watches. Most of these fraudulent watches are made in China but research shows that production is spreading throughout all of Asia and other regions too. These forged timepieces typically sell for $25 to $200, and the quality has gotten increasingly better over the past years.  The modern Rolex Datejust collection and Rolex Submariner are prime targets for these replicas.

Even experienced dealers can get fooled by bogus watches. Some knock-offs are easy to spot right away, while other, more sophisticated, counterfeit Rolex watches may be much more challenging to identify. With that said, it can be difficult for a novice to know how to tell if a Rolex is fake. To help protect yourself from dishonest sellers and imitation merchandise, we have compiled a list of the hallmarks of a genuine timepiece. Read carefully to ensure that you are not fooled by counterfeit watches.

Before You Begin, Know Your Seller

Bob's Watches Lobby - Bob's Watches

The Lobby of Bob’s Watches

The easiest way to prevent the purchase of a reproduction or phony wristwatch is to buy from a reputable and trusted seller. There are plenty of reputable dealers, but it never hurts to do your homework to ensure that you get a genuine timepiece. Google does a very good job of showing you the most established, trusted retailers to help safeguard against non-genuine models from entering the market.

Think that’s enough? Think again. Your due diligence should not end there. Many of these trustworthy dealers, including but not limited to Bob’s Watches provide a guarantee of authenticity with every sale. Our in-house buyers meticulously inspect each watch in our inventory, and when necessary, the timepieces are restored and serviced by our authorized service providers using only 100% authentic Rolex parts.

Beware of eBay & Craigslist Reproductions

On the other hand, websites such as Ebay and Craigslist are well-known, but they are only platforms that bring buyers and sellers together, and thus are not accountable for what is being sold. Such sites are often plagued with fraudulent goods, and it’s difficult to find trusted and honest Rolex vendors. It could be a dangerous place if you don’t already know how to identify a fake Rolex. For that reason, we never recommend eBay or Craigslist.

Rolex Only Produces Quality Timepieces

Top 10 Ways To Spot a Fake Rolex

Top 10 Ways To Spot a Fake Rolex

Rolex is one of the most coveted luxury brands on the planet, and is known for quality, durability, style, and prestige. The company uses the best steel on earth called “Oystersteel” (904L stainless steel), which is more rust and corrosion resistant. Rolex also creates its own precious metal alloys to ensure the exact integrity of every watch. Everything is crafted to absolute perfection, so take a closer look at the case, crown, hands, bezel, bracelet, and clasp – if anything comes across as sub-par quality, then you can be pretty sure it’s not the real deal.

The Top Ten Ways to Spot a Fake or Counterfeit Rolex

1. Serial & Model Number Stamping

Real vs Fake Rolex Serial Numbers - Bob's Watches

Fake vs. Real Rolex Serial Numbers

The serial and model numbers on a genuine Rolex are deep and perfectly marked in solid, very fine lines that will shine in the light at an angle like a diamond cut edge. Conversely, the numbers on many fake, or replica watches, are typically made up of faint tiny dots due to a lower quality marking process . In other cases, these numbers on counterfeit watches will have a sandy-like appearance from being “acid etched” as shown in the photo above on the left.

2. Stampings

real vs fake rolex stampings - Bob's Watches

Real vs Fake Rolex Stampings

Replica watches come in different grades, and the really low-quality phony ones don’t even bother to put the Rolex name or famous crown logo on the watch. This, of course, is a dead giveaway that you are dealing with an inauthentic piece.

3. Movement

real vs fake rolex movements - Bob's Watches

If you open up a watch, the movements should be a dead giveaway.

The movement that powers a Rolex is an exercise in master watchmaking skill. A replica watch cannot match the craftsmanship, dedication, precision, and knowledge of a true Rolex caliber. Each genuine movement will always have “Rolex” engraved on it, and of the individual parts will be immaculately finished (as you would expect) which you can only see if you open up the watch.

Something else to consider is that the majority of Rolex’s watches have mechanical movements, so if you’re looking at a quartz, that could be a red flag since only a very limited quantity of quartz watches throughout their history have been produced.

Additionally, with the use of modern technologies such as optical scanning and 3D printing, counterfeiters are getting increasingly better at copying Rolex’s designs, with some of the most convincing fakes even going so far as to “clone” the movement of a genuine Rolex. These watches (often called “super fakes”) will have a movement that mimics the design and appearance of a genuine Rolex movement; however under closer examination and magnification, the cloned movement will lack the ultra-fine precision finishing of the genuine movement (along with its reliability and precision).

4. Dial

Real vs Fake Rolex Dials - Bob's Watches

You can tell the watch of the left is fake because of the difference in quality

When it is first manufactured, the dial of an original is more-or-less perfect, so if you see any uneven fonts, inconsistent spaces between the lettering, smudges, and/or misspellings on the watch then then that is a big red flag, and definitely a sign to start looking further into its authenticity.

5. Cyclops

real vs fake rolex cyclops - Bob's Watches

The cyclops on the left does not magnify the date enough. A real Rolex would magnify the date by 2.5 times

The Cyclops, in Rolex parlance, is the magnifying lens (on the crystal) above the date window on the face of their watches. On a genuine timepiece, the Cyclops is convex and magnifies the date 2.5 times for increased readability. If, on the watch you’re considering, the magnification lens is flat and the date isn’t magnified as such, then you are likely dealing with a forgery.  To spot counterfeit watches you need to pay close attention to every detail.

6. Water Resistance

waterproof rolex test - Bob's Watches

A Rolex Submariner undergoing a water test

Rolex wristwatches are built to be waterproof, while forged versions will not withstand a proper water pressure test. However, we strongly discourage using a water test if you doubt that the piece is real, since it will likely ruin the watch, preventing you from being able to return it. Additionally, if a watch is old and in need of repairs or service, there is a good chance it may not pass a water pressure test – even if it is genuine, so it is best to not try to do this yourself. If you believe you have a non genuine timepiece, have it inspected by a reputable professional.

7. Weight

real vs fake rolex weight - Bob's Watches

Real vs Fake Rolex Weight

A genuine Rolex will have some weight to it because they are exclusively manufactured from the finest materials with no corners cut in their production process. A counterfeit watch will feel lighter and flimsy due to a cheaper construction and lesser materials. If your watch doesn’t have any heft to it you are likely dealing with a counterfeit.

8. Clear Caseback

Fake Clear Caseback vs Real Rolex Case Back - Bob's Watches

Fake Clear Caseback vs Real Rolex Case Back

With the exception of a couple of very rare vintage models produced in the 1930s, Rolex does not equip their watches with clear casebacks, so beware of replica watches that have a clear window with a view of the movement on the back of the watch’s case.

9. Caseback Engravings

Real vs Fake Rolex Engravings - Bob's Watches

A real Rolex will almost never have engraving on the back. Engravings on the back almost always mean the watch is a forgery.

Except for just a few rare instances, like the Rolex Sea Dweller, Milgauss, COMEX, Military watches, and some older rare models, Rolex does not engrave the exterior of their casebacks with words, logos, or pictures (a majority of the time). If the watch you’re looking at features engravings on the back of the watch’s case – and they are not the personal engravings from the previous owner, then chances are you have a fake Rolex or imitation replica watch. However, it should be noted that some authentic older lady Rolex Datejust models like the 6917, 69173 and 69174 do have “Stainless Steel” and “Registered Design” on their casebacks.

10. Micro-etched Crystal

Micro Etched Crystal - Bob's Watches

Micro Etched Crystal

In 2002, Rolex began micro-etching a tiny crown logo at the 6 o’clock position on the crystal that protects the dial. If you’re looking at buying a Rolex made in 2002 onward, look for this marking for proof of authenticity. Since it’s so small, it is difficult to see with the naked eye, and sometimes requires just the right lighting to properly view.  The precision of this detail makes it difficult for counterfeit watches to replicate, and should always be something that you look for when buying a modern Rolex.

Eliminate Risks When Buying Authentic Rolex Watches

While there are countless people who are incredibly happy with their watches, there are some owners who are looking to sell a Rolex. When you’re in the market for a pre-owned wristwatch you want to be absolutely sure of your choice before making it final, so eliminate the risk of ending up with an imitation watch by trusting in Bob’s Watches. You won’t find counterfeit watches on our site.  That is because our specialists have done the homework for you, so you can rest easy knowing that any timepiece you buy from us is guaranteed to be 100% genuine. We are also always available to answer any questions you may have regarding the models we have in stock, and we encourage you to get in touch with us should you have any questions.

Rolex Watches - Fake vs Real - Bob's Watches

Fake vs Real Rolex Watches


You Can Find The Original Version of This Page Below

If you’re looking for a real quality watch to buy that will last you more than a lifetime, there is really no better choice than a Rolex. Over the years, the brand has withstood the test of time, and has proven to be not only durable, but a great investment too. Some folks purchase a brand new model from an authorized Rolex dealer and thus do not need to be concerned about buying a watch that may not be 100% genuine Rolex. But for those looking to save money by buying a pre-owned Rolex watch, or used Rolex, or even a vintage Rolex watch, we have created this quick tutorial guideline to help you with your purchasing decisions. A good used Rolex watch can last a lifetime and is a great asset to pass down to future generations. However, counterfeit fake Rolex watches are getting much better and becoming increasing more difficult to identify. So we at Bob’s Watches, decided to compile a list of the ten best ways to spot a fake Rolex. Be sure to watch our video here on how to spot a fake Rolex.

1. The Price

If you’re looking at a Rolex and it is being sold for three hundred dollars or less, then its is almost certain to be a fake Rolex. The simple truth is that luxurious Rolex watch models are not inexpensive items, and almost everyone knows of the Rolex brand name, so if the deal sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Be careful. An easy way to check is to find a similar model watch on our website and reference their prices. You can also visit eBay to see what similar items have sold for. Real, genuine, 100% authentic watches, even used, start in the thousands of dollars, not hundreds.

Don't buy a Rolex here - Bob's Watches

Fake Rolex Way Turn Here

2. The Location

Just like in real estate, “location, location, location” is very, very important with watches. If you’re buying a Rolex on a side alley or at a local swap meet, the chances are a lot higher that the watch is a fake. You are much better off buying a watch from a reputable business that has a good reputation to uphold. Even eBay can be questionable, as sellers can appear and then disappear very quickly, leaving you with counterfeit watches. We do NOT recommended eBay to people since you are not really buying from eBay; you are buying from the seller that is just using eBay like Craigslist to sell their watch. As we all say in the business, “Buy the seller, then the watch”. This means that the seller, or merchant, is more important than the watch itself. It is his guarantee behind the watch that matters most. You want to buy your Rolex from a business that you can hold accountable for their actions. Before ordering your Rolex online, we highly recommend that you call the merchant and ask questions. You want to make sure you are dealing with a “real watch store” and one that is preferably located in the United States. All of this should help you ensure your Rolex is 100% authentic.


The right magnification of a Rolex - Bob's Watches

The right magnification of a Rolex

3. The Magnification

Once you have the Rolex in front of you where you can can view it with your own eyes, there are a lot more ways to tell if it’s real or fake. On Rolex watches with a date (Datejust, Submariner, etc…) the date has to be very small to work properly and so Rolex adds a magnification lens (known as a Cyclops) to the crystal, to allow the wearer to see the date more easily. On all Rolex models the magnification is 2.5X so the date really jumps out at you. On fake Rolex watches, the magnification is often much lower, so the date looks small and is more difficult to see. This is a huge tell tale sign of a fake Rolex.

4. Water Resistance

Although Rolex Submariner timepieces (along with the Sea-Dweller collection) are the only watches designed for deep sea diving, all models like the Rolex Yacht-Master are water resistant and perfectly sealed. Once you have the watch dip it in a cup of water for a few seconds and take it out. Before doing this, PLEASE be sure that the crown is securely tightened/screwed in. If there is any leaking of water into the watch on the dial or anything the watch is definitely a fake. All Rolex watches are 100% water tight and many counterfeit watches are not. However, it should be noted that a genuine Rolex watch that is in need of service or repairs may not be water resistant, so this is not a guaranteed way to identify a fake, and should only be done on modern Rolex watches, not vintage models or those that are visibly damaged.

5. The Model Number Compared to the Metal

Often times counterfeit Rolex watches will try to cheap out by making a normally expensive model in cheaper metals to gain more profit. You should always check the model number of the Rolex you are buying online to make sure that it matches up with type of metal in the watch you are buying. A rule of thumb with the commonly counterfeited Rolex President: All Rolex President watches with the day (Monday, Tuesday, etc…) and the date (21,22,23…) are made out of solid platinum or 18k gold; not stainless steel and not two tone. If someone tries to sell you a stainless President they are likely cheating you.

The Writing on a Rolex Submariner - Bob's Watches

Check this writing for anything but perfection.

6. The Writing on the Dial

Everything on a Rolex is made to perfection. Without having to open up the watch it is easy to see this from the writing on the dial distinguishing the model and other features. With a magnifying glass, examine all the lettering on the dial. The writing should be neat and convex (outward), and there should be no bubbling. It should be relatively pristine. If the writing is far from perfect (or if there are any misspellings) then you know you are not dealing with a real Rolex.

7. The Case Back (the part of the watch opposite to the face)

Another easy way to spot a fake Rolex is that many have case backs that are made out of glass, plastic, or crystal so you can see the inner workings of a watch. Almost all Rolex watches do not have clear case backs and the only reason we have to say almost is there are two extremely rare models or Rolex from the 1930s that did in fact have case backs made of glass. So if you are buying a relatively modern Rolex with a clear case back it is almost certainly a fake. Also Rolex does not engrave anything on the case back’s exterior. However things are engraved on the interior.

Clean Rolex Engraving - Bob's Watches

Your Rolex engraving should look like this.

8. The Engraving

Again, everything on a Rolex is perfect – there are no mess-ups, misspellings, or anything. The engravings are a perfect example of this. The engravings are a little harder to reach sometimes. (This is why this is number 8 on the top 10 ways to spot a fake Rolex). There are usually some on the interior of the band of the watch towards the actual face, but to see the engravings for the serial and model number you have to take off the band. Taking off the band is relatively simple, you just need a thumb tack with which you can push in the joints holding the band to the watch through the holes on the side of the watch, or the bottom of the watch if there are no holes. Once you have it open, you should examine the engravings with a magnifying glass. They shouldn’t appear sandy or misshapen. They should be perfectly cut. Also you should use this model number when you look up the watch to check if it’s the right one. The model number is on the 12 o’clock side of the watch, while the serial number is on the 6 o’clock side.

9. The Inner Workings

You need special tools to view this one. With special Rolex tools, you can unscrew the case back and view the gears and inner workings of the watch. Everything should generally be different colors and again everything should be pretty much perfect. There should be an engraving on the inside of the watch that says something like “Geneva, Switzerland” the metal type and the model number. This engraving should be perfect as well. View the pictures below to see what the inside should look like.

How the inside of your Rolex should look - Bob's Watches

The inside of your Rolex should look like this!

10. Ticking

Listen closely. If you can hear a loud ticking (occurring once every second) coming from your watch, then there is a strong possibility that the Rolex is a fake. The vast majority of Rolex watches use fully mechanical movements (no battery) and do not make the traditional ticking noises common with other watches that are powered by quartz movements.

Since mechanical movements are more expensive than quartz movements to produce, many counterfeiters rely on quartz movements for their watches. Consequently, many fake Rolex watches have a loud, once-per-second ticking coming from the movement, and the seconds hand ticks in one second intervals, rather than appearing to be a smooth sweep.

Misconceptions: One the biggest misconception is that the second hand of Rolex watches is a perfect sweep. This is not true – most models of Rolex tick at eight ticks or movements per second so it is not a continuous sweep. Also some models move at slower speeds (around six ticks per second), while others (such as Oysterquartz watches) actually use quartz movements made by Rolex, and will tick once per second – just like a counterfeit Rolex with a quartz movement. Additionally, some of the more convincing fake Rolex watches will even use fully mechanical movements, so the ticking test is not always a guaranteed way to spot a fake watch.

If you want a real Rolex you can always find them at the first pre-owned Rolex Exchange Bob’s Watches where you can trade, sell Rolex, or buy pre-owned Rolex watches at great prices. If you have any questions or want to know if your Rolex is fake or real give us a call at 1(800)494-3708 and we’d be glad to help you out.



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Bob's Watches is an independent watch dealer and is not sponsored by, associated with and/or affiliated with Rolex, or any other brand listed. Bob's Watches only sells pre-owned watches and provides its own warranties on the watches it sells. Rolex Datejust, Rolex Day Date President, Submariner, Presidential, Explorer, Sea Dweller, Super President, GMT Master, GMT, YachtMaster, Prince, Milgauss, MasterPiece, Air King, Cosmograph Daytona, and PearlMaster, etc are all registered trademarks of the Rolex Corporation. All brands including Brequet, Cartier, Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, Ulysse Nardin, Breitling and Omega, etc are trademarks of their respective owners.