If you're in the market to buy a Rolex watch, you need to know how to spot a fake. I've done some research and wanted to share with you what I learned so you can be an educated consumer. After all, both new and pre-owned Rolex watches are an investment and you don't want to be throwing your money away on a counterfeit piece of jewelry.

According to estimates by the Swiss Customer Service, there are some 30 to 40 million counterfeit watches put into circulation each year. That means your chances of coming across one are significant. However, after reading this guide, I hope you will have an idea of what a fake Rolex looks like and you won't become a victim of an unscrupulous seller. 

Swiss Customs estimates that 40% of counterfeit watches come from China. The BaselWorld annual watch trade show attracts people from China whose actual job it is to take pictures of the watches on display from prestigious watch brands. As a result, a counterfeit version of a new or prototypical design is often launched in the marketplace before the real, authentic version is.


Fake Rolex Daytona

There are different types of counterfeits:

There are two groups of counterfeit watches. The first group consists of low-priced imitations that keep time. A cheap counterfeit watch sports the name of a prestigious designer brand, but lacks the functions and design. The second group involves counterfeit watches made to resemble the original designer watch. There are some higher-priced imitation watches that are made from higher quality materials and have gold-colored parts and leather straps.

Like many high-priced, designer watches, Rolex watches are frequently counterfeited and are sold illegally on the internet, on the streets, and at flea markets. These fakes are primarily made in Asian countries such as India, Korea, Taiwan and mainland China (however, there are counterfeit Rolexes being made in the USA as well). The prices are anywhere between $5-$1,000 depending on the quality of the replica. The higher-end counterfeits can have parts fabricated from solid karat gold (although many gold Rolex counterfeits use gold electroplating). The fake Rolex trade has become so sophisticated, that there are even full-color, glossy marketing materials to accompany these fakes made in China and sold to retail vendors throughout Asia.

Characteristics of Counterfeit Rolexes:

  • One common giveaway that a Rolex is a fake is a transparent case back which allows the watch movements to be seen. Rolex has almost never produced a watch like this except for some extremely rare models from the 1930's and some very new Cellini Price models.

  • Authentic Rolex watches never have a manufacturer engraving of a logo, design or Rolex name on the outside of the caseback. The only exception to this is the Sea-Dweller which says "Rolex Oyster Original Gas Escape Valve" on the back in black along with two Rolex logos.
  • Genuine Rolex models are free of engravings on the caseback, therefore they are smooth (however, there are some ladies' models with engraving on the caseback).
  • More recently, some genuine Rolex models were shipped new from the factory with a 3-dimensional, Hologram-encoded sticker on the caseback with a floating Rolex crown positioned above the watch's case reference number, which is now printed in black. Most fake stickers are a solid green color or are actually a repetitious "Rolex" pattern, not a hologram.

  • As of 2007, Rolex stopped using the hologram and new watches are not being shipped with them. In addition, inside the crystal of an authentic Rolex is a very subtle, almost invisible laser etched Crown Logo located at the 6:00 position. Some fakes have this etching, but it is often smaller than what is found on an authentic Rolex.
  • The date magnification of a Rolex is 2.5 times the normal size.The date should take up the entire glass bubble. There are some fake Rolexes that have a bigger font wheel to imitate this look, but come far from close to looking like the real appearance of the date.
  • The lettering on the dial should be precise. Under high-magnification, the type should reveal clean edges not found in forgeries.
  • Many fake Rolexes will have have regular glass instead of true sapphire crystal. A great test of the materials is to check the water surface tension. A smeared film of water will pull together on sapphire because the surface is smooth.
  • The second hand on a genuine Rolex always is smooth and continuous. Most fake Rolexes have movements that are small and jerky (although this is not always the case in higher-priced counterfeits).
  • The weight of an authentic Rolex is relatively heavy because of the materials used. This isn't a scientific method in determining a fake, but a counterfeit Rolex will feel lighter due to the cheaper materials used. In addition, the bands on a genuine Rolex are full whereas fakes often display hollow links.
  • The serial and case reference numbers on an authentic Rolex are engraved with great detail and are smooth. The numbers are located between the lugs on the side of the case. The numbers on counterfeit Rolexes often look like they have been sand-blasted or roughly etched into the case.

In Conclusion:

If you do have the ability to compare a replica Rolex next to the real thing, you will be able to see the subtle differences in the laser printing on the face, color differences on the band and dial, and other defects that will let you know if a Rolex is authentic or a replica. In addition, the edges on a Rolex and its band are not sharp and scratchy; they are smooth.