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How to spot a fake Rolex: 3 dead giveaways

Don't get duped by a fake

A Rolex Daytona on a wrist
Luke Miller / Pexels

There are endless options for you if you’re the kind of guy who loves to invest in luxury watches for men. You can elect to go German with Steinhart or Hanhart, Japanese with brands like Seiko or Citizen, or French with watches like Breguet or Cartier. Of course, if luxury is what you are looking for, Swiss is the best way to go. It’s the capital of premier watchmaking in the world and the watches from there span across the globe. Of all the Swiss brands (and the rest of the brands, for that matter), Rolex is the number one brand for people to invest in and shop for.

Of course, there is a flip side to being the most desired watch in all the world. Watchfinder CEO Arjen van de Vall commented in a Bloomberg article that Rolex fakes make up half of the counterfeit market, and they are getting harder to spot. “Rolex is the most aspirational luxury watch brand and the highest demand, hence, it’s the most replicated,” he said.

While they used to be able to spot 80% of the fakes that came across their business, that number has plummeted to 20%. While you can go to a dealer and hope to get someone to sell you a certified Rolex, the king of Swiss brands also makes up nearly half of the resale market, which means the chances that you run into a fake are good. But there are three ways you can spot a fake Rolex — keep these in mind while you’re shopping.

A vintage Rolex Premier Perpetual Calendar
Antony Trivet / Pexels

Check the model and serial numbers against the database

The most obvious way to catch fake are those things you can see with the naked eye. Obviously, if the brand or model name is misspelled, then that is a pretty good sign it is a fake. But those are way too obvious for any serious counterfeiter. The two ways that are more likely for you to catch a fake is with the model number. The model number won’t add up to any registry, so you will need to check the serial number to ensure that it is real.

Most serial numbers are laser etched onto the watch somewhere. Since 2008, they have been located on the inner rim between the dial on crystal. This is notoriously hard to do, but you should still check it against the databases that counterfeiters use. If the number matches a number on the database, you have been duped and are the proud owner of a faux-lex.

The Rolex 1908's transparent case

Make sure the cyclops is correct

The Rolex Submariner is one of the most iconic watches in the world. Its history reaches back to the beginning days of the diving industry, and it set the standard for tool watches in the middle of the 20th century. And since it is so iconic, it means it is one of the primary targets for counterfeiters. However, there is one feature the Submariner uses that you could use to spot an obvious fake: the date and day window.

The Rolex Submariner uses a convex “cyclops” lens to magnify the date 2.5 times. While this makes it easier for the wearer to see the date without squinting, it makes the counterfeiter’s job much more difficult, as it can be a dead giveaway. If the bubble isn’t placed correctly or the date isn’t centered, then it’d an obvious fake. The bubble is also made of an anti-reflective glass that, if faked, will give off a bluish tint.

A brown Rolex watch.
Laurenz Heymann / Unsplash

Check the 6 o’clock

Here is the most devious anti-fake tactic used by Rolex. While the counterfeiters may be doing all they can to emulate the Swiss icons, this is a feature that keeps them guessing and is different on every watch. At the 6 o’clock digit, most Rolex watches have a tiny crown symbol. Of course, this isn’t a secret, and therefore almost every fake has one there as well; there are a few things the real deal does to ensure authenticity.

First, the real deal is etched in, and laser etching is hard to do. Most counterfeiters will paint them on in an effort to just get past the naked eye. The second thing that this feature does to throw off those distributing fakes is to change up the depths of the dots on the crown. Unfortunately, this can’t be seen by the naked eye, so you may need to take it to a jeweler to help you determine if this is the real deal.

There you have it, the three top ways to spot a fake Rolex watch and put a stop to the people trying to dupe you and get you to buy something far less valuable. Of course, there are two tips to remember that make this whole thing easier. First, if the price is too good to be true, it likely is. And second, if you want to be sure the Rolex is real, take it to a professional. You may be able to recite this entire article by memory alone, but nothing beats the experience and the trained eye of a professional.

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Mark McKee
Mark is a full-time freelance writer and men's coach. He spent time as a style consultant and bespoke suit salesman before…
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