Sunday, August 26, 2007

How to Spot a Fake Rolex

Swiss watches - or not copy

They say there’s a “sucker born every minute” but you're not a sucker if you intentionally know what you’re getting into. On a recent trip to New York City, I knew that Canal Street was the place I could find the not-so-elusive fake Rolex watch. Sure enough, I had to walk only one block of the infamous market district before I was approached by a nervous-looking guy offering what he promised was a “genuine” Rolex time piece.

Discerning shopper that I am (even when in the market for fakes), I declined the gentleman’s offer and continued to peruse the goods offered in the small cluttered shops. A few “designer sunglasses” and hilariously bootlegged copies of current movies later, I ran into another guy promising that he had an “authentic” Rolex watch to sell me. I agreed to take a look at the watch and negotiate.

The street-salesman produced a watch wrapped in a plastic bag which I pointed out was not the intended casing for a true luxury watch. The timepiece had a protective plastic covering on the face and was silver with gold trim along the metallic band. I negotiated with my new friend to pay fully one-fourth of the “great deal” he wanted to charge. I left Canal Street with fake goods in hand, especially thrilled with myself for being a willing victim to the fake Rolex scam.

When I returned from my trip, I decided to research the differences between the watch I bought and a real Rolex. Of course, my watch was a textbook fake, from the shoddy materials, clear-glass backing, and the inaccurate “date bubble”. Below are some tips on how to distinguish a true Rolex from a forgery:

  1. Clear Caseback – As previously mentioned, my “Rolex” features a clear backing so the inner workings of the watch are on display. A few mechanical components inside even display the signature crown to appear more impressive. This is perhaps the easiest to recognize feature of a counterfeit watch, because Rolex has never made a watch with a “skeleton caseback”.

  2. Cyclops Magnification Bubble – The crystal on authentic Rolex watches features a “Cyclops bubble” that offers 2.5 times magnification of the date. On fake Rolex watches, this bubble is often off-center or made of glass, and usually approaches only 1.5 times the magnification.

  3. Micro-etched Crystal – My counterfeit watch doesn’t even attempt to mimic this feature, but many fakes will try to match the micro-etched Rolex logo that has become standard on genuine watches made after 2002. Rolex began micro-etching their coronet symbol into the crystal just below the 6 o’clock position. The mark is so small, it is often difficult to see with the naked eye, but can be identified under magnification. The detail is so precise that counterfeit models often cannot replicate the logo accurately.

    fake etching
  4. Hologram Sticker – Again, my fake watch can’t compete with higher-class fakes, but some forgeries will attempt to re-create the hologram sticker that comes on all Rolex case backs. The sticker features a hologram of the Rolex Crown positioned just above the case reference number. Most forgeries are not hologram stickers at all, but simply patterns that do not change when viewed from different angles.

    rolex hologram
  5. Triplock Crown Seal – The Daytona, Submariner, and Sea-Dweller models feature an extra seal between the winding tube’s threads. Many replicas will completely leave this feature off or possess a fake seal that serves no practical purpose.

    triplock crown seal
  6. Size and Weight – although it is not the most scientific method for determining a fake, it should be noted that authentic Rolex watches are very sturdy and therefore relatively heavy. Fake watches are made from cheaper materials and typically feel very light. Also, the bands on genuine Rolex watches are full whereas fakes often display hollow links.

  7. Hand Movement – The second hand on a genuine Rolex watch features a smooth and continuous movement that often cannot be duplicated by fake watches. Their movements are often in small, jerky increments.

    rolex hand movement
  8. Sapphire Composition –Many faux-Rolexes will use regular glass instead of true sapphire crystal. A good test of the materials is to check the water surface tension. A smeared film of water will pull together on sapphire due to the extremely smooth surface.

  9. Lettering – Be sure to check the dial of your potential purchase to see if the lettering is precise. Under high-magnification, the type should reveal clean edges not found in many forgeries.

  10. Case Reference Numbers – The serial and case reference numbers can be found in between the lugs on the side of the case. Authentic Rolex numbers are engraved with great detail and are very smooth. The numbers on fake watches often look “sand-blasted” or are roughly etched into the case.

    case reference numbers

The name Rolex has become synonymous with success and style, and it would be a shame for anyone to be suckered into paying premium prices for a forgery. Trusting a reputable dealer is the best way to obtain a genuine Rolex, but if you must go outside of the typical channels, be sure to use common sense. Do the research, ask questions, and remember if it looks too good to be true…it probably is.