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Rolex Authentication: Don't be fooled by a knock off

Rolex Authentication
Kseniya Burns

Counterfeiting is an ancient practice that has existed for as long as the demand for luxury needed to be met. Anything that can be desirable and in high demand, can be counterfeit to meet the needs of those who otherwise would not have the opportunity to have a similar looking possession.  Counterfeiting doesn't just devalue the brand that is being forged, it also hurts the consumer. Often times, the prices of the genuine item increase to offset the losses that end up going to the faux market, the brand becomes muddied, and in some cases, previous reputation of uncompromised quality can be lost.

Rolex is considered one of the most popular luxury watch brands and suffers greatly from being counterfeit. Although only Rolex can match a Rolex in the quality of craftsmanship and design, some faux Rolex watches are so close to the original that only a professional watchmaker can tell the difference. Others, however, are so poor in quality and imitation that even a novice can tell the difference between a fake and a genuine timepiece.

Although, we highly recommend consulting a professional before you purchase any luxury timepiece, the information presented below will help you weed out at least some of the faux watches that may come your way.

WEIGHT OF THE WATCH

A genuine Rolex is made out of the highest quality precious metals  or stainless steel and are generally very heavy. If the watch that you are purchasing feels light, it could very well be that the watch is made out of a cheaper alloy or is only gold plated.

ROLEX CASE

A Rolex will almost always have some kind of a mark on the caseback. A clear caseback is extremely rare, there are only two Rolex watches that were made in 1930’s that feature a “skeleton” case back that allows you to view the inner workings of the watch.That being said, the following are the markings that can be found on the caseback:

 

  • Most authentic  Rolex watches that were made after 1990's will have a hologram sticker on the case back that will feature the crown logo and a reference number.

  • As a rule, a current Rolex will not have any engraving on the case.

  • Some ladies' watches that were produced before 1990's will have the words "Original Oyster Case by Rolex"  engraved on the back.

  • Sea Dweller models can feature an inscription "Rolex Oyster Original Gas Escape Valve”, "Patent Pending", or "Rolex Patent". However, this is only true of the early models.

  • We highly recommend that a professional inspects any vintage Rolex as the case markings may vary for all of the watches that were produced before 1990's.

ROLEX HOLOGRAM

An authentic Rolex hologram sticker will appear three dimensional with the pattern changing in the light when viewed from different directions. Starting in 2002 the sticker will feature a crown logo positioned about the reference number in black. Holograms prior to 2002 did not feature a crown logo and the reference number was printed in gold. As found in the case of most reproduction holograms, the pattern will not change when viewed from different directions, the reference number will be incorrect and likely printed in the wrong color.

MOVEMENT OF THE SECONDS HAND

A genuine Rolex watch will have a seconds hand that produces a smooth, sweeping motion as it glides across the dial. Any visible ticking is a good indication that the watch is not authentic.  The exception is Rolex Oysterquartz.

CRYSTAL

Some vintage Rolex models will have Plexiglas or an acrylic crystal.  However, all models that were produced after 1991 are outfitted with a lab made sapphire crystal that is completely clear and extremely durable. If the crystal has any tint or looks cloudy, it is likely a forgery. Most faux Rolex watches will have a glass crystal. Inspecting a watch at an angle can help determine if the crystal is glass or sapphire. Look for uneven edging where the crystal meets the case or a slight green, yellow, or milky tint. Those are all good indications that the crystal is glass or other inferior material.

In 2002 Rolex began micro etching a coronet (crown) logo at 6 o’clock position on all of their watches. The logo is incredibly small and is hard to see with a naked eye. The logo should appear flawless when inspected, have straight lies, and perfectly mimic all other Rolex logos on the watch.

FINISH

A gold faux Rolex will appear dull and brasslike, the finish may have dark blemishes on it and not appear uniform. A genuine Rolex will have a flawless, lustrous look. However, a faux Rolex gets significantly harder to spot when the material used is stainless steel. We suggest looking for imperfections, bumps, and striations that can be present in the metal due to the suboptimal manufacturing conditions.

DATE

The Cyclops-eye lens should be positioned exactly at three o'clock. Many forgeries will have the window positioned slightly higher or slightly lower. The magnification of the genuine Rolex Cyclops-eye lens is X2.5. Some knockoffs will have the maximum magnification of X1.5 and others won't magnify the date at all.  

The date wheel should be perfectly centered underneath the lens and have uniform, solid background color that is free of blemishes. The numbers should be printed clearly in either black or red (Rolex watches with a red date are fairly rare and should be carefully examined). The date should seamlessly switch right at midnight. Misaligned, poorly magnifying lens, misaligned date wheel, wrong font, and wrong color are some of the common issues found in forged Rolex watches.

MARKERS

A genuine Rolex markers  will appear flawless under magnification. Any scratches, inappropriate font, misalignment of minute or seconds indices, markers, or numerals are a good indication that the watch is a reproduction. Any scratches on the dial can also indicate a forgery. When the watch dial is inspected at an angle it should be uniform and the area where the case and the dial meet should not have a mirror finish.

If you are inspecting a watch with luminescent markers, the markers should be uniform in color and retain their luminescence for a while after they have been exposed to a bright light source.  Beware that some vintage Rolex models may have discolored markers due to age, and lose their luminescence fairly quickly. Always consult a professional before purchasing a vintage Rolex.

WINDING CROWN

A true, genuine Rolex will have an engraving of the Rolex Crown on the winding crown. The crown will be very smooth to operate and shouldn't make any noise when unscrewed and screwed back in. The movement of the watch hands should be smooth when time is being set and not "jerky" or "jumpy". In contrast a faux Rolex watch is likely to have an applied crown logo on the winding crown, the hands will not transition smoothly when setting the time and the crown may be hard to handle or make noise. A genuine Rolex will have a visible black seal when the crown is unscrewed completely. That feature is known as the Triple Lock crown. Most forged Rolex watches lack this feature.

BEZEL

A rotating bezel of an authentic Rolex will complete its revolution, smoothly and silently in 120 "clicks". A counterfeit watch will have a myriad of problems with the bezel rotation being accompanied by catching, clicking, or the rotation will stop before the 120 "clicks".

REFERENCE NUMBERS

The reference numbers of counterfeit Rolex watches are often fictitious or completely absent.

BRACELET

There is something to be said about the quality of a Rolex bracelet. When you wear a genuine Rolex, everything seems to sit, feel, and fit just right. A faux Rolex watch will often have a poorly put together bracelet with kinks or blemishes between the links. The links will sit tightly together and remains somewhat rigid when the watch is placed face down. The finish on the bracelet can be flawed or appear dull. Check the link joints to make sure that the watch is not gold plated. Some poor plating will show signs of wear between the links first. Links in a genuine Rolex bracelet will be held together by screws, not by push pins. The bracelet clasp pin will be finished on both sides and match the craftsmanship on the bracelet and should not look like a simple piece of unfinished metal. Be aware that recent, authentic oyster bracelets have link thickness variations where links closer to the case appear thicker.

LOGO

In most reproductions, the crown logo is copied poorly. Look for unevenness, jagged edges on the inside edge of the crown, poorly executed crown points or an O shape at the base. An authentic crown logo will look clean with an elliptical base.

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