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How To Tell Fake Rolex Watches From The Genuine Ones

Yesterday I ventured into the world of fake vs. genuine Rolex watches. The cyclops led me there. And I promised you a better treatment of the situation than I could with that article. So what’s the scoop?

As even the most naïve traveler knows, counterfeiting Rolex watches is an ever-increasing problem. More of it is happening, and the counterfeiters are getting better and better.

And it’s gone far beyond the cheap, easy to spot fakes sold in large American cities and Mexican tourist destinations. Nowadays, vintage pieces are being knocked off with alarming skill. It’s getting so bad that some extremely knowledgeable collectors are getting out of the game, saying there’s no way they can keep up and know that watches are genuine.

So how can you really tell if you’re getting a fake instead of a genuine Rolex?

Sadly, there is no ultimate guarantee if you’re buying pre-owned. New, yes. Go through an authorized dealer. Simple as that.

But with pre-owned, it’s an often messy business. Buying pre-owned is a great way to save money, get excellent value, and possibly invest for the future (caveats galore on that last one – we’ll cover that another time).

But with Chinese fakes getting better and better – good dial printing (including correct spelling!), correct weight, and yes, correct magnification all factor in here – it’s really become a buyer beware proposition.

Fake Blueberry Submariner with a spelling mistake

The classic advice, “buy the seller before buying the watch” applies. Know the seller and their reputation before you do business. Ask questions. Lots of questions. Learn to read people, know when they’re lying and when they’re telling the truth. And know what you expect for answers to the questions you ask. be ready to walk away if they don’t jibe.

But also, know what you’re buying. Do your homework. Spend a little time, and a little money, and get to know the reference you’re shopping for. What are the quirks? How many different changes did the dial go through during the lifetime of the reference? Gilt printing? Hands? Minute tracks? What’s the serial number range for the reference (be sure to check it for yourself)? What movements were used?

And speaking of movements, ask to have the watch opened so you can inspect the movement. Number one, is it a genuine Rolex movement? Correct markings, gear colors, etc. Even though they’re based on the same horological principles as all movements, Rolex designs their movements a little differently.

And if you’re really going to get into this, you’ll need to understand small nuances of fonts – serifs, open and closed sixes, meters vs. feet first, shape of the crown logo (e.g. one is called the Bart Simpson for obvious reasons – but did it ever occur to you to go looking for intricate details of the printed crown logo on the dial?), etc.

And so you see, it’s too much for me to definitively tell you how to spot fakes in a brief blog post. However, you now know what you might be up against in the pre-owned watch world, and what you need to study in order to be at home there. Good luck!

 

-Ed Estlow

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