Today, millions of people are buying and selling Rolex watches and other fine timepieces over the internet. It is said that Rolex produces around 650,000 to 800,000 watches annually. Sadly enough, counterfeiters around the world produce 10 times that amount each year, turning what was once a business operated in street vendors into a multi-billion dollar industry.
Without knowing what tell-tale signs to look for, the average Rolex consumer may easily fall victim to scammers. And while connoisseurs will certainly discern between a $5,000 Rolex and a $50 replica, the existence of large number of counterfeits inevitably affects demand at some level.
The best and most accurate way to tell a Rolex from a replica is by checking its Serial#, Model#, Case back ID, and Movement Signature (the 4 primary verification methods used by professionals) by looking between its bottom lugs (part where the band connects to case), top lugs, and by opening the case back respectively.
Clear Casebacks – If you encounter one of these, don’t bother strapping them on. Often times, a replica will have a clear caseback allowing you to see the inside of the watch. Rolex does not make watches with clear casebacks!
Engraved Casebacks – Again, with the exception of a rare Ladies model (circa 1990’s) and the “Sea-Dweller” model, Rolex does not engrave any logos or slogans on their casebacks. Moreover, they are free of any engravings.
Hologram Stickers – A newly purchased Rolex watch will come with a 3-D hologram-encoded sticker on the caseback. The Rolex “crown” trademark is featured just above the case reference number and can be easily identified when viewed. Often times, a fake hologram sticker won’t even have the 3-D effect when viewed. It is simply a hard, concrete pattern that won’t change in appearance one bit. If this is evident, it is surely a counterfeit Rolex.
Date Magnification – All genuine Rolex watches excluding the “Sea-Dweller” features the cyclops that magnifies the date by 2.5x. As you can see in the picture above, the cyclops on the counterfeit is significantly smaller and a bit misaligned. These are common flaws made by counterfeits and you will see many of them today with a larger font date to fool the average consumer.
Triplock Crown Seal – This pertains to the owners or future owners of the Sea-Dweller, Submariner, and the Daytona. These three models feature the “Triplock crown”. The image above shows that the genuine Rolex utilizes the extra seal by the rubber o-ring on the winding tube whereas the counterfeit comes with no seal at all. It is also worth mentioning this to be a case by case situation when purchasing a pre-owned Rolex, in which many original Rolex parts or accessories can be replaced by aftermarket parts and accessories.
Micro-etched Crystal – In 2002, Rolex began micro-etching the Rolex “coronet” or “crown” right below the 6 o’clock marker. Though it is better distinguishable using a jeweler’s loupe, you can see by the illustration that the genuine “crown” is much more distinguishable and robust as opposed to the counterfeit. Moreover, the counterfeit is poorly designed and is a clear indication of a fake