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Genuine Rolex vs. Counterfeit Rolex

Genuine Rolex vs. Counterfeit Rolex

The Rolex counterfeit industry is growing at an ever-increasing pace. This criminal expansion poses a real threat to Rolex because it adversely affects the market for genuine Rolex watches. Counterfeit Rolex watches also cloud the enthusiasm and faith of Rolex enthusiasts around the world. Such negativity is especially true in the case of high-end counterfeits, which are sold as genuine Rolex watches. Although these counterfeits may appear similar from a distance, they can in no way match a genuine Rolex in terms of functionality, performance, and precision.

In the faux Rolex watch black market, a wide range of different varieties exist. While the low-level faux watches can be identified even by a child, the higher-level replicas can fool many. As a result, prior to buying a pre-owned Rolex it can be useful do a thorough study of the various features that distinguish a faux Rolex from an original.  The following information can go a long way in helping differentiate a counterfeit from a genuine Rolex:

Weight of the Watch: This is a cursory way of finding out whether a watch is a counterfeit. All authentic Rolex watches are quite heavy since they are made of solid gold, steel, or platinum. Inexpensive Rolex replicas, on the other hand, will be lightweight.

Case Backs: Many varieties of faux Rolex watches come with a clear case back, which are almost non-existent in vintage Rolex models.  Modern Rolex models do not have clear case backs.

Case Back Markings: Faux Rolex watches may be engraved with the famous Rolex “crown logo”, model numbers, serial numbers, and other reference numbers on the case backs--but these engravings are not found on genuine Rolex watches. All authentic and current Rolex models have a hologram-encoded sticker on the case back that contains the watch's model reference number along with the “Rolex Crown” just above it. There are certain exceptions, however, such as the following:

  • Some ladies' Rolex watches had the case back engraved with “Original Oyster Case by Rolex”. This is often true for models that were produced before the 1990s.
  • Rolex Sea-Dweller models are engraved with “Rolex Oyster Original Gas Escape Valve” on the case back. Some early models may also include “Rolex Patent” or “Patent Pending." Also, the Sea-Dweller models made for the COMEX employees often bear the Rolex and Comex names along with a two, three, or four-digit identification number used by Comex.

Sweeping Movement: In genuine Rolex watches (except the Rolex Oysterquartz), the second hand displays a sweeping movement as it ticks at the rate of 5-8 times per second. On the other hand, cheap Rolex replicas feature a second hand that may tick only once per second. Although better quality counterfeits may appear to have a sweeping movement of the second hand, they will not be as smooth as an authentic Rolex.

Crystal: All Rolex models that were rolled out after 1991 were outfitted with laboratory-made synthetic sapphire crystal. These crystal models have a clear white appearance. Most of the counterfeit Rolex models, however, feature either a glass crystal or plastic (acrylic) crystal. Some may also have a milky white appearance.

Finish: Faux stainless steel Rolex models are the most difficult to identify. This difficulty is not true in the case of gold versions, as faux models look brassy unlike how the 18k gold (in some earlier models even 9k and 14k gold are used) appears in authentic Rolex watches.

Cyclops: The Cyclops lens, attached to the crystal and found over the date aperture, does the work of magnifying the date by 2.5 times. In Counterfeit Rolex watches, this lens is usually not as powerful and may only magnify the date a maximum of 1.5 times. In cheap replicas, the lens is not even functional. Another way to distinguish faux Rolex watches from genuine ones on this parameter is the positioning of the Cyclops. In many counterfeit varieties, the lens is positioned incorrectly, either a bit higher or lower than it should be on the crystal.

Illumination Markings: In authentic Rolex watches, the illumination markings on the hands and hour markers glow for a longer period of time in the dark once charged with direct light. However, do not expect vintage or older Rolex models to glow for long at night, as the effectiveness of this chemical does not last for an indefinite time. With cheap replicas, the illumination markings are only for show. Even in better quality replicas this luminescence may not last for an extended period of time. In addition, if seen with the help of a hand lens, the illumination fillings may not look as smooth as on genuine Rolex watches.

Winding Crown: Genuine Rolex watches feature a winding crown that is not only smooth but also does not make noise while being unscrewed. In contrast, faux winding crowns are not smooth to operate. In addition, when you set the time, the second hand jumps aggressively whereas in the case of authentic Rolex watches, the second hand moves by only 2-3 second markers. It is interesting to note that Rolex produces winding crown with its “Crown” or “Coronet” logo engraved on it. However, in many counterfeit versions, the logo is simply glued on the end of the crown.

Crown Seal: All Rolex models featuring a Triplock Crown have an additional seal. Looking like a black rubber o-ring, it can be seen when you unscrew the winding stem completely. Such a seal is not present in most of the counterfeit models.

Date Wheels: A very prominent feature that you will find in all genuine Rolex models is the positioning of the date wheel. Placed exactly at the center of the date aperture, the date wheel gives a clear view of the number and has a solid background color. On the other hand, misaligned date wheel positioning in faux models is a common phenomenon, and the rough background color on the date wheel is an immediate signal of an unauthentic and cheap counterfeit.

Important Functionalities: Rolex introduced the “Hacking Feature” circa 1972. All current Rolex models have this feature whereby the second hand stops dead when the winding stem is pulled out to set the time. In low quality Rolex replicas, there is no hacking feature. Take this into account before you make any purchase decision.

Similarly, if the “Quick Set” and “Double Quick Set” features (found in only “Date” and “Day Date” models) work in a jerky manner or simply drag, this indicates an unauthentic  Rolex.

The subsidiary dials or registers found in Rolex Daytona also provide you with another opportunity to distinguish a counterfeit from a genuine Rolex. Such dials available in unauthentic Rolex Daytona models may not be functional at all. You also will miss the concentric circles inside these registers that can be seen in an authentic Daytona. Unlike in the case of the genuine Daytona, the registers in faux versions are placed at a distance from the dial markings. Another important point to note is the large sweep second hand found in this model for the stopwatch function. In a faux model, it may move even when you have not initiated the stopwatch function.

Additionally, the extra 24-hour hand found in Rolex GMT and Explorer II models may not be entirely visible in faux Rolex models.

Finally, the one-way gas escape valve that is positioned on the side of the case just opposite the winding crown in all Rolex Sea-Dweller models is almost always just a cosmetic feature, with no functionality in faux versions of the Rolex Sea-Dweller.

Dial Markings: When viewed with a hand lens, you will find that the dial markings on faux Rolex wristwatches lack clarity, accurate spacing, correct font size, and appropriate shape. This also is true in the case of hour/minute indices and hour/minute/second hands. In some cheap replicas, you may find scratches on the markings as well as on the dial. Be alert, however, because counterfeiters are continuously getting more and more sophisticated at creating faux. In many instances, you may not find overly prominent flaws on the dial; always try to examine the watch as closely as possible.

One more important way to establish the authenticity of Rolex watches is by viewing the outer edge of the dial from an angle. If the watch is authentic, the outer edge will have the same look as that of the entire case. If it is a faux, you will see a mirror finish on the outer edge.

Rotating Bezel: The rotating bezel found in many Rolex sport models like the Submariner and the GMT-Master can be rotated smoothly in 120 “clicks” (with no sound) covering 2 clicks for every minute. When you turn the bezel in faux models, its rotation either will be loose or it will hang up in the middle. In some replicas, the bezel may make a sound while rotating. In other counterfeit versions the bezel completes a rotation in less than 120 clicks.

Case Reference and Serial Numbers: Most counterfeit Rolex watches carry incorrect case reference or serial numbers. In low-level replicas, you will find no such numbers.

Bracelet Configurations: Key points related to the bracelet to remember while buying a genuine Rolex include the following:

  • As opposed to genuine Rolex bracelets, counterfeits are tight and often remain tightly kinked when picked up by the buckle.
  • Counterfeit Rolex bracelets tend to have poor quality gold plating.
  • Recent versions of Rolex Oyster bracelets feature unevenness in thickness with links closer to the case thicker than those toward the buckle. On the other hand, faux versions may maintain the same thickness throughout the length of the band.
  • Authentic Rolex bracelets have links held together with screws unlike the push-pins found in many faux versions. If some high-end replicas feature “screw links,” a closer examination with a loupe will help you to identify flaws that are not visible to the naked eye.
  • Rolex Oyster and Jubilee bracelets are stamped on the inside of the folding clasp with the name “Rolex” surrounded by a series of scrolled lines.
  • Another feature of this stamp is that it bears the logo “Coronet” on the top. They are also stamped with the “Coronet” logo on the outside of the clasp. In most faux versions, the stamp is not well-copied. The inferior quality of the reproduction clearly is apparent upon examination. A closer look will bring into light many flaws such as round “O” shape at the base of the crown instead of the flatter oval shape.
  • Look for the quality of the stamped hallmark found on the inside of the folding clasp in Rolex President bracelets.
  • Rolex bracelet clasps feature a tiny pin, finished on both ends, unlike their fake counterparts which look like a cut piece of metal.

Whenever you plan to buy any model Rolex watch from anyone but a reputed retailer, make sure you have collected enough information about it so that you can undertake a detailed observation in terms of the various aspects mentioned above to establish the watch's authenticity. You also should employ the help of experts who possess relevant knowledge in this field. The decision to buy a Rolex is too important to leave in the hands of amateurs. When you take the step to make such a life-changing purchase, you deserve nothing less than an authentic Rolex watch.