The guide to buying a Rolex and avoiding the fakes
Start with knowing the reputation of the seller. The easiest way to prevent buying a replica or fake Rolex is to buy from a reputable and trusted seller. There’s a lot of reputable sellers to begin your search. Some examples are Crown and Caliber, Jomashop, Chrono24, and WatchFinder. The list goes on, please research the seller before deciding to purchase from on. If you can find a seller that does inspections and service of each watch before selling is a huge plus. Additionally, it is recommended that you find a dealer that specializes in Rolex watches if possible but not a requirement. Most gray market sellers will have better deals.
Be wary of auction sites but don’t completely rule them out. eBay, Craigslist, Mercari, and such sites are often plagued with fake watches. It can be difficult to find trusted and honest Rolex sellers. The good news is that most online sellers are now offering authentication services where your watch can’t be sent to a third-party authorization service before routing the watch to you. These 3rd party authentication services are usually covered by the seller of the watch and should not add any additional cost to you. I would not purchase a watch from a marketplace unless the seller is a known and reputable seller or offers a 3rd party authentication service.
Check the serial number
A very reliable way to confirm a Rolex is genuine is to refer to the serial and case reference numbers. The serial and model numbers on a genuine Rolex are deep and perfectly marked in solid and very crisp and legible. The fake serial number tends to have an unsharp finish and lots of stretching because the machine work is sub-par. A quick google search of your serial number should point back to the make/model/year of your watch. If you see any other sites offering a watch with the same serial number, more than likely your watch or the other seller's watch is a replica.
The Rolex Crown
The crown should sit pretty tight near noon on the watch dial. Most fakes have a really bad placement or no placement at all. This is often to lower the cost of producing the watch.
The Rolex Movement
The movement is the most important part of any watch. It is the literal heart and brains of the watch. This is where most fake watch skimp because it easier to use a mass-produce low-cost movement than a genuine Rolex movement. Each genuine movement will always have “Rolex” engraved on it, and the individual parts will be preciously finished. Historically Rolex has produced quartz movement watches, but a vast majority of the popular and new models of Rolex use mechanical movements. Take a look below at the comparison of a fake vs real Rolex mechanical movement. Also, take a look at some of the photos below showcasing the superb finishing of all Rolex movements
The cyclops is the small magnifying lens on the crystal above the date window. A genuine Rolex, the cyclops magnifies the date 2.5 times for increased readability and the date will fill up the entire cyclops window. On fakes, usually, the cyclops magnification is much weaker, making the date appear smaller
Micro etching on the crystal
In 2002, Rolex began micro-etching a tiny crown logo at the 6 o’clock position on the sapphire crystal. The laser-etched crown can be very difficult to see with the naked eye. Usually, under magnification, you can see the crystal very clear. Because of the difficulty to etch and the side, many replicas watches either skip the micro etching all together or it's very poorly done. Modern authentic Rolex watches are outfitted with a scratchproof sapphire crystal. This crystal is important for protecting the dial of the watch. Cheaper models will often use a much cheaper acrylic or combination crystal. As a side note, many older Rolex models such as 1980s Datejust models feature acrylic crystals.
Most newer model Rolexes feature what's called a sunburst dial. The texture is similar to brushed metal but instead of parallel lines, the pattern is radial, with the lines coming from the center of the dial. The design makes the dial extremely difficult to produce and very expensive. Because of the cost and difficulty, most fakes skimp on the dial and use flat finished dials as seen in the comparison picture below.
A genuine Rolex will typically wear more and feel more solid than a replica. The reason being is the quality of the steel used for the case and the bracelets are much thicker making the case heavier. It may be tough to compare the weight if you don't have a comparable model. Use your best instinct at that moment, if the watch feels light, hollow, or loose in any regard, it is more than likely a replica.
Every Rolex model made after 1930 features a solid case back. You will not find a sapphire case back on any newer model. The only way to see the movement is to remove the case back to view the movement. Except for the Rolex Sea-Dweller, Milgauss, some Military models or models that were gifted, Rolex does not engrave the exterior of their case backs. Some older lady Rolex Datejust models like the 6917 and 69173 do have “Stainless Steel” and “Registered Design” on their case backs. So that is an important part to note.
Summary of the quick red flags to look out for.
- Authentic Rolex watches typically weigh more than most fakes because of the quality of the materials and the thickness of the case.
- Almost every Rolex movements feature a brand in-house mechanical movement. The exception is the oyster quartz which uses a battery-powered quartz movement.
- The date is shown in the cyclops lens on the crystal and it should almost fill up the entire bubble.
- The dial on most Rolex will feature a sunburst pattern. The pattern is very difficult to reproduce and is often very easy to spot because of the visual appeal.