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Holistic Horology: How To Spot A Fake Rolex

It’s a scary world out there and the last thing we want is for you to spend a bunch of money on an expensive Rolex watch, only to find out that it’s a complete dud. In this guide, we’re going to run through some of the biggest red flags to help you avoid snagging a fake watch — from movements, text placement, and laser etching, all the way to material and weight comparison.

A good rule of thumb when shopping for luxury watches is an age-old adage — if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Keep this in mind, and unless you’re actually on the market for a nice replica, it’s time to dive headfirst into our list. Remember, this article is meant to help you on your journey, but if you’re worried about whether or not your next big investment is a little on the sketchy-side, always take the watch to a certified horologist for a professional opinion. You’ll thank us later.

Cyclops Lens

One of the biggest indicators that the shiny new Rolex you’re about to grab from the local street market at a super discounted price is fake — aside from the too good to be true price — is the magnification on the right side of the watch. If you’re picking up a genuine classic like the Rolex Submariner (pictured on the left), there will be a noticeable difference in the magnification values that help to make sure the date is legible. Most counterfeit watchmakers will try to match the trademark 2.5x magnification of Rolex’s high-end watches, but they often fall short. Some watchmakers will even completely forgo the orb-like magnifier because they know it’s a dead giveaway.

Winder And Exterior Etchings

The winders on legitimate Rolex offerings are meticulously machined and given the finest treatment, unlike their fake counterparts. Etchings and engravings on the exterior of the watch will usually help to determine whether a watch is actually created by a master craftsman or a professional con artist. Rolex will always include super-fine etchings that are precisely measured, spaced, and integrated — fake watch-makers do not, and you’ll see anything from choppy spacing, cheap materials, and dappled engravings, all the way to less prominent, dull winders.

The Weight Of The Watch

This may seem a little shoddy but take our word for it — the weight of the watch determines whether or not it’s legit or fake. It goes without saying that the higher-grade materials used in actual Swiss watchmaking will weigh far more than their basement-made counterparts. Rolex is one of, if not the only, watchmaker that forges their metal bands and casing with 904L steel, a corrosion-resistant superalloy. Compare that to the lower grade steel and aluminum casing that counterfeit watchmakers (as seen on the right) utilize and it’s a night and day difference in your hand. To be fair, Rolex is touted as one of the only companies to use 904L steel in their watchmaking, so you’ll be able to tell the difference between a real Rolex and other high-end brands due to the construction and feel of the watch.

The Movement

It’s extremely hard to mirror Rolex’s infamous movement, and although many counterfeit watchmakers will try to emulate the silky smooth moves, they often fall short. The movement in a Rolex is renowned for its silent nature — a true Rolex will never make a clicking sound when held to the ear. It’ll also utilize a supremely smooth second-hand rotation between minutes, opting to use a continuous action over a stuttered action, like those found in low-end watches. If you hear any odd sounds or see that the hand is moving in a stop-and-go fashion, the watch is most likely a fake.

Serial Number And Stamping

Rolex is renowned for their attention to detail and they take exceptional pride in their stamping and engraving practices. The laser engraved rehaut, as well as stamp placement, texture, and depth, are all indicators of a genuine Rolex watch (shown on the left). An easy way to spot a counterfeit is to look closely at the depth of the stamp — Rolex is notorious for precise, deep line work that will actually glow if it’s viewed from the correct angle. This is common for metals that have been laser etched or diamond cut. A big indicator of a one-off watch is the utilization of a “dotted” stamp, which, when inspected, will reveal a series of small circular imprints in the metal casing.

Internal Stamping And Crown Logo

This one is a little more difficult to articulate, mostly because the internals of the watch are hard to analyze for people who don’t have a background in horology. Usually, the owner will have to take the watch to a specialist where they will open the case and inspect the internals of the watch, as well as any other counterfeit indicators. One-off watchmakers will often use low-grade materials for the internals and some may even use different colored metals in the watch’s construction. The trademark “Rolex Crown” will often follow suit — where an original Rolex (shown on the left) will feature a precise, protruding emblem on the interior of the watch or winder, a fake will often look as if it’s glued on or attached with a low-grade adhesive. Because of this, counterfeit watchmakers often choose not to include the Crown on their watches.

Movement Engraving

One of the easiest observations to make is related to the presence of the Rolex signature on a large portion of the peripherals in, and out of the watch. The Swiss internals and movement will all feature a precise and beautiful Rolex signature. Because this minor detail is often overlooked or deemed too difficult to reproduce, counterfeit watchmakers will often omit the signature.

Inconsistent Spacing And Lettering

It’s simple for one-off watchmakers to mimic the famous Rolex font but the implementation of the font is an entirely different story. Most fake watches will be manufactured in an environment that is far less precise than a Rolex facility — as a result, the attention to detail, quality control, and design of the watch will often suffer. In this case, most fake Rolex pieces (pictured above) will house inconsistencies in spacing and may even include entirely different font. The only way to tell is by comparing a counterfeit with an original, but if you’re a fan of typography, you’ll already know that there’s a huge debate around what type of font Rolex actually uses for their watches.


This one is easy but could wreak havoc on your timepiece. In 1926, Rolex created the first water- and dust-proof wristwatch — the “Oyster” featured a hermetically sealed case that’s only gotten better over time. So go ahead and dunk your watch in water to see if it’s the real deal. Today, Rolex utilizes the most up to date waterproofing and water resistance techniques. Their watches are meticulously machined, sealed, and treated to ensure a watertight seal. Most counterfeit watchmakers don’t have the time or the proficiency to pull this off.

Caseback Etching And Material

The final tip is all about visual observation and good old common sense — if the case back of the Rolex you’ve just purchased is clear, it’s undeniably fake. Rolex only uses plain polished steel backing on their watches, and their commitment to this design choice is unrelenting. Clear case back may have been adopted by a variety of Swiss watchmakers over the past few decades, but the luxury horology connoisseurs at Rolex have been hard at work making sure that they’re the company setting the trends, not the other way around.

10 Best Men's Rolex Watches For Every Budget

Now that you know the difference between a real Rolex watch and a knock-off timepiece, how about you dive into our list recommending the 10 best men’s Rolex watches for every budget.