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Hands down, Rolex is the world’s single largest luxury watch brand. No debate. End of story. Well, beginning of story actually.

With a remarkable design and colorful history, it’s not surprising that unscrupulous people frequently rip off this company’s iconic design and sell fake watches to unknowing customers. It’s almost a trope at this point: it’s tough to think about Canal street in Manhattan without immediately thinking of fake watches.

Since they’re quite literally everywhere and we’ve just about had it up to HERE, we asked a bunch of experts, collectors, and watch enthusiasts how to make sure you never wind up with a fake Rolex. Here’s what they came up with.

There’s a trench coat involved

It’s important to remember that the red flag-raising trench coat doesn’t always come in the form of an actual trench coat.

If you’re hunting for watches on eBay, check out the seller. If the seller’s selling history specializes in expensive Rolexes over cheap electronics and clothes, that’s a good sign.

If the Rolex in question is the first watch sold by your guy, raise a suspicious brow. eBay warns that if they claim they got the watch as a “present,” that is a big red flag. Same goes for people who ask for payment via wire transfer or Western Union—but everyone should know that at this point.

Evaluating the seller is a common sense check, and if your gut is telling you no, listen. If you don’t want to gamble, save yourself the grief—or the nagging question “is it real?—by using a reputable source like Bob’s Watches or Analog Shift.

It’s missing its certificate of authenticity

A legitimate Rolex always comes with a certificate of authenticity. Some jokers will try to forge this certificate, but the genuine document (printed before 2007) will always bear the folds of old age, while newer ones come in a harder plastic, credit card style. People don’t generally lose these; if they did, they’ve probably treated the watch like crap anyway and it’s not worth buying.

The price is wrong

Know that what you’re buying is worth of a lot of money. If you’re buying a GMT-Master IIfor $200, it’s definitely too good to be true. Sorry, that’s the way it is. Authentic Rolexes will probably start at no less that $2,000 for a simple Air-King, but remember, you’re in it for the quality.

It makes a ‘tick’ sound every second

You can learn a lot by listening, people. A well-made and serviced movement shouldn’t sound muffled or truncated, and you should be hearing a complicated series of ticks—instead of one tick per second like a quartz watch.

It’s too light

Our pal, Hampton Carney, who’s been representing prestigious watch companies for the better part of two decades (and is the proud owner of a mean collection of vintage Rolexes) explains the importance of knowing what you’re dealing with before you dissect the watch itself: “There are two kinds of fakes: the good ones (often Swiss-made) and the bad ones. It is pretty easy for spot the bad ones based on weight, quality, and overall feeling. Having said that, you have to have held the real thing in order to tell the difference.”

The second hand isn’t smooth

Okay, this one takes some expertise, but you can do it. Look at the face of your watch and time the movements of the second hand. The Rolex Oyster Perpetual movement’s second hand ticks eight times per second. If it ticks less than that, it’s not a Rolex.

The watchback is engraved or is clear

Examine the back of the watch—unless you have an incredibly rare model that was released in the 1930s, a Rolex will never have a glass back. Plus, Rolex never engraves anything on the caseback’s exterior. If you have special tools to open up the back, pop that sucker open and check it out: It will always say “Geneva, Switzerland,” followed by the metal type and the model number. Now, if it’s engraved with personalization by a jeweler, that’s another story.

The serial number doesn’t check out

Current Rolexes have the serial number etched on the inside rim of the watch case, directly under the crystal, typically located under the six o’clock area and also have the word “Rolex” on the inside rim of the case under the crystal. Older versions have the serial number under the bracelet on the watch case between the lugs. If you know the serial number, you can always look it up to see if it checks out.

The crown doesn’t have a Rolex logo

Let’s take a moment to talk about the iconic Rolex logo. Rolex’s iconic crown logo will always appear on the crown of the watch—or, in laymen’s terms, the little dial you use to set the time.

The magnification isn’t quite strong enough

One way of spotting a fake is by looking at the date window. On every Rolex, the date window has a lens over it that magnifies the number. Our buds at Bob’s Watches prove that detail is second to none on a Rolex: “[With] fake Rolex watches, the magnification is often much lower at 1.5 times, so the date looks small and more difficult to see. This is a huge tell tale sign of a fake Rolex. The writing should be convex.” On top of that, know that the days and dates are always made out of platinum or gold—never stainless steel and never two-toned.

The Rolex isn’t immaculate

Rolex will not put a watch into the world that is anything but perfect. If there are any imperfections, no matter the size, you can surmise that you don’t have a Rolex around your wrist. These guys have been perfecting the craft of watchmaking since 1905 and pride themselves on quality.

I’m all about playing devil’s advocate, but imperfections are way more likely to be the telltale sign of a knockoff rather than a mistake on Rolex’s part.

 

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