In my trade I get to see plenty of watches, including a few Rolex models, arguably the most faked watch brand in the world. Here are some typical differences between the real deal and a very nice replica.
Don’t start by examining the dial because dials are easy to manufacture by comparison to expensive bracelets. The metal should feel ultra smooth, polished and flawless – no rough edges anywhere. The crown should feel solid, beautifully finished too.
Feel your way around the links; are they loose, do any pins fail to sit totally flush in the links? How does the Rolex swirl look in the folding clasp? Dead straight and evenly etched, or just a bit off somehow?
Older Rolex models from about 16-17 years ago or prior to that weren’t assembled with Uber precision as regards bracelet links, plus you have two decades or more of owner wear. So expect sideways ‘play’ on 1990s Rolex watch links. Modern models are taut, even, incredibly flush fitting by comparison.
Test the clasp, put it on. Does the clasp click shut perfectly? On gold bracelets it’s worth looking closely with a loupe because you may see gold plating or rolled gold wearing off.
Dial and Crystal
On more recent Rolex models the sapphire crystal has the crown emblem etched in, very faint, but visible with a loupe. Some fakes have this laser printed on as well, so be careful, plus older Rolex watches pre 2001 don’t have the crown crystal.
Now check the dial, assuming the bracelet has passed the feel n shut test of course. Shake the watch gently a few times and the automatic movement should begin to move the second hand. Don’t assume a smooth second hand sweep indicates a genuine Rolex because a Miyota auto inside an Accurist looks just as smooth frankly.
Look closely at the numbers or baton markers on the dial. Are the edges crisp, clean, symmetrical? If there’s a magnification window over the date is that 100 percent true and square?
Use the loupe to read the script on the dial, all of it. You’re searching for a thing typographers used to call ‘bleed’ in the days of hot metal printing, a slightly fuzzy edge to a letter for example.
Run your fingertip over the bezel around the dial and if it’s a dive watch click it around gently. Listen, I mean really listen; gauge the slickness, the precision – Rolex don’t let anything out that isn’t close to perfect in its operation.
Ditto winding crown, although it’s fair to say owners can cause problems with screw down crowns and strip the thread.
Finally, get a professional to open the case and check the movement number. Plus check it’s working perfectly: steady beat, adjusted correctly, no swapped parts – it can happen.
There’s no substitute for this. No assuming that the genuine case and bracelet has the correct Calibre movement. People lie, owners wreck a movement and then get a watchmaker to do a swap, especially on older Rolexes, so always get a look inside before spending thousands.
Box and Paperwork
Easier to fake than the watch. Typical flaws include an incorrect numeral 1 on the warranty cards, flimsy fake tags or spelling/grammar errors within the owners manual.
You should be able to detect a fake from the quality of the bracelet, the dial in detail, plus the winding action, clasp closure etc. Then you had the watch opened by a watchmaker right? But if you aren’t quite sure about the watch then a little giveaway in the paperwork can be the prompt you need to walk away from the deal.
Be lucky 👍