You may be new to vintage watch collecting and totally baffled by the wide range of models and limited editions, different dial colours, hands, winding crowns, case designs, straps etc. There can sometimes be over 100 variations on a basic design like a Seiko 5, or an Omega De Ville can have an extended family of models, that evolve over 40 years.
But there are often fairly obvious clues to spot a fake from a genuine old Swiss watch and it’s worth carrying a loupe around, or enlarging photos online to see details.
Take this JLC automatic on ebay recently. Looks like the real JLC logo on the dial, nice script, although the scratched glass obscures it somewhat? But look again at the header image above – specifically at where the number 6 is located compared to 12 and 9 – bit wonky eh?
You think JLC would have let a watch with those dial errors out of the factory? No way.
Take a gander at this pic, which shows the back.
See thru casebacks are rare on older JLC watches, but the giveaway here is the crude oscillating weight, with JL stamped in it. It doesn’t even sit straight on the mounting screw, there’s a bigger gap on the left side. The finishing on the screws looks too cheap, too low rent for a JLC watch.
If you look at a real JLC see-thru watch, you will also notice how beautiful the finishing on the metal is, plus the engraved script on the rear of the watch.
It is often the same story with fake Rolex, Omega, Breitling, Cartier, TAG or other watches. The logo script, the dial lettering and the second had sweep are all perfect. Fakers know that people look at what’s right in front of them.
But feel the metal, the fit and finish. Does the metal bracelet feel loose, easy twist? Not good, although older Rolex bracelets are poorly made in my view and so a genuine one can feel like a 20 year old Sekonda sometimes. But check the pins that secure the buckle, the strap to the case etc – are they all identical, or do some look messed with? Does the winding crown look a perfect flush fit on the case? Because it should be, even on a 50 year old watch, that’s how the Swiss made them.
Look inside at the movement and you should see well finished components, plenty of rubis there – unless it’s some budget built watch like a Josmar or basic Sicura. Screws and automatic rotors should look well polished and fitted to a mere micron or two of clearance.
In older Omegas the movements often have a beautiful burnished, coppery tone, so anything that’s a different shade, like a balance bridge, could indicate that a part or two has been replaced.
Study pictures online, read watch books. Knowledge is power baby.