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Is that Rolex the real thing?

The Swiss Customs Service estimates that 30 to 40 million new counterfeit watches are put into circulation every year. With the number of replica watches on the rise, it's important to make sure you don't get taken advantage of by an unscrupulous seller, or maybe even someone who is unaware that their watch isn't genuine. Luckily, it's fairly easy to spot a fake if you know what to look for, and since Rolex watches are so often copied by imitators, we'll take a look at how to spot a fake.

The first thing to consider is the size and weight of the watch. Many imitations don’t use the same quality materials, or substitute  cheap, hollow parts for the solid parts of the original. A real Rolex will have a substantial weight to it, where a fake will seem light and cheap in comparison.

Rolex has been rather consistent over the years in the markings engraved into each watch. First of all, imitations will often have markings that are laser or acid etched instead of being mechanically engraved. The original engraving will have an appearance of depth, where the fake will have markings that appear flat, or printed on.

Unfortunately, in order to see the model and serial number of the watch, the band must be removed. If you don't feel comfortable doing this yourself, just bring the watch by our store, and we'll be happy to take a look at it for you. The model and serial number can be seen on the areas exposed by removing the band. On one side, between the lugs, will appear the words "ORIG. ROLEX DESIGN" and the model number of the watch will be engraved below that. Generally Rolex watches have a 4 or 5 digit model number. On the other side of the watch, you'll see the words "STAINLESS STEEL" for stainless models and the watch's serial number below that.

Another way to tell a fake is to look at the watch back for engraving. A genuine Rolex will have no engraving on the back at all. If the back has a clear window that allows you to see the movement, this is also a good indication that either the watch is fake or that someone has replaced the back with an aftermarket part. The newer models also have a greenish hologram decal attached to the watch back. Although the decal is something to look out for, don't count on the watch being real just because it has the sticker, as there are many imitations with convincing holograms.

If the model you're looking at has a magnifying window that shows the day of the month, then a genuine Rolex will have a magnification of about 2.5 times. A fake will usually have a lower quality crystal with a lower magnification. While looking at the face of the watch, you should see clean, crisp markings on the dial and hands. Many imitations will have sub-par printing, and the markings will appear jagged at the edges. Newer models will also have micro-etching of the Rolex crown on the crystal at the 6 o'clock position. This marking should also be clean and crisp, as many imitators don't have the capability to engrave with the precision found in a genuine Rolex.

Finally, the self-winding movement of a Rolex is patented and is very distinctive when compared to other watches. Instead of making a jump from one second to the next, a Rolex second hand will make 6 to 8 tiny jumps between each second marking on the dial. The movement is so smooth in an original Rolex, that at arm's length the second hand will appear to move smoothly around the dial.

While there are many ways to spot a counterfeit Rolex, there are also some very convincing imitations. If you have a vintage or rare model, there may be variations that we didn't mention in this article. So if you have any doubts whatsoever as to whether you're looking at a fake or the genuine article, take the watch to an experienced third party to have it appraised - before you buy it. We are always happy to take a look at any watch that you bring in to us, and we can help you determine if you're getting a fair deal.

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