How to spot a counterfeit Rolex watch

There are many counterfeit items out there such as clothing, handbags and electronics. They cost the economy millions upon millions of pounds every year. Rolex watches are some of the items which are widely produced in the counterfeit market often to a very good standard which can be hard to spot. You need to be sure when making such a purchase as Rolex watches are expensive and should be considered an investment. It is very important to know what you are buying before making any such purchase. This guide will help you determine whether you are looking at a real vs fake Rolex watch. See our video below for some tips on how to spot a fake Rolex;

Top ten ways to spot a fake Rolex watch

  1. Movement
  2. Dial
  3. Serial and model number engraving
  4. Clear caseback
  5. Engraving on caseback
  6. Micro-etched Crystal
  7. Cyclops
  8. Weight
  9. Materials
  10. Watchmaker


Genuine Rolex movements will not tick in the same way that a regular quartz (battery) operated movement would. The cheap fakes will have a very simple movement inside which will ensure that the second hand does not 'roll.' However, it is not that straight forward as the more expensive fakes contain an automatic movement which emulates the rolex ticking motion. These are still cheap movements as they are not genuine but at first glance may look like the real thing. However, quite often if you look closely you can still see the sweeping hand jumping. Put the Rolex to your ear. Can you hear a ticking sound? Rolex watches do not make any ticking sounds so if this is the case then the watch is a fake.


There are certain giveaways when you look closely at a Rolex dial that can easily determine whether or not the watch is genuine or not. Firstly, look at the writing on the dial. Are there any spelling mistakes? You would be surprised at some of the fakes that are out there. Also, look for misalignments or wrong fonts or sizes. You may need to use a jewellers loupe or magnifying glass to able to see clearly. The writing should be clean and crisp.

Serial number and model engraving

The serial number on a rolex watch is engraved on the side of the watch, in between the lugs, at the 6 o'clock position. You will have to remove the strap in order to view this. If you are not comfortable removing the strap yourself then ask the shop where you are purchasing from to do this for you. Normally watch dealers will not send you a picture of the serial number due to security reasons but will be more than happy to show you in store for your piece of mind. If the watch has the original Rolex papers present then the serial numbers need to match. If there is no serial number then the watch is not real or has been heavily polished off. In either case do not buy the watch. This also applies to the model number. The model number is engraved on the other side of the case at 12 o'clock also in between the lugs. Check both engravings and make sure that they are fine lines with no sloppy etching. The lines should be clean and crisp with great detail.

Clear case-back

There were some very rare vintage Rolex models manufactured in the 1930's that had a clear case-back but generally speaking if the Rolex you are looking at has this then steer clear of it. Rolex do not produce a watch whereby you can see the movement inside. There are some sellers who provide after market or 'fake' case backs that enable you to add this feature onto your watch but do not take the risk as the chances are that the watch is a counterfeit.

Engraving on case-back

Rolex do not engrave the exterior of their case backs with the exception of the sea-dweller model which will have the words 'Rolex Oyster Original Gas Escape Valve' on the back. A genuine Rolex watch will not have pictures, logos, words any other engravings. Some people think that a Rolex watch is not real unless is has a sticker on the case-back. It is true Rolex used to supply watches with case-back stickers however these were also copied and therefore have no indication as to whether or not the Rolex you may be purchasing is genuine or not.

Micro-etched Crystal glass

Rolex now micro-etch their logo of a crown on the glass at the 6 o'clock position. This etching is very tiny and you will need a jewellers loupe or magnifying glass in order to see this. Rolex began doing this in 2002 and is something to look out for at the counterfeiters find copying this very difficult.


The cyclops is the part of the glass that is raised like a bubble. It has the purpose of magnifying the date on the watch so that it becomes clearer for the wearer. It magnifies the date by 2.5 times. Check that the model you are looking at does this. If the date you are looking at is flat and the date is not enlarged in any way you are dealing with a forgery. It is important to note that there are some fakes out there which have a bigger font printed onto the date wheel to imitate a magnified look so be sure to look closely. Also, look at the alignment and make sure that the cyclops is centre over the date. It is very important to look at tiny details such as this in order to determine that you are purchasing the real thing.


This one can be a tricky one to determine a counterfeit by this point alone but generally speaking as Rolex use only quality materials the watch should have a certain amount of weight to it. Take it in your hand and feel the watch. Does it feel quality like a Rolex should? Or does it feel flimsy and poorly constructed? It should have a solid feel to the watch. Counterfeit watches are generally lighter. If you are not sure do not buy it.


We touched on this point in the weight section however this is very important. You will find some stainless steel and gold models or all gold models whereby there is no gold present. Sometimes the gold may be wearing off or just heavily plated.


If you have purchased a pre-owned Rolex watch and are not 100 per cent sure as regards to its authenticity or you would just like a second opinion for your piece of mind then visit a reputable shop or watchmaker for verification. They should be able to tell give you an answer almost instantly as they will have great experience when dealing with Rolex watches and should see and feel them on a day to day basis. However, in the event of an expensive copy sometimes it is necessary to remove the case-back in order to verify that the movement in the watch is in fact a genuine Rolex one. There may be a charge for this but I think in the grand scheme of things would be money well invested.

Post 2005

I thought I would mention that after 2005 Rolex introduced a few different methods of preventing counterfeit watches. The newer models have an engraving on them inside the crystal glass at the 6 o'clock position rather than in between the lugs. This reads 'ROLEX' with serial number of the watch. Some of the fake watches that have tried to emulate this still have the serial numbers printed instead of engraved.

The points in this guide are simply pointers to look out for. It can sometimes feel daunting to have to worry about so many different factors before purchasing a Rolex watch. If the truth be known it is important to know who you are buying from. I would make sure that they have a physical bricks and mortar shop where you can return if you have any problems. They should also offer you a 12 month warranty which will cover you for mechanical issues along with a guarantee of authenticity. If purchasing on eBay be sure to check the sellers feedback and read the comments left by others. Good luck with your future watch purchases.