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6 ways to spot the Rolex from the replica

by Michael Weare
22 October, 2010
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About the author

Michael Weare has been a professional writer for 30 years, writing about Japanese technology, German and Italian cars, British tailoring and Swiss watches. Michael manages the editorial content of Click Tempus and will be keeping the magazine fresh and informative with regular features, as well as bringing great writers to the magazine. Email: michael@clicktempus.com

rolex-fake-vs-originalPhoto: Bernard Watch

The ‘genuine replica’ watch, as many replica online sites love to call their products, has blossomed in recent years. Copy watches used to be cheap tacky derivatives and the only thing about them that was reliable was the fact that they were going to be fit for the bin in a very short period of time. Today it’s a $9 billion global industry. In many cases it’s still possible to tell the fake from the original, and here are some key signs to look out for in the Rolex Submariner ‘genuine replica’ watch.

What to look for in a genuine Rolex watch

1. The sapphire crystal

Rolex watches are fitted with a sapphire crystal (the glass face of the watch) that can only be scratched with a diamond.

2. The date window

The ‘cyclops’ date window in a real version is dead-centred above the number.

3. The attention to detail

The quality of the printing on the dial should be perfect, with indicators and type evenly spaced and no fuzzy edges.

4. A smooth movement

A genuine Rolex movement (in reality it’s a Zenith movement but let’s not split hairs) sweeps smoothly at about 28,800 revs per hour – each second is broken down into eight steps. Even when a fake Rolex uses a Swiss-made movement, the second hand’s ticking is usually visibly jerky.

5. The logo

Where ‘Swiss made’ appears, the brand’s logo is laser-etched into the crystal. In a genuine Rolex, this is made up of hundreds of dots set at different heights throughout the crystal (so it doesn’t create a weakness in the glass) and as such is barely visible. To see it clearly you have to look through a loupe (the small magnifying glass used by jewellers and watchmakers).

6. The bracelet

If you remove a Rolex bracelet you should find the watch’s case number and model number engraved on the side at 6 o’clock and 12 o’clock.

In the 80’s and 90’s counterfeit Rolexes were so poorly made that you could tell it was fake at twenty paces with your sunglasses on. They conferred upon the wearer an aura of tacky desperation, and were anything but cool.

Nowadays it’s entirely different. The old tell-tale giveaways – sloppy printing, soft metals, inferior gold plating and cheap quartz movements have been dropped in favour of something much more substantial.

Good fakes achieve the same weight as the real deal, they keep decent time with a smooth hacking movement and have an aura of high quality. Some are so convincing that the only way to tell they are fake is to take the back off and even then it can take a Swiss watchmaker more than 15 minutes to tell the difference. I know because I have tried.

Most replica watches are now fitted with proper mechanical movements from Japan or Switzerland and sometimes boast transparent ‘exhibition’ backs so you can see the wonders of horology for yourself. In reality, they are doing what many of the top Swiss watch brands have been doing for centuries, they put the movement of one watch manufacturer into the case of another. The only difference is, they are not creating anything original, they are copying the case and design of existing famous brand watches.

Even the word ‘replica’ suggests that the product you’re buying is somehow kind of almost legal – a ‘tribute’ to the original rather than a fake.

As a result of all these improvements, the counterfeiters now charge much higher prices, usually around $300 to $500 but sometimes more. They justify that they are selling the same thing as the genuine article, but without the massive mark up of the big name brands.

But when you hold the real deal it’s then that everything changes. The real Rolex feels smooth to the touch. The links all fit snugly. The watch doesn’t rattle and the bezel glides around effortlessly with no tell-tale clicking sound. The genuine Rolex Submariner is quite simply perfection.

(Abridged and edited version of an article by journalist Damon Syson)

Michael Weare | Website

Michael Weare has been a professional writer for 30 years, writing about Japanese technology, German and Italian cars, British tailoring and Swiss watches. Michael manages the editorial content of Click Tempus and will be keeping the magazine fresh and informative with regular features, as well as bringing great writers to the magazine. Email: michael@clicktempus.com

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