Here are a few ways to tell if a Rolex is fake or the real deal
CLEAR CASEBACKS... Probably one of the easiest ways to identify a fake Rolex is by the caseback. Counterfeiters will often use a clear display, or "skeleton" caseback, thus allowing you to view the inner workings of the watch. The problem is Rolex does not make such a watch, therefore, these models are easily identified as counterfeit. (Please Note: There are only 2 "known" examples of Rolex watches with glass "exhibition backs", and they are both vintage manual wind models from the 1930s, and they were not "production" models.)
ENGRAVED CASEBACKS... In addition to the "clear casebacks" listed above, engraved casebacks are another easy way to identify counterfeit Rolex watches. Again, Rolex does not engrave the caseback with logos, hallmarks, or designs (as shown in the example above). Genuine Rolex models will have a "smooth" caseback, and are free of these engravings.
The rare exceptions to this are ladies' models (prior to the mid 1990's) which had "Original Rolex Design" or a similar variation thereof, engraved on the caseback in an arc fashion. Another exception is on the Sea-Dweller case backs which will have "ROLEX OYSTER ORIGINAL GAS ESCAPE VALVE" engraved around the outside of the caseback in an arc fashion.
HOLOGRAM STICKERS... Genuine Rolex models are shipped new from the factory with a Hologram-encoded (3-dimensional) sticker on the caseback. This sticker features the trademarked Rolex "crown" positioned above the watch's case reference number. The hologram can be easily identified by viewing it from different angles, thus causing the background pattern to change.
However, "most" counterfeit stickers are not holograms at all, but rather simply a repetitious "Rolex" pattern which does not change in appearance when viewed from different angles. It is worth mentioning that the genuine Rolex hologram stickers did not feature the "crown logo" as a part of the hologram until (around) 2002, when the sticker was redesigned. At that time, the Reference number was also changed from gold lettering to black, as it is currently
DATE MAGNIFICATION... For authentic Rolexes, the crystal (on all current date models--excluding the Sea-Dweller) will have a glass bubble, or "cyclops" attached to the crystal, positioned over the date. Its purpose is to magnify the tiny aperture and does so at 2.5 times magnification.
However, on MOST counterfiet models the date magnification is more like 1.5 times, at best (as shown in the example above). This may not sound like much of a difference, but when looking at the dates side-by-side it's obvious. The date window should practically "fill up" the cyclops--the fakes don't even come close. It is worth mentioning that some counterfeits are now featuring a new larger font date wheel to give the "illusion" of being magnified at a full 2.5 times
TRIPLOCK CROWN SEAL... Rolex models featuring the Triplock crown (i.e. Submariner, Sea-Dweller and Daytona) utilize an extra seal within the threads of the winding crown's tube. This gasket resembles a black o-ring and can be visible when the winding crown is unscrewed fully. As shown in the example above, (most) counterfeit models will not feature this o-ring seal, but rather will have basic screw-down threads. It is worth mentioning that some new counterfeits will feature a "similar" looking rubber seal, but upon closer examination you will see that it is merely cosmetic, and is not functional.
As shown in the image below, the Triplock crown can be identified by 3 tiny dots positioned under the trademarked Rolex "crown" logo, which is engraved on the end on the winding crown.
YACHT-MASTER "MINUTE" HAND... Genuine Rolex Yacht-Master models feature a "minute" hand which is considerably thicker than those on other Rolex sports models. However, to save money, counterfeiters will often use the same hands found on the Submariner. This can be easily identified when viewed side-by-side
DAYTONA HANDS... Counterfeiters will often use hands which are of the wrong size and/or shape. In the example shown above, the genuine Daytona features a "minute" hand which reaches all the way to the outer "hash" marks. However, the counterfeit model shown features much shorter hands. This is often the case because counterfeiters use whatever stock of parts they have available, which is usually whatever is the cheapest.
You will also note that the "shape" of the hands on the counterfeit is incorrect. modern Daytona models feature hands which are "rounded" on the tips. Again, counterfeiters will often use whatever hands they have available, and in this case they have used hands from a Day-Date model, which are flat on the tip
DAYTONA REGISTERS... Genuine Rolex Daytona models feature mini-registers on the dial which perform Chronograph "stop watch" functions (i.e. elapsed hours and minutes). It is also worth mentioning that the large "sweep" hand on the dial is also part of the stop watch function, and is not the primary second hand-- the second hand for the watch is the small 20/40/60 register.
However, counterfeit models will rarely perform these functions, but rather will be used for "day of week", "date", and "24-hour time". (Please Note: not all counterfeit models will be "printed" with these incorrect functions, but their operations will still be incorrect.)
Furthermore, the size and position of these mini registers will often be incorrect on counterfeits. As shown in the example above, the counterfeit model features much smaller registers which are positioned too far inward on the dial, while the genuine Daytona features registers which are positioned much farther outward--almost touching the 3-6-9 hour markers.
MICRO-ETCHED CRYSTAL... Brand new for 2002, Rolex has started micro-etching a tiny "coronet" (or crown) logo into the crystal, at the 6 o'clock position. This mark is quite small, so it is difficult to see with the naked eye. However, when viewed under a loupe, the faint outline can be distinguished,
(Please Note: Rolex has just started phasing-in this micro-etching process and, to date, not all models have the etching. It is believed that the etching should appear on most (if not all) new models produced by the end of 2003, or early 2004.)
CASE REFERENCE NUMBERS... Probably the most accurate way to identify a genuine/counterfeit Rolex watch is by locating the Serial and Case Reference Numbers. These special identification numbers are engraved on the side of the case, located between the lugs .the engraving between the lugs of a genuine Rolex feature very fine lines, which actually catch the light similar to that of a diamond cut edge. However, (some) counterfeits will feature a sandy (acid) etched appearance Furthermore, the spacing on these numbers is often too close together. It is worth mentioning that counterfeiters frequently use the SAME numbers on their watches."R863698" is seen quite often, and is a pretty good sign of a fake.
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