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Rolex or Replica?? Don't get E-Screwed!!

Many people are buying and selling Rolex and other fine timepieces over the internet.
Most are honest people representing their product correctly. However, some are either
intentionally or unintentionally representing their watches as something they are not.

Having a resource to clarify this information can mean the difference between making a wise
investment in a quality timepiece, and overpaying for something that was misrepresented.

(PLEASE NOTE: The Replicas, Fakes, Copies, Knock-Offs, and Counterfeits
identified on this page are NOT meant to represent ALL counterfeit Rolex watches
in circulation, but merely an example of some of the counterfeits you may encounter.

Therefore, I would highly encourage you to consider purchasing The Rolex Report, An Unauthorized Reference Book for the Rolex Enthusiast. This critically acclaimed reference book is cram-packed with 288 pages of facts and figures, and covers literally hundreds of topics, including Rolex's history, watch models, identifying counterfeits, watch functions and operations, and much more... It will likely answer most (if not all) of the questions you have about the Rolex Watch Company and their watches.

To read The Rolex Report's "Table of Contents" click here.

To read "Testimonials" and "Book Reviews" for The Rolex Report click here.

John E. Brozek, InfoQuest Publishing, Inc. and this website are in no way associated with Rolex USA, nor any of its associated companies.
The information covered on this page "Rolex or Replica?" is solely the work of the author and has not been reviewed or authorized by Rolex USA.
Furthermore, the publishers have received no help from Rolex USA, nor any of its associated companies or any serving employees.

Clear Casebacks...
Counterfeit Rolex Yacht-Master with "clear casebacks".
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...
Counterfeit Rolex models with "engraved casebacks".
Left: Counterfeit Submariner with engraved hallmarks & logos.
Right: Counterfeit Daytona with engraved "Winner Rolex 24".

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...
Comparison of genuine and counterfiet "hologram stickers".
Left: Genuine Rolex hologram-encoded 3-dimensional sticker.
Right: Counterfeit fabricated hologram sticker.

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...
Comparison of a genuine and counterfiet "date magnification".
Left: Genuine Rolex Submariner with proper (2.5 times) date magnification.
Right: Counterfiet Rolex Submariner with much smaller date magnification.

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 Seals...
Comparison of a genuine and counterfeit "Triplock crown seal".
Left: Genuine Rolex Submariner Triplock crown with rubber o-ring seal.
Right: Counterfeit Rolex Submariner basic crown without seal.

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.

Triplock Crown

Yacht-Master Hands...
Comparison of a genuine and counterfeit "Yacht-Master minute hand".
Left: Genuine Rolex Yacht-Master featuring oversized "minute" hand.
Right: Counterfeit Rolex Yacht-Master featuring standard sized "minute" hand.

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 (as shown in the example above).

Daytona Hands...
Comparison of genuine and counterfeit "Daytona hands".
Left: Genuine Rolex Daytona featuring full-sized "shaped" hands.
Right: Counterfeit Rolex Daytona featuring under-sized, "flat tip" hands.

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...
Comparison of genuine and counterfeit "Daytona registers".
Left: Genuine Daytona featuring properly marked and positioned registers.
Right: Counterfeit Daytona featuring smaller and incorrectly marked registers.

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.

Crown Etching
Identification of the GENUINE "micro-etched crystal".
Above: A close-up view of the etching on a genuine Rolex Explorer.
Below (left): The etching as it appears on the crystal of a counterfeit Rolex Submariner.
HINT: It's just barely visible below the "SWISS MADE" on the dial.
Below (right): A close-up view of the same etching..

Fake Laser Etching Fake Laser Etching
You will notice that the fake etching is "similar" to that in the genuine example,
the biggest difference being that the "balls" on the tips of the fake are too small.

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, as seen in the examples above. (Please excuse the poor quality pics... the only thing more difficult than locating the etching is photographing it.)

(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.)

Rolex Case Reference Numbers...
Identification of Rolex "case reference numbers"
Above: The engraving (between the lugs) of a GENUINE Rolex Submariner.
Below: The "acid etching" (between the lugs) of a FAKE Rolex Submariner.

Fake Serial Number

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 (as shown in the example above).

As you can see in the examples above, 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, as seen in the example above. 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. Thus, the example shown above: "R863698" is seen quite often, and is a pretty good sign of a fake.

For a more detailed explanation of these numbers, their location, and what the numbers mean... click here.

The information and images displayed on this page are the property of InfoQuest Publishing Inc., and cannot be copied or reproduced in any way without the expressed written permission of InfoQuest Publishing Inc.

"Copyright 1999 - 2013 InfoQuest Publishing, Inc., from The Rolex Report: An Unauthorized Reference Book for the Rolex Enthusiast, by John E. Brozek." -- We will pursue breaches of our copyright with extreme diligence.

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