Counterfeit Rolex watches: Some Giveaways

an official Rolex hologram on the back of a Datejust
an official Rolex hologram on the back of a Datejust

One of the easiest ways to spot a counterfeit Rolex is by its clear display, or caseback, allowing you to see the inner workings of the watch. The real McCoy does not have such a feature, with the exception of some vintage 1930s exhibition models that were never mass-produced.

Just as Rolex never manufactured clear casebacks, it did not engrave them either. Genuine models will have a smooth caseback, whilst fakes might feature engraved logos and other designs. The rare exceptions are the pre-1990s ladies’ models, which had “Original Rolex Design” or a similar variation thereof, engraved on the caseback. Another exception is the Sea-Dweller display that has “Rolex Oyster Original Gas Escape Valve” engraved around the outside of the caseback.

A real Rolex has a 3D hologram encoded sticker on the caseback. For models produced after 2002, a Rolex crown can be viewed on the sticker, and it changes patterns when you see it from different angles. A replica usually has a repetitious Rolex pattern printed on it, but does not change when viewed from other angles.

Keep in mind too that Rolex has introduced a tiny crown logo etched onto the crystal at the area around the six o’clock direction after 2002, so it should not be present in earlier models. But remember that this feature may not be applicable to all Rolex watches.

Another tidbit to retain is that the crystal in authentic current date display models (with the exception of the Sea-Dweller) will have a Cyclops lens attached to the crystal, magnifying the tiny aperture 2.5 times. Fake Rolex watches, however, will offer only 1.5 magnification, though some “better” replicas now feature a larger font date to give an illusion of a bigger magnification. Just how sneaky can these scammers get?

Then there is the triplock crown seal. What, you never heard of such an animal? It can be identified by three very small dots positioned under the Rolex “crown” logo engraved on the end on the winding crown.

Genuine Rolex models featuring the triplock crown (Submariner, Sea-Dweller and Daytona) use an extra seal within the threads of the winding crown’s tube. Most counterfeit models will not feature this seal, but will have basic screw-down threads.

One of the most accurate ways to identify a counterfeit is by locating the Serial and Case Reference numbers engraved on the side of the case, located between the lugs. Engraving on a genuine Rolex features light-reflecting, very fine lines. A copy has a more “etched” appearance and the spacing in the numbers may be too close. Not only that, but fakers will sometimes use the same numbers on all their watches.

This is, by no means, an exhaustive list, though trying to spot a fake Rolex might be quite an exhausting undertaking. Let’s put it this way: given a choice between a counterfeit Rolex and a Donald Duck watch, I shall opt for the latter. At least if it quacks, I know it’s an original!

By James Montgomery


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