Rolex may just be the pinnacle of luxury time keeping. While there are brands like Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet which are more expensive and arguably more luxurious than Rolex, it is undeniable that Rolex carries more power in their name than any other watch brand on the planet.
People who are not avid watch enthusiasts would never have heard of A. Lange & Söhne. Rolex on the other hand? Everybody knows what a Rolex is. It is to this end that Rolex has become the most cloned and copied watch brand in the world.
As with real watches, there are a myriad of fakes too, ranging in price from sub $100 to real Rolex pricing, the first tip off should always be the pricing. If the watch was made in the last 30 years and costs under $1500, there is a minimal chance that you are looking at a real Rolex. A well-worn Rolex Oyster Perpetual still fetches in excess of $2000, if the price is too low you are extremely right to be dubious.
We have moved into a time when manufacturing techniques have become so advanced, that the quality of these clone watches are getting very good. They’re not just for a party outfit or dress up any more, they look like the real thing. Clones that cost $1000 just to produce, if they weren't clones, I would think they are actually great watches.
Unfortunately, pricing is not an easy way to tell these clones apart, as they will often be priced similarly to just under real Rolex pricing. There are a few guiding points which can help you distinguish a real from a fake.
- Quartz vs mechanical - While Rolex did make a quartz watch at some time, they are rare and were never sought after. For the majority case, Rolex makes use of mechanical movements. When looking at the second hand of a watch, check that it is swooping in one smooth motion, if the second hand jumps every second or the watch makes a ticking sound, it is a quartz movement and not that of a real Rolex. This is great for the cheaper clones, but super clones will mostly make use of good mechanical movements as well.
- Machining marks - Get your magnifying glass out, it's time to hunt for machining marks. Super clones will rarely have large and noticeable flaws, but it is very difficult for a super clone to rival the incredible machining practices used on a real Rolex. With your magnifying glass, if you can spot any burs on the corners of the steel or swirling on the outside of the case, it's not a real Rolex. This is especially prevalent on the crown. Note that this does not include the movement on the watch. The movements will often retain some machining swirl marks.
- Bezel - The ceramic bezel is one of the best places to spot a fake, Rolex uses a coating of platinum dust on the bezel to aid in legibility and to help spot fakes. A fake Rolex bezel will not shimmer anything like a real Rolex does in the light.
Admittedly, some of these small or subtle differences can be difficult to spot if you have not had a decent amount of time to study a real Rolex. The best way to figure the fake from the real will always be to take it to a professional watchmaker.
While the super clones have come an incredibly far way, down to cloning the Rolex movements, they are yet to prefect it. A good watchmaker will easily be able to distinguish a real from a fake. When spending what could easily be $2000+ your winnings from playing Canadian online slots on a watch from a private person, it’s great to get the extra authentication.