The idea of a fake watch is kind of interesting. It’s built to replicate a four-figure (sometimes five- or six-figure) watch at the lowest cost possible. And whether the producers of fake watches are really trying all that hard to pass their wares as legitimate, their ability to produce fake watches of reasonable quality is getting better every year. Which is scary for those of us who really enjoy quality timepieces, and probably doubly scary for the manufactures whose watches get knocked off all the time.
Of course we’re talking about Rolex. It feels sometimes like everyone has a Rolex, and if you don’t own one, you want one. And fake watches capitalize on that desire at the cheapest price point possible. We took a look at one of these replicas and compared it to the real thing with a Rolex Explorer II ref. 16570.
The First Glance
Luminescence is a key feature on a watch dial. Given that the Explorer II was developed with cave divers in mind, luminescence is especially important. Sloppily-applied lume markers would not cut it for Rolex, and they shouldn’t cut it for a fake watch. Test out the lume if you can, and make sure it has crisp edges and is evenly applied.
Also be sure to check the 24-hour bezel. If the numbers aren’t crisp and the paint has been worn away, put the watch down. Especially if you’re looking at a supposedly new watch. With well-loved Explorer IIs, you’ll see similar signs of wear on the bezel, but not that quickly.
Check the movement from the outside by playing with the winding mechanism and the crown. If it doesn’t feel right as you wind and set the watch, chances are you have a fake on your hands.
The links and lugs might also hold some giveaways on a fake watch. Rolex watches are always perfectly polished and finished, and will have rounded edges on the case and the links—no sharpness, all smooth. A fake watch may come close depending on its quality, but it won’t be perfect.
Also, serial number and model number placement is key. Rolex has moved around where they place these two numbers, so double check that the placement of the serial number is accurate to the year and model of the watch. If it’s wrong, you’re looking at a fake watch.
Sometimes you’ll need to open a watch to be really sure whether or not it’s a fake or not—really, replicas have gotten that good. But verify the movement. That will usually be the biggest indicator as a watch’s authenticity, especially since Rolex movements are difficult to copy to any quality degree. Most producers of fake watches won’t even bother going to that much effort. But for those who do, just be prepared to crack open the watch just to be sure.