Buyer beware: fake watches are getting better every year. And they’re getting more prolific—a quick Google search will bring up hundreds of internet retailers hawking their replica goods.
But let us be clear—we don’t say that as a good thing. While the producers of fake watches are getting more skilled in copying the look of a luxury watch, they still fall well short in terms of actual quality. And to illustrate just that, we had our watchmakers open up some fake watches and compare them to their real counterparts. What they found? While at first glance, a fake watch passes pretty well, the devil is really in the details.
First up? A Rolex GMT-Master II ref. 116710.
The First Glance
The first step is checking the dial and markers, two of the most major aesthetic aspects of the watch. Then comes the case—lower-quality steel is evident on the fake. How do you tell? It’d be more difficult to discern without a real watch to compare against, but it’s all in the feel. And, the polishing and lines of the case actually make more of a difference than you’d think. Rolex watches have a distinct line and polish that’s difficult to mass-produce, so be on the look-out for sharper corners and duller finishing.
Likewise, the rotating bezel is a distinct feature on a GMT-Master, one that Rolex invented and perfected. If you encounter more resistance when you try to work the bezel, chances are that it’s not an authentic Rolex click-system.
The particular fake watch we got our hands on did have an authentic Swiss movement in it (but obviously not the correct one for the GMT-Master II), but generally, the movement inside a fake watch will be a dead giveaway. That means it will most likely be a Chinese-manufactured replica or an authentic Swiss-manufactured movement that’s not supposed to be there. Either way, if it’s not a genuine Rolex movement, it’s a no-go.
So what’s the lesson? When it comes to fake watches, sometimes its really hard to tell. Sure, there are some very obvious mistakes, like the wrong placement of the Rolex serial number or the incorrect stack of the hands. But sometimes you come across a really skilled replica manufacturer that can fool even the biggest watch nerd. That’s why you trust the experts to tell you for sure.
To check out other information on spotting fakes, visit our Real vs. Fake Watch Roundup.
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