The industry of faking luxury watches is one riddled with despicable people, yet undeniably their progress in recent years has been remarkable. Whereas not too long ago a fake Rolex would stick out like a sore thumb through tell-tale errors like a cheap quartz movement, tacky interpretations of original designs, or just sheer ugliness, modern fakes have become eerily good.
This also means that it has become increasingly harder to spot fakes. Luckily for us though fakes will never be quite as good as the original, and with that, there are several characteristics that will remain unique to original watches. Below some tips to stay safe!
Real Vs Fake?
Due to the cheaper materials being used it remains near impossible to get the weight of an original watch quite right. A quick search on the web usually reveals the weight a watch should have, which can then be used as a reference before any purchase to check for authenticity.
- Corners and cuts:
Have a feel along all edges of the watch. This tip is particularly useful when it comes to metal bracelets. Check for sharp edges that feel uncomfortable, or whether the bracelets tries to eat your hair. While fakers can often get the look of a watch right, they struggle when it comes to the feeling, as this is where brands pump millions into finishing.
- Weird noises:
Move and shake the watch a bit! Listen out for any weird noises like squeaking from the bracelet or a cheap tin like rattle. A real watch is professionally built together and doesn’t make any funny noises in operation.
Most fakes nowadays use mechanical movements. While these go a long way towards appearing real, upon closer inspection you will often notice irregularities as cheap Chinese movements are usually used. To test you can use an app for your phone.
- The Dial:
Use a loupe to inspect the dial carefully. Check whether the letters and numbers have the correct size, font, colour, and distancing. Make sure everything looks crisp and clean.
If you do not currently have a tool to open the case back of your watch, then an easy way to check the movement is to use it. Familiarise yourself with the movement of the original watch, and then handle the watch you suspect to be a fake. Check for things like in what way the watch can be wound, and on what position the different functions operate at.
- Matching Numbers:
Particularly hard to spot are the so-called Frankenwatches. These are, as the name so aptly suggest a mixture of original and fake parts. To check whether a watch is a wild mix of parts check for the serial numbers on the case and the bracelet to see whether they match. Further, check whether the number is properly engraved, fine points made by a laser or a washed out acid etched number are indicators of a fake.
- The Crystal:
Check whether the watch has the right crystal. First look whether it is the right material, as a general rule modern Rolex all have a sapphire crystal. Most models made the switch in the 80s, the last acrylic crystal model making an appearance in 1991. For especially rare models you can even go so far as to check the size of the crystal. Certain models (like the Rolex 1665 with a T39 Superdome crystal) have specific crystals which prove incredibly hard to counterfeit.
This tip will be more useful for vintage watches. To give the aura of a watch having travelled through time a lot of fakers will artificially age their timepiece. As good as modern fakers are, though, faking patina remains an impossible task. Check for any irregularities in the story the watch wants to tell you. A tropical dial and an untouched bracelet don’t add up. There is a whole science to what models age in certain ways under specific connection, so check whether what you see fits the story of the watch.
- The Bracelet:
While the bracelet is one of the most prominent experiences when wearing a watch it for some reasons gets ignored often by the fakers. Again the finishing and weight of the bracelet are great starting points for checking authenticity. Especially the modern bracelet on models introduced around or after 2010 prove difficult to fake. Notoriously the screws for the bracelet have been tough to counterfeit.
- The Clasp:
The clasp is another important element often neglected when trying to fake a watch. Check whether the clasp fits the model. Great reference points in the past have proven to be the engravings on the inside of the clasp. Personally, I also have found that the crown on the clasp fakers doesn’t get quite right in terms of attention to detail.
The science of spotting fake watches is a well-developed branch of horology. In fact, there are entire Instagram accounts dedicated to the finer points of spotting fakes, reaching cult status within the community, such as Fakewatchbusta.
To reach such a status of expertise the only real path lies in expertise. Luckily the internet proves a great playing ground to sharpen your skills in detecting fakes. Have a go yourself, and see whether you can spot the differences between some of the best fakes right next to a genuine piece!