Rolex watches are the world’s most popular and identifiable luxury watch brand. They are also the most counterfeited.
In fact, the fake Rolex watch industry earnings far exceed the actual sales of authentic Rolex watches, even when we consider the fakes that sell for $100 versus the real deal, which can sell for $50,000 or more. In this guide, we’re going to discuss how to buy a real Rolex watch and what to look for so you don’t end up with a fake.
Rolex How To Spot A Fake Infographic
To get a quick overview of what to pay attention to take a look at this and read on to understand the full scope. Please feel free to share this infographic but always link back to this post and the Gentleman’s Gazette, thanks!
The brand is so desirable that every Rolex watch sold today has been faked, which makes it even harder to assure authenticity. Of course, some watches such as the Submariner and Daytona are far more prone to counterfeiting than other, less popular models like the Cellini. However, even the least popular models still have copycats.
Why is Rolex So Counterfeited?
In a recent discussion with a former member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police commercial crime division, it came up that anything that costs money and is popular can be counterfeited.
Rolex is arguably the most recognizable and popular luxury product in the world. For most people, when they hear the words “luxury watch”, they immediately think of a Rolex.
For counterfeiters, Rolex is a goldmine. Although the outside of a Rolex is often quite lovely, the can be replicated fairly easily and at low cost. Of course, the quality isn’t close to the same as the real thing, but the real feature you pay for is inside the watch. It’s the movement and the materials and the craftsmanship. Just a decade ago it was fairly easy to quickly identify a fake Rolex just by looking at it. Unfortunately, today it can be almost impossible without opening the case, even for a watch enthusiast. Fortunately, there are some ways to spot a fake.
Which Rolex is Right for You
First of all, there’s no point in owning a great watch if it’s a fake. You’re not a fraud, so your watch shouldn’t be either.
A Rolex watch is often a timepiece purchased as a statement piece or in honor of an achievement or milestone. For many men, it’s the first luxury watch they own. In the western world, it’s a symbol that you’ve made it; you’re successful.
Although there are some models that start in the $3,000 – $5,000 range, most Rolex watches begin around $8,000 for base models and go up from there. It is not unusual to visit a Rolex dealer and find that they only have a small selection of watches under $10,000 with most in the $14,000 – $60,000 range. With most Rolex watches – and luxury watches for that matter – the price increases based on rarity, materials, complications, the movement, and embellishments such as diamonds or precious gems. When we discuss materials, we’re referring to the difference in price between a stainless steel band and casing vs. one made from 18k gold, platinum or rhodium. Fortunately, with Rolex, regardless of whether you buy a $4,000 Day Date or a $40,000 Daytona, you’re getting a well-made watch that is designed and crafted in-house by some of the most talented watchmakers in the world. Rolex even has their own refinery.
When it comes to selecting the perfect Rolex for you, there are a few things worth considering:
- Price. Not everyone can afford a $30,000 watch.
- What you plan to wear it with. If you’re going to wear it with a suit, consider the Cellini. If you wear jeans and a polo shirt to the office, you may want the quintessential Submariner. If you race cars in your spare time, the Daytona may be right for you. Just because James Bond wore a Submariner with a tuxedo doesn’t mean you should. Even if you buy a sports watch, you’re better off putting on your old Timex Weekender with a leather strap if you’re wearing a suit that day because style-wise, they go together much better.
- What activities you plan to do with it. Okay, maybe you do wear a suit to work, but if you want to shower with the watch on, swim and even dive, a Cellini isn’t your best bet. Decide what’s more important: the style or the capabilities, and go from there.
How to Buy a New Rolex
If you’re buying a new Rolex there are some ways to get a better deal than paying the suggested retail price. However, the higher the reward, the higher the risk. Here are some tips on how to buy that Rolex if you’re not very familiar with the luxury watch market.
Where to Buy It
There are basically three ways to buy a new Rolex watch:
- At an authorized retailer or a Rolex boutique.
- Through a gray market dealer.
Authorized Retailer / Boutique
This is arguably the safest way to buy a new Rolex. All authorized retailers are easily searchable and verifiable through Rolex and you’re guaranteed to receive an authentic timepiece that’s under warranty and new in the box. The boutique stores are owned directly by Rolex and the authorized retailers only receive their new watches directly from Rolex. There is no third party. Rolex stands behind the watches. You’ll receive all the paperwork, the certificate of authenticity and the full warranty. You’ll also be assured that you’re not overpaying for the watch since Rolex regulates pricing and authorized retailers have to compete for business. The downside is you will rarely get a deal. There is no negotiation on prices for the most part and you’re paying full price.
Gray Market Retailers
This is any retailer or commercial enterprise that sells Rolex watches but is not directly authorized to do so by Rolex or affiliated with Rolex in any way. For the most part, these sellers are focused on vintage and preowned watches, but there is a fairly large contingent that sell new-in-the-box watches. The benefit is the price is often negotiable and even the asking price is usually far lower than the SRP. The downside is that not all gray market retailers are considered equal. While there are certainly some great and reputable ones, there are even more that aren’t. Here are some of the risks you’ll take when trying to get a better deal:
The risk that…
- The watch is counterfeit.
- The watch is not new.
- Rolex will not honor the warranty.
- The watch may be stolen.
- The watch may be authentic, but may contain aftermarket parts not produced by Rolex.
- You may not get what you buy (i.e. the picture looks different than the actual product).
- The seller may not back the product or offer a refund if it’s not what you expected.
- The watch doesn’t properly work.
- The watch was returned
Buying online generally nets the biggest discount on Rolex watches but it also comes with the most risk. Countless customers have been duped into purchasing counterfeit Rolex watches online and have lost considerable money with no recourse. Even reputable websites, online payment services, your own bank and credit card companies that offer money-back guarantees may not cover a Rolex watch because the value often far exceeds the maximum insured amount that can be reimbursed. Unfortunately, it’s buyer beware online. This doesn’t necessarily apply to all websites. There are many reputable websites that sell wonderful and authentic Rolex watches and many individuals that post real Rolex watches on other sites. The riskiest websites to purchase a Rolex on are (in no particular order):
- Private Websites
- Kijiji (Canada)
- Online Forums
- Social Media (Facebook, Instagram, etc)
On many of these sites, the number of counterfeit Rolex watches exceed the number of authentic ones available for sale each and every day.
How to Buy a Vintage Rolex
Buying a vintage watch is really no different. You can still purchase directly through authorized retailers, gray market retailers and online. The difference is that there are a few other places to buy from such as auctions and brick and mortar thrift stores and pawn shops as well as private estate sales. Fortunately, the price of a generic but authentic Rolex can be far less than a new one. However, the risk of it not working, being a counterfeit or not being what you expect is far greater. Rare ones at auction will often sell for far more than a new one.
How to Avoid Counterfeits
“If it seems too good to be true, it probably is”.
If you’re looking at ten different watches all claiming to be the same model and the exact same watch, and nine of them are around the same price but the other is thousands of dollars less, there’s a reason for the price discrepancy. Regardless of that reason may be, chances are you don’t want it. Of course, there are always exceptions such as someone not realizing what they have or what something is worth. However, you stand a better chance of winning the lottery than being the guy who finds a luxury watch for $5.
Here are some other tips and tricks:
- The movement should be self-winding and mechanical, with one exception of vintage Oysterquarz Rolexes
- The caseback is plain polished steel with no engravings or markings, with the exception of some very rare vintage models. A clear back is a fake.
- The crown should have a Rolex logo engraved on it
- You should hear no audible ticking
- The second hand should rotate smoothly; any visible jerking is the sign of a fake
- If it’s online and you’re unsure of whether the seller is legitimate, post the offer in a Rolex forum or discussion group. Although you do run the risk of someone pouncing on a good deal, most of the members are all but too happy to tell you whether they have had experience with the seller or if the watch looks like a fake.
- If it’s on eBay, check the rating of the seller to determine their reliability. Look to ensure they only sell high-end watches or relevant items such as jewelry or accessories. Read the reviews and look at past sales.
- Look to see what similar watches have sold for in the past. If the price you’re looking at is far different, that’s a red flag.
- Although most counterfeit Rolex watches are priced ridiculously low (some even in the hundred dollar range), many fraudsters have realized that they stand a better chance of selling it at a far higher price but that’s still a discount compared to the real thing. The difference is they assume more risk because if caught, they could face a higher charge in some regions that base fraud and theft on the dollar value.
- When unsure, contact Rolex or a reputable watch writer. Even though you may think it’s a waste of a journalists time to look at a watch for you, many watch writers and bloggers want to know about what’s on the market and will often do articles on fake watches that are floating around.
- When you don’t know the details of the watch, research it as best as you can. Rolex has a great resource of information on their website and there are many books on the watches. A rep can give you details on the specific watch or you can read one of the many watch blogs, forums or magazines that publish articles and information.
- Only buy online if you can clearly see all parts of the watch in high-resolution pictures. Ask for more if you need and be specific about what you want to see. Any reputable seller will be happy to provide them.
- Ask for the serial number to confirm with Rolex that the watch hasn’t been reported as stolen and it is an actual serial number of the model you’re buying.
- Ask for a picture of the watch sitting on a scale to see the weight and ensure it coincides with the actual weight of the model.
- Remember that no reputable seller will pressure you into buying the watch. But also remember that con artists are often the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Just because they are nice, doesn’t mean they are honest.
The Dangers of Counterfeiting
Some people might argue that it’s no big deal to buy a fake Rolex. In fact, many even go out in search of them. Unfortunately, there are dangers associated with intentionally buying counterfeit watches.
- It’s illegal. Just as it’s illegal to sell one, it is also illegal in most regions to purposely buy one as they have a big financial impact on the industry. Furthermore, if you wear your watch through airport security, there are countries that will closely scrutinize watches which may result in confiscation or worse.
- Chances are, unless it’s a very expensive and good quality counterfeit, there will come a time that you will be caught by a Rolex enthusiast and called out for wearing a fake. How embarrassing! This can be especially harmful if it’s someone like a client, colleague or employer as it’s an indication you’re possibly untrustworthy or deceitful.
- It has a negative impact on the experience of those who have saved greatly to buy a real Rolex and purchased one as a milestone event.
- Contributing to the counterfeit industry furthers it and gives more incentive to the criminals making and selling the watches. As that industry grows, so do the number of victims who were scammed into buying a fake Rolex they thought was real.
Hopefully, this guide has helped you understand some of the risks and rewards of buying a Rolex. What tips do you have for ensuring you’re not buying a counterfeit? Have you ever been the victim of a fake watch?