how to spot a fake rolex
Can You Spot a Fake Rolex? This is a replica Air-King

As one of the most well-known and coveted luxury watch brands in the world, it’s no surprise that Rolex is a popular target for counterfeiters. Fake Rolex watches can be found just about anywhere, whether online or offline, and it’s been reported that there are more replica Rolex Submariners than real ones in the market. Counterfeiters are constantly improving their techniques, and it can be difficult to spot a fake Rolex even for experienced collectors.

There’s even a new class of forgeries called Rolex Super Fakes, which are almost identical to genuine products. It’s always best to buy from a trusted source to protect yourself from inadvertently spending significant sums on a replica.

how to spot a fake rolex
To compare, this is a genuine Rolex Air-King

Here at Gray & Sons, our team of master watchmakers thoroughly inspects every single watch that passes through our doors to ensure that we only sell genuine watches. Our watchmakers have the expertise and skill to catch a fake Rolex watch, and they’ve caught a couple of them recently. Join us as we show you how to spot a fake Rolex by using a replica Air-King as an example.

1. Check the weight

Genuine Rolex watches are made with high-quality materials and have some weight to them. Gold and platinum models are especially heavy. If the watch feels super lightweight or flimsy, it’s a fake.

However, with the quality of today’s fakes, checking the weight of a Rolex is a little trickier than simply comparing light versus heavy. For instance, we compared the weights of the screw-down caseback and interior movement cover of this fake Rolex Air-King with a real one and the differences were as follows:

Fake Air-King Screw-Down Caseback6.3 – 6.4 pwt
Real Air-King Screw-Down Caseback6.0 – 6.1 pwt
Fake Air-King Interior Movement Cover4.5 pwt
Real Air-King Interior Movement Cover4.7 pwt

As you can see, the phony one had a heavier caseback but a lighter movement cover. What’s important here is that the fake Air-King had parts that did not match with a real Air-King

how to spot a fake rolex
The real movement cover (left) weighs more than the fake movement cover (right)

2. Inspect the Dial

Rolex dials are known for their high level of detail and craftsmanship. If the dial looks blurry or the printing is misaligned, it’s likely a fake–particularly with modern Rolex models. Furthermore, hands on a genuine Rolex will be perfectly aligned and will move smoothly; if the hands are misaligned or jittery, it’s likely not the real deal. Also, genuine Rolex watches with date windows will have a magnification lens above it called the Cyclops. A real Rolex Cyclops magnifies the date display by 2.5 times, protrudes above the crystal (you can feel the bump when you run your finger across it), and will be perfectly aligned with the date window. If the date magnification on a Rolex looks off, that’s a major red flag to note.

genuine rolex air king vs fake rolex air king
A genuine Air-King dial (left) compared to a fake one (right)

If we compare the dials of this authentic Rolex Air-King versus the fake one, they look almost identical at first glance. However, after closer inspection, it becomes evident that the printing of the replica is not as sharp, especially the “Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified” inscription. Moreover, the shape of the three Arabic numerals at 3, 6, and 9 don’t match and the “Air-King” logo is spaced slightly differently. The laser etching of “ROLEX ROLEX ROLEX” around the rehaut is also positioned ever-so-slightly differently. Finally, the green Rolex logo and yellow crown are much more pronounced on the authentic dial and protrude more than the flatter style of the fake dial.

These are the types of tiny variances that make all the difference when learning how to spot a fake Rolex.

3. Study Logos and Other Markings

Rolex uses a specific font and style for its logo, and the logo should be etched or stamped onto various parts of the watch including the dial, bracelet, winding crown, and so on. Of course, if the logo looks off in any way, it’s conceivably a fake Rolex.

genuine rolex air king bracelet vs fake rolex air king bracelet
The inside bracelet clasp of a genuine Air-King (left) versus a fake one(right)

Other than the logos, however, also check other markings such as material hallmarks, model and serial numbers, and country of origin. All printing/engraving should be sharp, precise, and straight. Any blurry or bleeding etches, misaligned markings or missing text are all signs that you may have spotted a fake Rolex.

genuine rolex air king caseback vs fake rolex air king caseback
A genuine Air-King interior caseback (left) versus a fake caseback (right)

When we compare this phony Air-King with a genuine one, we see that the etching on the inside caseback of the fake one isn’t as sharp, precise, or deep as the genuine example. This is particularly evident with the “2380” case number inscription.

genuine rolex air king bracelet vs fake rolex air king bracelet
The engravings of a genuine Air-King bracelet (left) versus a fake one (right)

Also, the “Rolex” and “STEELINOX” printing on the inside bracelet clasp is good for a counterfeit product but of course, certainly not as good as on a genuine Rolex–especially when inspected with a 10x magnification loupe.

4. Evaluate the Bracelet and Clasp Details

Modern Rolex bracelets and clasps are incredibly well-engineered and are beloved for their quality and durability, not to mention fit and feel. Fake Rolex bracelets will not only feel differently on the wrist, but oftentimes, won’t snap open and shut as precisely as a real one. Also, the engraving of the Rolex crown will generally not be as well executed as one on an authentic Rolex bracelet. If the details of a Rolex clasp or bracelet don’t seem right to you, then this could signal that it’s paired with a fake Rolex watch.

The end-link of a real Air-King (left) versus the fake one (right)

For instance, the engravings on the inside of the end link of the fake one were obviously not executed to the same standard as the one of the genuine Air-King. The etching of the fake Rolex is much blurrier and the crown logo looks completely wrong.

A real Rolex Air-King bracelet clasp (left) versus a fake one (right)

From the construction of the clasp and metal finishing to the coronet engraving and link quality, it’s very clear that the quality of this fake Air-King Oyster bracelet and clasp is nowhere near the quality of a real Rolex Oyster bracelet.

5. Examine the Movement

genuine rolex air king movement
A genuine Rolex movement inside an Air-King watch

No matter how good fake Rolex watches are getting, the movement will typically spill the secret. But here’s where you really need a watch expert as it’s never recommended to open up a caseback and fiddle with a watch movement if you don’t have experience.

fake rolex air king movement
A fake Rolex movement inside the Air-King

When our watchmaker opened up the case of the fake Air-King to examine the movement, it quickly become clear to him that the quality of the wheels and components, as well as the polishing and finishing of the surfaces, did not add up. The fake Rolex movement is nowhere near the type of quality and craftsmanship you’d expect from the Swiss watchmaking giant.

A Final Word on How To Spot A Fake Rolex

Unless you had two Air-Kings next to each–one fake and one authentic–even an experienced buyer would have trouble seeing the differences. From the outside, the fake Air-King watch is a close reproduction. The counterfeiters clearly used the highest-quality 3-D printer to make the dial, which is an excellent replica. Also, the printing on the steel bracelet clasp is near-perfect. The construction of both the case and bracelet is really very good for a counterfeit Rolex.

Yet, when you hold a fake and real one side-by-side, the small differences in the dial printing, lettering sizes, and colors, reveal themselves. Suddenly the execution of the construction, finishing, and markings don’t seem as good as they did alone. A true expert can sense something is wrong, and then methodically make sure that it is indeed a fake by using a multi-step inspection process.

It takes an expert to spot the differences between a real Rolex (left) and a fake Rolex (right) today

In short, the only way to really protect yourself against buying a fake Rolex watch is to trust the professionals to weed them out for you. Only purchase Rolex watches from trusty sources that not only offer a guarantee of authenticity and stake their reputation on what they sell but who have also been in the business for decades. This type of long-running hands-on experience with luxury watches is what is necessary to spot a fake Rolex watch in today’s market. Whether you want to buy a Rolex or sell a Rolex, make sure you’re dealing with someone you can trust.

In the words of Keith Gray, Founder and President of Gray & Sons, “As a watch specialist, that’s been doing this for 42 years, I can tell you that these counterfeits are getting exceedingly better. If I were a collector, I would certainly not buy a watch without the help of a watch specialist. I’d only feel comfortable dealing with a professional company with experienced watchmakers on the premises, a proven record of impeccable after-sales service, and a solid guarantee of authenticity.”