How to verify the authenticity of a luxury watch
Want to check if a watch is real?
- Zero risk purchase - сheck a watch before you buy it
- Authentication by brand-certified watchmakers
Why it is important?
Fake watches are becoming more convincing. Ultra fakes or "super fakes" as they are often referred to are sold on various places online. Even if you are a true watch expert, these fake luxury watches might fool you. Especially when you are dealing with only pictures to base your judgment on.
So why does a proper authentication assessment matter? Well, because not having it done can be a costly surprise when finding it out too late. Counterfeit watches are often sold just below market value to make it look like an attractive buy. But you know what they say: if the price is too good to be true, it normally is.
As you might know, even large platforms or marketplaces are quite often called out for selling fake watches. We have even written about fake watches sold online at this very moment recently. Which is exactly the reason why we founded Relleb and introduced our watch authentication service.
What is an authentic watch?
An authentic watch means: a watch that consists only of genuine branded parts that belong to that specific model. It doesn't mean all parts as it left the factory (for vintage watches). Since pre-owned watches may carry "replacement" parts which can also be genuine brands parts. These watches should be considered authentic as well. If a watch consists of genuine brand parts, but which incorrect for the specific model we would also deem this watch not to be fully authentic. For example a Rolex Submariner model dial on a Rolex Daytona model case.
Tips on checks you can perform yourself
In this chapter we will highlight some things you can do yourself as a quick check to see if there are any indicators if a watch is fake. Please note however that we live by the saying: "spotting a fake watch can be easy, knowing a watch is authentic is definitely now".
But now first, what can you do on you own when you have a watch in your hands or are observing photos of a seller.
Check for bad quality finishing
Luxury watches are expensive because they are finished with a high quality standard. Although fakes are getting more convincing, faking the unparraled quality of for example Rolex is very hard, if not impossible, for fraudsters! So when you observe pictures of a watch offered for sale online. Check the quality of the case, bracelet, clasp and dial. If it looks to be very poorly finished, it can easily be a fake.
The ticking sound of the movement
Movement of fake watches can be really rough. When you put your ear to these automatic watches, you will hear it crunching like you are chewing sand. But you should know that the so called "super fake" are sometimes even built with an ETA movement. These movements are sometimes used in real Breitling watches or other luxury watches. So again here you could say that a movement that sounds off probably is, but the other way around (a smooth sounding movement) does not necessarily mean it is the real deal. But nonetheless a good check to perform!
When you are an expert or have a real watch and fake watch next to each other. You might be able to hear the difference. But on it's own it can be really, really hard!
Check for incorrect text on the dial
Check if the text on the dial is correct. Fake Rolex watches are for example sometimes spelled as "Rolox" on the dial. Another giveaway could be very bad readable text on the dial. Of course dials can be damaged. Or for example poor alignment of (some of) the letters. Authentic luxury watches have a high level of quality. And their printing of text on the dial is in general of good quality as well.
Cartier in the Roman Numeral "X" through a loupe.
Check the color scheme
Some models or color combinations offered for sale online might not even exist! There are Rolex Submariners offered online with a red dial and full red bezel insert offered, which is obviously not correct. These models were never issued by Rolex. Check with Google if the watch you are looking at has been ever sold by the brand itself.
Check the bracelet
Always verify if the bracelet is correct. You can do this by checking if the bracelet is sold with a certain watch on the website of the brand. We have encountered a Breitling watch which carried a fake bracelet for example. Which can easily set you back around €600 ($720)! If you are really in bad luck and import a watch with a fake bracelet, customs might even choose to destroy the watch. You obviously want to prevent this.
The cyclops and date window check
The cyclops window or date window is often a good way to spot a fake, as these are difficult areas for fraudster to mimic from the real deal. Sometimes the cyclops window gives no magnification at all for example. And if they do, you can sometimes see that the date window itself is really poorly finished. This can show from the edges itself in the date window. Or the quality of the date numbers applied on the date wheel. If these seem to be poorly finished, good chance you are looking at a fake watch.
The date window used to be an easy give away in the past. But unfortunately fakes have become better and are extremely difficult to distinguish from the real nowadays.
A real Rolex Submariner "Hulk" with a specific Sunburst dial. The arrow points towards the serial number location.
The serial number check
The serial number check is obviously a good check. It gives an indication if the watch is from the correct year and at least has a valid serial number on it's own. You can also verify if these numbers correspond with the papers or cards that can be sold with a watch. But also for this instance: super fakes can carry valid serial numbers as well. It is literally just a number applied on the case or movement. So if a replica watch carries a correct and valid serial number, it can still be a fake watch.
We dedicated a full blog about the Rolex serial number check. Where we explain how it works and why it is not waterproof. Supported with photos and a guide on how to do it yourself.
Check logo stamps
Many luxury watch brand apply brand marks on watches. These can be applied on the case, in the lugs, the movement and even in the back of dials. Cartier is one of those brands that applies several logo's and icons on it's watches. In our blog about how to authenticate a Cartier watch we explained which logo and icons are engraved on the case and the movement.
The dial finishing
Some dials are finished with a specific material or have a specific glance. An example is the Rolex Submariner Hulk. The green dial of this watch is called a sunburst dial. This is a type of finishing that is really hard to copy. Thus, fake watches have a different dial when observed in the sunlight. In addition, Omega watches can have "applied logos" while fakes in that instance have the logo printed on the dial.
When it feels as light as a feather and the bracelet feels really cheap. You are damn right it is a fake. But there are nuances. Rolex used to sell light wear bracelets before. While they have solid bracelets these days. So you must know what you have in your hands and what it is supposed to be.
The model number
By checking with the brand website or forums you can check if a model number actually existed. If there is no reference at all. There is a possibility the watch is a fake.
The case back of a genuine Cartier tank with the logos applied.
The watch hands
The watch hands that indicate the time, sometimes indicate it is a fake or incorrect watch. The colors applied on the individual hands should be correct. The following order of the hands as well (sequence of the seconds hand, minutes hand, hours hand).
Packing: the box and papers
Boxes and papers are as said before, easily of often faked. For vintage watches our guess is around 60%-80% is not correct. And super fakes come with almost identical box and cards. Making sure you have the real deal means observing the details and checking your stuff with detailed online pictures. Although to be waterproof, we advise always to have an expert who has experience with the brand to have a look at it.
Is the price too good to be true? There is a high possibility it actually is! Although there is some good deals out there. You can be sure there is no authentic watch that will be sold at half of the market value.
QUALITY, QUALITY, QUALITY!
We have mentioned it before. But the quality of the watches is in the end the most important thing. You need to have proper knowledge of which watches are issued and what quality you could expect from a specific brand. Knowing about existing Models, valid serial numbers, color schemes, brand logo's applied is the start. Actually observing the quality of engraving, the finishing of the material, finishing of the dial and looking at the movement through a loupe is ultimately what is needed to authenticate a watch.
Above a real Rolex Submariner 3235 movement. With the crown logo applied. Quality of engraving is important when authenticating a watch.
What does a watch certificate of authenticity say?
Almost all luxury watches are sold with a certificate of authenticity. But this says absolutely nothing on its own. These certificates are easily faked or sold on eBay or other marketplaces. You can buy papers from almost every year and fill in your own serial number and details. For certificate cards that are issued for newer watches. Producers of these fake watches can easily fake these cards. Even boxes are faked to the smallest details.
So unfortunately the watch certificate of authenticity really says nothing. These papers on itself must be "authenticated" on its own. An expert brand watchmaker is possible to this. They know what "watermarks" are used. The material. The exact font and positioning of text.
The verdict on verifying the authenticity
Verifying the authenticity of a watch means you need to have the knowledge, experience and tools to perform a proper authentication. Doing research on your own is a great start however. And something which is fun and essential to the buying experience. But verifying the authenticity of watches should be left to the real watch experts. Brand watchmakers are best positioned. Since they have work experience and know about what these watches should look like and which details to look at.
We have come across some really crazy fake watches. Such as a Rolex Datejust with a fake Cartier dial. Super fake Omega Seamasters and Breitling Navitimers. You name it. It is out there. And sometimes it's not only that, customers buying on online marketplaces are easily scammed by sending a different watch then you see on the photos. So if you want to be a 100% sure about your purchase. Have a look at our authentication service for buying online. Or find you next watch on our own marketplace. Where sellers can offer their watches with 0% commission. All watches sold on our platform are first authenticated by hand before it is sent to the buyer. And best of all, you will receive a detailed authentication report including a write up of our checks performed including details pictures.
How to authenticate a Rolex, Omega, Hublot, Tag Heuer or Cartier?
At Relleb we authenticate watches for customers. We even started a marketplace for watch enthusiasts to safely sell and buy watches online. To share with other watch enthusiast how we authenticate watches ourselves, we have written blogs about our authentication process. Here below we have some of the blogs listed we currently have.
How to authenticate a Rolex?
Read our blog about how we authenticated The Rolex Daytona 116520.
Read our blog about how we authenticated The Rolex Submariner Hulk.
How to authenticate an Omega?
Read our blog about how we authenticated The Omega Seamaster Diver 300M.
How to authenticate a Hublot?
Read our blog about how we authenticated The Hublot Big Bang.
How to authenticate a Cartier?
Read our blog about how we authenticated The Cartier Tank.