How To Spot A Fake Vintage Rolex

Knowing how to spot a fake vintage Rolex is essential if you want to make a good investment. We asked an expert how

By Chere Di Boscio

For many these days, making good investments is confusing. Bitcoin? Seems a bit risky; its value fluctuates wildly. Gold? Prices are pretty high right now. Will they go up further? Who knows. Property? The market is shaky, depending on where you live. But luckily, some investments are surprisingly stable.

For example? Fine art. Certain collectable luxury handbags. And also, rare vintage watches. Especially by coveted brands like Rolex. The only caveat? There are a lot of imitations out there. And some of them are very good!

Why You Should Invest In A Vintage Rolex

According to a recent study by Boston Consulting Group (BCG), the secondhand market for watches from the three largest brands is growing. Demand for (Rolex, Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet) rose at an annual rate of 20% from August 2018 to January 2023. And that’s even despite (or because of?) the market slowdown triggered by Covid-19. To compare, during that same period, the US S&P 500 stock index rose only 8%.

Preowned watch sales reached $22 billion in 2021, accounting for nearly one-third of the overall $75 billion luxury watch market. The report states:

“The secondhand watch market once evoked images of back alley deals and discounts, with dubious authenticity and a high risk of fakes and fraud. Today’s market is transparent, fuelled by online information sharing, supported by authentication services, and composed of knowledgeable buyers and established sellers.”

We asked an expert for advice on how to spot a fake vintage Rolex and invest in a good one. Here below, Paul Altieri, CEO & Founder of Bob’s Watches, gives his answers.

How To Spot A Faux Rolex Watch

How To Spot A Fake Vintage Rolex

1. First up: why are people attracted to buying vintage Rolexes?

Vintage Rolexes are more than just timepieces; they are pieces of history and artistry. People are attracted to them for several reasons:

      • Craftsmanship: Rolex has always been known for its exceptional quality and craftsmanship. Vintage models often exemplify this attention to detail, which can’t be replicated today.
      • Investment Value: Over time, many vintage Rolexes have appreciated in value, making them an attractive investment option for collectors.
      • Nostalgia: For many, these watches represent a bygone era and owning one is like holding onto a piece of the past.
      • Uniqueness: As certain vintage models become rarer, owning one becomes a statement of distinction and individuality.
      • Story: Every vintage Rolex has a story. Whether it was worn during significant historical events or by prominent individuals, each watch carries its own legacy.
2. What’s the most common error people make when buying them?

One of the most common errors people make when buying a vintage Rolex watch is not knowing if it’s fake.

It’s best to do your homework on the watch and to make sure you are buying from a trusted source. Once the trust is established, then there can be an open line of communication between the buyer and seller to address any questions and/or concerns.

3. What are the top 10 things consumers should watch out for when buying a vintage Rolex?
  • Dial: The dial can make up a majority of the value so you want it to be as original and pristine as possible. If it’s scratched or cracked, pass!
  • Replaced Parts: Ensure that all parts are original. Even if the watch is authentic, replacement parts can significantly reduce the value of the watch.
  • Serial & Model Numbers: Check that the serial and model numbers are genuine and consistent with the model’s production year.
  • Movement: Rolex movements are finely crafted and have specific engravings. Make sure they are consistent with genuine Rolex movements.
  • Case Back: Rolex rarely produces watches with engraved case backs. Beware of logos or inscriptions there. I’m not saying ALL logos or inscriptions on the case back indicate a fake. Just be careful. Consult a Rolex specialist or store when in doubt.
  • Logo and Typography: Study the Rolex logo and font carefully. One of the best ways to spot a fake vintage Rolex is to see if there are any small details that look wrong.
  • Reputable Seller: Always buy from a trusted source. Ensure you can make a return if need be.
  • Documentation: Original papers, box, and service history can add to the watch’s authenticity and value.
  • Price: If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Be wary of watches priced significantly below market value.
  • Trust Your Gut: If something feels off, it’s worth hiring an expert who can really spot a fake vintage Rolex well.
4. There are actually some great imitations out there. How can experts tell the difference?

While many imitations are getting better, they can’t replicate the years of craftsmanship and detail that go into a genuine Rolex. Experts typically rely on a combination of detailed knowledge, specialised tools, and years of experience. To spot a fake vintage Rolex, they might inspect:

    • Movement: Genuine Rolex movements are distinct in their design, craftsmanship, and engravings.
    • Magnification: The ‘Cyclops’ lens on Rolex watches magnifies the date by exactly 2.5x. Most fakes don’t get this magnification right.
    • Weight: Genuine Rolex watches have a particular weight due to the quality of materials used.
    • Rehaut: Starting in 2002, Rolex began engraving its rehaut (the inner edge of the dial) with the Rolex logo and other markers. Experts can verify the accuracy and alignment of these engravings.
    • Quality and Finish: The finish, quality, and detailing of a genuine Rolex are unmatched. Small imperfections or inconsistencies are the best way to spot a fake vintage Rolex.

5. What’s your personal favourite vintage Rolex model?

This is a tough question, it’s almost like asking me to choose between my kids. I go back and forth with a Daytona ref. 6241 with white exotic dial aka “Paul Newman” and a “Big Crown” Submariner ref. 6200 with Explorer style “3-6-9” dial.

When I close my eyes and think of vintage Rolex, both of these pop into my mind.

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