Flattery for Rolex is not imitating their watches and Rolex makes a great effort to include details that discern a genuine Rolex wristwatch from imitators and frankenwatch builders. Below are some images depicting some of the security measures Rolex includes in their modern wristwatch models.
Since the mid-2000’s Rolex moved the Rolex serial number location from in between the lugs at 6:00 o’clock to inside the rehaut that holds the watch face. The rehaut is located the just inside the watch crystal. Older Rolex models have a smooth rehaut, but in recent years Rolex included a laser engraved rehaut that has both a RolexRolexRolex and the watch’s serial number at the 6:00 o’clock position. Both the Rolex engraving and the serial are easily visible, and hard for cheap Rolex imitators to reproduce with the precise evenness that only Rolex can achieve.
Prior to the watch’s serial number being visible under the crystal, the serial number was engraved inside the watch lugs. The only way to view the serial number was to remove the bracelet, something that requires some skill to do without scratching the watch.
This image has some of the serial number numerals/letters grayed out to prevent imitators from using the number on fake Rolexes.
Other details to review to check for authenticity requires a slightly better eye and perhaps a jewelers loupe to examine. If possible, have the watchmaker remove the bracelet. Inside the bracelet endlink should be the bracelet model number in precise, slightly above center engraving. This too is hard to reproduce evenly. Also examine how the solid endlink fits between the lugs precisely with no rounded edges.
With the bracelet removed, examine inside the lugs at 12:00 o’clock and look for the “Orig Rolex Design” and the watch model number. The model number should match the watch. In this image, model 116600 is a new Rolex SeaDweller 4000.
Examine the 6:00 o’clock side and the case material should be listed. This image shows Stainless Steel. On older Rolex models, the serial number would be located here as well. Rolex models manufactured in the mid-2000s had the serial number engraved on both the rehaut (pictured above) and between the lugs on the 6:00 o’clock side. Like before, the engraving should be precise.
Removing the caseback to inspect the movement is always a good thing to inspect, but many times it is not possible because removing the caseback and reinstalling requires special tools in order to keep the wristwatch waterproof.
However, Rolex does include another authenticity feature on the main plate of the watch movement. Rolex inscribes another serial number for the movement different from the visible rehaut serial number. When taking a Rolex into a Service Center, upon intake, the Rolex estimator will remove the caseback and record the main plate serial number and the case serial number and they must match in Rolex’s database.
Lastly, perhaps one of the more ingenious methods for verifying authenticity is the laser engraved Rolex crown at the 6:00 o’clock position. Viewing this engraving requires a jeweler’s loupe and correct light. The engraving is on the underside of the crystal, so there is no way to feel it. The only way to view the laser etched Rolex crown is with very bright light. Watches that have a slightly raised crystal above the bezel is somewhat easier to view as there is more light coming up from underside the crystal, but there is definitely a trick to find the laser etching without a loupe and correct lighting.
Rolex imitators have a very difficult time getting this correct. If the Rolex crown is plainly visible, that watch is a fake. If the seller indicates that the crystal was replaced at service, Rolex utilizes a crystal with a laser engraved – S –to signify a service crystal.
There are also other subtle details to authenticate a Rolex, but we’ll review those next week.
– Sheldon Smith