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It is becoming increasingly difficult nowadays to distinguish forgeries from authentic watches. So-called 'Frankenstein watches' in particular make it significantly more difficult for prospective buyers to identify a fake by fitting counterfeit watches with individual parts from originals. The days are gone when fake watches carried a fake brand name or when models were produced that do not even exist on the real watch market. It has even gotten to the point where even experts are not able to distinguish the fake from the original by the external aspects of some models. Let's take a closer look at how to recognize the differences between fakes and originals in this article.

What to consider before the purchase of a watch

It is important that you trust your retailer and always buy your watch from a trustworthy dealer. At Watchmaster, all watches we receive are carefully checked for authenticity by experienced watchmakers in our in-house watchmaking atelier to protect you as a customer from buying an imitation. The watches we offer are certified originals. However, if you should have any questions about a particular model, our staff of qualified specialists would be happy to help at any time. You can learn more about what you should consider when buying a luxury watch in our guide to buying watches online.

In this article, we will show you how to recognize the signs of a counterfeit. Despite all this, official authentication can only be performed by a watchmaker. In the case of a private purchase, you can do this by sending the watch for a final check at a jeweller of your choice before the handover, for example. If the seller is reluctant to do so, it would be better not to buy that watch.

Original Rolex Submariner next to a fake Submariner watch
The watch on the left is a genuine Rolex Submariner – would you have been able to tell the difference?

How to verify the authenticity of a watch

We can assure you: although the market for counterfeit watches is growing and imitations are getting better and better, it is quite possible to detect more than 95% of the counterfeit models immediately. For many counterfeiters, it is usually not a great challenge to reproduce a real watch. However, as is often the case, the devil is in the details. So what can you do to verify the authenticity of a watch yourself?

Does the model actually exist?

The first way to check whether a watch is a fake is quite simple: does the advertised watch even exist? Is the reference number correct? You can find this out quickly using internet search engines. But please do not rely solely on a quick online search on the website of the respective manufacturer, because all of their models are not necessarily listed there.

Examine and verify the details of the watch

Counterfeit watches often lack in their details. That's why it is important to familiarize yourself with the model in question in advance and to know the special features and details of the watch.

For example, the lasered Rolex crown on the sapphire crystal at the 6 o'clock position. This can only be seen when the watch's crystal is illuminated from the side with a flashlight and viewed under a magnifying glass. This laser engraving can be recognized by the small dots on the crown. Although this counterfeit protection was specially designed by Rolex, many counterfeits have already been found with this type of laser-engraved crown. Similarly, Omega has attempted to do the same with a small engraved globe with the Omega logo or the engraved Omega logo in the crystal back of the case. Despite all this, it is easy to recognize an original from the counterfeit, as both the engraved Omega logo and the Rolex laser crown are more crudely finished on counterfeits than on an original. A careful eye for detail is always worthwhile!

Case back of an Omega Speedmaster Racing Chronograph 329. watch with engraved globe and Omega logo

Another example of the attention to detail can be seen on the Rolex Daytona dial. Here too, you will need the help of a bright lamp. Hold a Rolex Daytona in bright light and observe the reflection of the dial. Firstly, the dial should be visible as a clearly defined round reflection and secondly, the hour, minute and second hands, as well as the hands of the totalizers, should be clearly visible in the reflection. If the reflections are blurred or not visible, it is almost certainly a fake.

Additionally, the date magnification and cyclops lens are a distinctive feature that will help you distinguish fake Rolex models from originals. With the exception of the Rolex Deepsea, all other Rolex models have a magnifying glass above the date display. This glass magnifies the date by 2.5 times its actual size. Counterfeits will only achieve a maximum magnification of 1.5 times.

Dial of a Rolex GMT-Master II 116710LN watch with date window and cyclops lens

In addition, it is always helpful to try out and examine the watch thoroughly. Product photos often do not correspond to reality. So once you have seen a high-quality watch in real life and held it in your hand, you will know exactly which details to pay attention to. By handling the model, you will get a feeling for the watch and this can usually not be replaced by intensive research on the Internet or in books.

The most difficult component to falsify: The movement

If you cannot clearly judge the authenticity of the watch on the basis of its external features, a look inside the watch will help. The movement is the most important indicator for identifying a counterfeit watch from the original. This is the heart of every watch and therefore the most technically sophisticated component. By means of the workmanship of different calibres from the various manufacturers, it is easy to recognize which movement is housed in the respective watch. Here, special attention should be paid to brand-specific details in each construction and characteristic engravings of the individual components of the movement. Counterfeiters usually do not take the trouble to copy a movement faithfully with all its components. The same applies to blued screws, which are often used in the mechanical movements of high-quality timepieces from manufacturers such as Jaeger-LeCoultre. While watchmakers usually use a bluing furnace for tempering the screws, in simple replicas, they are simply painted. The difference is clearly visible here.

Inspect the weight of the watch

In most cases, the weight of inexpensive counterfeits is enough to expose them. Luxury timepieces from relevant brands are made exclusively from high-quality materials and precious metals, which naturally carry a certain weight. Imitating this weight is not the biggest obstacle, but it is always handled carelessly, for example by placing lead weights in the case. In any case, you should hold the watch in your hand. If, for example, a massive timepiece such as the Breitling for Bentley 6.75, which weighs in at a hefty 220 grams, feels too light, then an alarm bell should ring. Nevertheless, please don't rely solely on the weight of the watch. Originals may also lose some weight over the years due to polishing or refurbishment, whereas counterfeits are getting better and better and can be as heavy as their original counterparts down to the last milligram.

This basically seems obvious, but make sure that all components of the watch not only appear to be of high quality, but also feel that way. If you are holding a model made entirely of gold in your hands and the case and movement feel heavy, but the bracelet doesn't, then you shouldn't buy it. In this case as well, a watchmaker or jeweller can verify whether it is only gold plated.

Always check the accessories

In the end, you should always check the accessories of a watch. Does the watch come with the original papers and an original box for the watch or is there an official authentication of a watchmaker? The accessories of counterfeit watches are much easier to make and the writing on the box is rough. Additionally, you should always check the serial number of the watch and the dealer named on the certificate. This can easily be checked by a simple internet search. There you will also receive prompt information as to whether this watch is possibly missing.

Rolex Submariner in green Rolex watch box with original papers

The "Frankenstein watches" phenomenon

At this point, it is also important to mention the case of so-called "Frankenstein watches". Many a counterfeiter uses this clever method to make fakes more authentic by using original parts. Here, the crown, the folding clasp of the bracelet or the bezel can actually be original and at first glance distract from the actual fake. But here again, a distinction must be made between so-called "mirage watches". The latter describe wristwatches that are completely reassembled from original parts from different brands. In this case, the case can be from an IWC pocket watch, the calibre from Omega and the dial, for example, from Jaeger-LeCoultre. However, these watches do not claim to be original, but simply bring old components back to life.

In contrast to the aforementioned Frankenstein watches, which intentionally try to hide fake calibres. Don't let yourself be fooled and have the desired watch checked by a reputable watchmaker.

Use caution when buying watches privately

When buying a luxury watch from private sellers, always pay attention to the above tips and advice so that you aren't fooled by a fake. If you are not a watch expert yourself and want to be on the safe side, then you should only buy luxury watches from official and trustworthy dealers such as Watchmaster, who guarantee and certify the 100% authenticity of all watches.