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Fake or Counterfeit Rolexes?

Not every Rolex you see is the genuine article. Before you go plunking down good money for the timepiece of your dreams here are some tips on telling the difference between the real thing and a clever replica.

• Check the back of the watch. If there are any engravings or imprints, be advised that this is not a real Rolex watch. The real watches have a smooth caseback without any engravings or other markings, not even a logo. Moreover, if you can see the inside of the watch because it has a clear, see-through backcase, be advised that this is also a fake. Real Rolexes do not have any versions that reveal the "inner workings" of the watch.

• Check the materials of the watch. A real Rolex is made of either 24K gold, platinum or stainless steel. No genuine Rolex watch is ever gold-plated or made of chrome or chrome-plated. If you spot a Rolex watch that is made of chrome or is two-toned (partly gold and partly stainless steel), you can be sure that it is a fake.

• Check the "made in" sign. Most Rolex watches are made in Switzerland, which is indicated by a "Swiss Made" sign near the bottom of the watch. If the manufacturer's mark on your watch says "made in China" or any other country with a reputation for producing cheaply-made products, you would be wise to avoid purchasing it.

• Take the watch to a certified appraiser. This is the only sure way to determine if your Rolex watch is fake or real.

• Locate the serial and case reference numbers that are engraved on the side of the timepiece. A real Rolex watch will feature the engraving in very fine, light-reflecting lines. A fake Rolex watch will feature an engraving that has a shoddy, etched appearance. Moreover, many counterfeiters simply use the same series of numbers on all their watches and this is a dead giveaway of a fake.

• Note the price. Genuine Rolex watches as of 2009 sell for upwards of a hundred dollars while some are over thousands of dollars. Don't be fooled by "bargains" that sell Rolexes for $100-$200. Remember that if the price seems too good to be true, it most likely is.

• Listen for a ticking sound. If the watch ticks, it's a fake. A true Rolex does not make a traditional "tick-tock" sound like most watches.

• Make sure the "second hand" on the watch sweeps over the numbers without stopping. If the "second hand" jerks as it moves, then the watch is definitely a fake Rolex.

Since 2005 Rolex has introduiced the following anti-counterfeiting methods:

• Small engraved Rolex crown at 6 o'clock on the crystal – Many fake Rolexes now have this feature, but use a much cruder and larger crown than Rolex uses. Rolexes crown is difficult to spot with the naked eye. Most replicas have a crown so large you can spot it easily while it's on your wrist.

• Engraving on the Rehaut – Rolex has placed engraving (typically the word "ROLEX" with the watch's serial number engraved at 6 o'clock) under the crystal on the area between the crystal and the dial. Many Rolex fakes of post-2005 models have this feature, but look closely. Some fake Rolexes actually have this printed on the rehaut, not engraved. Also look to make sure the serial number starts with an "F" or a "D".

• New clasp on certain models – The new DateJust and Daytonas, for example, have a new shorter clasp. This is evident on models such as the Turn-o-graph. Many fakes use the old clasp style, but then again this may be hard to spot. Always ask to see photos of the ENTIRE watch.

• Engraving on band end-links – Many new Rolex models have added model number engravings on the end of the watch end-link. This engraving includes the band model as well as two small Rolex crowns. This has been copied fairly successfully on most new high-end Rolex fakes.

• Display case-back on the new Rolex Prince – Finally Rolex has stumbled onto one of the best ways to protect their brand: innovation. The display-back on the Prince is a great way to showcase their new movement, but it also means that it's a new area to trip up fake watch manufacturers. The one example of a fake Rolex Prince I've come across is easy to spot because of the horrible case back revealing a cheap movement. Kudos to Rolex on this unexpected move on their part.

Tips from a pro.

Rolex or Replica? - This site offers some excellent advice for those considering the purchase of a Rolex watch.

If you're looking for the definitive book on Rolex watches, you can't do better than to start with the Rolex Report.Click here to learn more about it.

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