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Department Specialist


Michael Larsen, GG
Senior Specialist

818.205.3608

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Published: 1 March 2017

Imitation Isn’t Always the Sincerest Form of Flattery | Spotting Fake Watches

A burning question that is always asked of any watch expert, and one I get frequently from prospective buyers: how do I spot a fake?

These days, knock-off watches are a big business, and for buyers who are not experts, it can be a challenge to detect what is real and what’s not. Improved production methods have increased the quality of fake watches, especially when there is so much money involved from the sales, which in turn pushes more counterfeit timepieces back into the marketplace. It’s a scary cycle that can snare an unsuspecting buyer.

Four Simple Ways to Avoid an Imposter

For all watch brands, there are signs that we can look for that give us clues to identifying a fake watch from the real thing. While there is no single smoking gun answer, there are some details to look for that can provide guidance. Here are a few indicators that might help, but are by no means 100% guaranteed

•    Voted “Most Popular”
As one would imagine, the most copied watch is the Rolex, as it is internationally recognized and ubiquitous with quality, Swiss watches. As one of the “kings” of luxury goods, Rolex has become as synonymous with “luxury timepiece” as Kleenex has with tissues. Finding an absurdly good deal on a Rolex should be your first hint: if it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is.
•    Crystal Clear
One surefire way to distinguish a fake Rolex is the use of a crystal viewback. Many watchmakers will use an exhibition caseback (usually fitted with sapphire crystal) so that the movement of the internal mechanisms can be seen without being opened. However, Rolex is not one of these companies. If you see a Rolex with one of these see-through backs, you know it is a fake.
•    What’s Your Number?
One method to spotting a fake timepiece is to look between the lugs for reference and serial numbers. The lugs are the extensions from the case that hold the bracelet or strap. It can be tricky to remove and replace the bracelet, but once done, these numbers should be available. Of course modern reproductions will have these numbers in place. On the other hand, sometimes real Rolexes may have had these numbers removed if the case has been refinished.
•    Use Your Sense of Touch
Fine watch brands are made with the highest quality and attention to detail. Any variation from these high tolerances immediately raises suspicion. Features like bracelets that are poorly fitted to the lugs, numerals or logos on the dial that are not perfectly smooth or have an ”orange peel” texture, machining marks like concentric grooves rather than a polished finish are just a few signs of a fake.
Ultimately, the best way to assure authenticity is to buy from a certified dealer of visit an expert to have your timepiece inspected.

Curious what your watches will bring at auction? Contact Freeman's for a complimentary auction estimate. For more information and for a complimentary appointment, please contact:
Michael Larsen | 818.205.3608 | mlarsen@freemansauction.com

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