I’ve spotted more fake Rolexes than I can count in my career as a professional watch dealer — here’s how to tell the difference – DAVID RAUDALES


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I’ve spotted more fake Rolexes than I can count in my career as a professional watch dealer — here’s how to tell the difference

Fake Rolex vs. real: NYC watch dealerJohn Buckley knows exactly how to spot a fake Rolex after working with luxury watches for 26 years.

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John Buckley is a watch dealer with 26 years of experience in the industry.Rolexes are his specialty, and he said fake ones just jump out him because of a few telltale signs.He says the most important things to look at when gauging authenticity are the dial and the price.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with John Buckley, a 59-year-old watch dealer with offices in New York City and New Jersey who’s the owner of TuscanyRose LLC and managing partner of Vookum Media Group. It’s been edited for length and clarity.

I’ve always loved watches. I began dealing in the NYC Diamond District in the late 1990s, mostly buying and selling watches and watch parts. I specialize in vintage and modern Rolex, and while I have experience in all luxury brands, Rolex is my forte.

I started out selling from watch catalogs

I’d go to Tourneau — a Rolex-authorized dealer — and get a couple of different watch catalogs and sell from them. It felt like free money. I was able to save enough for a down payment on my first house in New Jersey doing that.

Then I began specializing in watch parts: cases, dials, hands, and bracelets. I looked at it like a chop shop — if you need a fender for your car and somebody’s got it, you’re going to pay whatever you have to for it.

You used to be able to buy and sell by going booth to booth on 47th Street, and if you found a part that was worth two to three times what you could buy it for, it was a huge deal. You could also post stuff online in chat rooms or on eBay, and you could make money while you were asleep.

I started with the money I made selling from catalogs and grew from there

Now we’re a family-owned, self-funded small business. We have no affiliation with any brands.

I hate when people throw the word “expert” around when they’ve been in the watch business two or three years. After 26 years, when I’m looking at fake watches, they jump out at me. I can literally put a watch in my hand and just know that something isn’t right.

It’s a crazy business with a lot of egos in it, and mine is probably right up there with everybody else’s. The sense of entitlement I carry with me is because I’ve made mistakes — some of them costly.

I’ve spotted more fakes in my career than I can count

People ask me how someone can bring a fake Rolex watch into a store and the store doesn’t catch it. Sometimes it’s a lack of knowledge — you would think the store clerks would know this stuff, but that’s not always the case.

Then there are cases where someone really took the time to try to fool someone — I call those the dangerous fakes. We get a lot in the vintage business.

Buckley compares a real Rolex Daytona watch with a fake in a TikTok video.


I’ve had watches shipped to me from private people. I’ll look at it, and it’s obviously fake, so you’ve got to break somebody’s heart or just call them out. It doesn’t happen often, but we handle a minimum of 100-200 pieces a month, and I get about one fake a month.

I recently looked at a watch from a seller who’s very popular online. Many buyers see a seller online who’s got a lot of followers and they assume credibility. That’s a bad call — many of these sellers are basically salespeople with no skin in the game. You can’t trust them on a watch that you’re spending $10,000-plus for.

Here are the top 5 things I look for when trying to identify a fake Rolex.

1. Mechanics

The first thing I look at are the screws on the bracelet or on the back of the watch. On a counterfeit, the screw heads and bracelet fittings aren’t as crisp as they would be on authentic items.

It’s a problem if the screws don’t go down flush on the back side, and you can see if screw heads aren’t flush on top. Because the counterfeit companies don’t pay attention to detail, that’s a big red flag for me.

2. Case symmetry 

On the back of a modern Rolex watch, where the bracelet meets the case (which holds the movement, or engine, of the watch and has the serial numbering), a real Rolex is going to fit perfectly like a glove and slip in there with no gaps.

On a lot of counterfeit watches, you’ll notice small very gaps all the way around. The metal isn’t finished properly, and it just doesn’t look crisp.

3. Dial/face

The dial of a watch is the most difficult part to really understand and the hardest to spot to examine for the untrained eye. Font details, text placement, and luminous material are all telltale items.

On some of the new counterfeit watches, the makers try to master this stuff — but there’s always something that will be a giveaway. If you’re looking at a watch that’s 50 years old and the case has wear on it but the face looks like it was made yesterday, chances are something’s not right.

4. Movement  

A tell-tale mechanical sign is when the “cloned” movements (the engines that make the watches run) are close but not passable in terms of millwork, finishing, etc. If you Google cloned Rolex movements, you can see the difference.

There’s a new hairspring — the main spring in the balance wheel — that the newer Rolexes have, and some of the crappier cloned movements don’t have that. If you look at the finishes, the counterfeits aren’t crisp or clean.

5. Pricing

The best way to spot something amiss is by pricing. If you’re looking at a watch with a normal market value of $14,000 to $15,000 and someone is trying to sell it for $8,000 or $9,000, there’s a problem.

Usually there’s a story attached to it, like “I won it in a card game,” or “A friend at the office sold it to me; he needed money.” My favorite is, “My grandmother had it in her sock drawer.”

A lot of these new counterfeits that pop up come with Rolex cards that have numbers on them — which, if you handle the real cards every day, you’ll spot immediately. A novice will never know the difference, but usually the price point gives it away.

Experience is everything

Working in the parts business of the luxury watch market really catapulted my ability to identify whether or not a watch was real or fake. Buyers, sellers, and dealers will ask me to authenticate by sending pictures of watches. A lot of these guys will say, “I’m looking at this picture on the internet — is this real?”

I can usually spot the inconsistencies immediately, and I’m like, “It doesn’t look right to me.” If you want to really understand all the little points as to why it is that I think it’s not right, then you need to do this for 10 to 20 years and figure it out for yourself.

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