Diagnosing a Fake Luxury Watch and Exposing Bullshit That’s Been Floating Around the Internet for 2 Years

For years, we have avoided milking the topic of “how to spot a fake”, because it’s generally click bait. Click bait that obviously works nonetheless. If you’re in doubt about a watch or the source, then you shouldn’t even be standing around long enough to ask that question.

There’s an infographic being passed around the web and reposted by popular blogs like Hypebeast and Airows.com that are spreading common myths. Magazines like Complex, and even the same folks who run the Watch Snob column (which totally discredited their entire watch operation after posting this). Good job, guys! Any article that reposted this infographic on their site should issue an official apology to their readership. Even if you were paid to post it, why would you allow such misinformation to be published on your behalf? The last thing the watch industry needs is a bunch of know-it-all web trolls running around trying to authenticate watches they’ve never had the pleasure to actually hold and study for themselves.

It’s easy to search the internet and compile information from various articles, but nothing beats real life experience. The problem is that the site credited to making the infographic doesn’t even sell Rolex, Omega, or Tag Heuer. No offense, really, because we also sell some cheap watches. But we’ve been selling luxury watches for about 20 years and established the KeepTheTime brand in 2008, selling thousands of timepieces since.

Let’s rip this article to shreds and expose the truth about how to diagnose a fake designer luxury watch – oh snap, we already got the party started.

Common Signs of a Fake:

  • Spelling errors on the dial. – Ok, we’ll give you this one.
  • The logo might not be centered. – Whew, two for two!
  • On a metal strap the links don’t move freely. – First, let’s call it a metal bracelet. Second, this is correct, unless it’s an old ass Day-Date with major stretch in the bracelet. Links in those will be shifty like a mofo.
  • Letters printed on the dial are not sharp and crisp. – This could also be the result of a bad redial. Your watch could be totally authentic, but what if the dial was repainted by a shop that didn’t have the correct equipment, or simply didn’t care about getting it spot on. Repainted dial means repainted dial, not fake watch.
  • Functions like sub dials and helium valves don’t function. – This is true for brands like Rolex, Omega, and Tag. But some other brands – like the ones sold on the site that made this infographic – feature subdials and chronograph pushers that don’t do what you’d think they should do. For example, this Ingersoll watch has chronograph pushers, but doesn’t have a chronograph function.
  • They weigh less. – Most folks don’t have a good reference point to compare the weights of watches, which is why we weigh each piece and try to put weights in our product listings. Believe it or not, we’ve found some NIB watches that actually weigh more or less than the manufacturers claim. They can also weigh slightly less because links are removed from the bracelet, etc.
  • Lack of or poor packaging. – Have you ever seen the old school red Omega boxes that dry up and get red shit all over the place? Or old school Rolex boxes that probably stink from being in your uncle’s musty closet? Poor packaging doesn’t mean much. And lack of? Don’t be that guy that judges the authenticity of a watch because it doesn’t have the box. Many vintage watches won’t have the box because most normal people don’t keep them or lose them during a move. Read this for more reasons. Not everyone wants or cares about the box, so we even give our customers a choice to sell back the box before buying.
  • A loud ticking noise, most quality watches are very quiet. – Yeah, but this is a guide to spotting a fake, right? The reason why most quality watches are very quiet is because they use mechanical movements which, by their very nature, generate a faint sound. Omega makes a quartz Seamaster that is as loud as any other quartz watch. That doesn’t mean it’s fake, calm down.
  • Fingerprint or dust inside the watch. – We’ve seen watches straight from the factory with fingerprints on the hands and dust on the dial. While it speaks for the quality control of the brand, it doesn’t mean it’s a fake. What about an authentic pre-owned watch that was serviced by someone that was in a hurry or simply didn’t pay attention to the quality of their work? What if they left a spec of dust on the dial or overlooked a slither of fingerprint on the crystal? This doesn’t mean it’s a fake.

Fake Omega Watch Myths

1. The metal “Lum Dot” is off center

Ok, let’s start by calling it a “lume” dot. Lum rhymes with bum. LUME has an E on the end to continue the long E pronunciation found in the original word luminescence. Just because the lume dot is not aligned with the 12:00 marker doesn’t mean it’s a fake watch.

Omega bezel lume dot

2. The Omega logo is printed on the face when it should be applied in steel or gold.

FALSE! Have you ever seen an Omega 2541.80 or 2599.80.00 chronograph, or even the Olympics Seamaster? Seriously why would Hypebeast or any other reputable publication reprint this shit? Misinforming the public this badly should be illegal! This might be one of the worst things we’ve seen in this sorry excuse for a …nevermind.

Genuine Omega Watch Dial with Printed Logo

3. Genuine Omega watches use Luminova on the dial and hands. Fake will often have faint or non-existent glow.

Actually they use Super-LumiNova which is a Swiss made product based on the Japan-based patented LumiNova (Nemoto & Co.). And it fades over time so you can find authentic vintage pieces that have faint or non-existent glow. It doesn’t mean it’s a fake. As Worn and Wound puts it:

“Luminova and Super-LumiNova paints are in the photoluminscent category of lumes: they glow brightly after exposure to a light source and fade slowly over time.”

From Omega FAQs:

“OMEGA uses Super-LumiNova material for the dials and hands of its watches. The Super-LumiNova material takes its luminosity from daylight or any artificial source of light. The watch should therefore be exposed to bright light in order to ensure the luminosity of the dial and hands in the dark. Please note that the intensity and duration of the luminosity may vary depending on the watch model, the colour of the Super-LumiNova material and the time of exposure to the source of light.”

Not to mention, there are some Omega models that have no lume at all. It doesn’t mean they are fake!

4. Omega watches with mechanical movements should sweep smoothly, quartz should tick between the point.

Yeah, mechanical watches sweep smoothly, but don’t be alarmed if your quartz watch doesn’t exactly hit the markers spot on. This is a pet peeve of many collectors, and a good reason why a lot of them prefer a smooth sweeping automatic or manual wind, but not exactly a sure-fire sign of being a fake.

Here is an authentic quartz movement Seamaster that doesn’t tick on the markers:

5. When setting a date on a real Omega watch, the number will click into place and center. With a fake the number can be misaligned or partially covered.

Um, no. This could just be a sign that your authentic Omega watch is in desperate need of a service. But it doesn’t mean it’s a fake. According to Omega, it could also be in the date-changing process:

“Omega uses this date-change system so that the date-change is clearly visible around midnight and that there is no confusion as to the moment of the date-change.The date of the day that is drawing to a close can be seen in full until 11.45pm. At midnight, the date of the day drawing to a close is still entirely visible at the bottom of the date window, with the new date appearing at the top of the window. Then, the new date moves down through the window and the previous day’s date gradually disappears. This operation is completed by 1.30am at the latest.Avoid changing the date manually between 9pm and 2am, since this is the period during which the automatic date-change is in operation.”

6. Omega prints a red dot on the caseback to show if the case has been opened. If it’s missing, and you believe the watch to be new, it is likely a fake.

It’s sickening that the verbiage here is “likely” a fake instead of “could be” a fake. First, they don’t “print” a red dot, they apply it. And although not common, that red dot CAN come off. For example, during a steam cleaning, the red dot has been known to come loose. Also, this fails to mention the BLUE dot! If your Omega has a blue dot instead of a red dot is it a fake? No, a blue dot is placed on the caseback after being opened by the Omega service center. Also, the red dot could have fallen off if someone opened it trying to check the authenticity.

Omega red wax dot caseback seal

7. Taking the caseback off, the movement is unlikely to have the brand marks, although some more expensive fake may have duplicated this.

See?! Now your red dot is lost! All joking aside, this is true enough. As WahaWatches notes, you can learn a lot from finding the caliber number. That’s where the Caliber Corner community can help by comparing to the real deal.

8. The watch number will be etched with a laser on the lug.

It depends on the model. Some watches have the serial number etched on the caseback, not the lug. This, again, is not a telltale sign that a watch is a fake.

Authentic Omega caseback serial number

Now let’s debunk Fake Rolex myths!

1. “A Registered Design number is engraved between the lugs, at the 12. At the 6 between the lugs you should see the serial number of the case. If either number is missing the watch is a fake.”

Not exactly. Yes, the model number will be engraved, but the serial number will not be engraved on all modern models. That’s because the serial number can be found at 6:00 of the rehaut. So, not finding a serial number between the lugs, does not mean the watch is a fake.

Rolex lugs without serial number

2. The bezel should always line up with a minute marker when moved.

True, unless the watchmaker who installed the bezel snapped it in place without careful attention to detail. In that case, you’d have a 100% authentic Rolex with a misaligned bezel. Relax, guys, your Rolex can have a misaligned bezel and still be genuine.

3. The winding crown should be finely carved and engraved…

Unless your winding crown was over-polished. In which case, you’d have a 100% genuine Rolex watch with an over-polished winding crown. Chill.

4. Movement on the second hand needs to be completely smooth.

This is true from a distance. However, when you see the second hand in one of our macro videos, you will see pulsations in between each second. So don’t go jumping to conclusions that it’s a fake, it just means that 8 beats per second (or 6 for a Rolex caliber 1570) are happening so fast that your naked eyes can’t catch them. If you want completely smooth, try the Grand Seiko Dragon. And is it fair not to mention Oysterquartz?

5. A crown symbol should be etched into the glass at 6:00.

This is not found on all authentic Rolex watches. On a majority modern models, yes, but it’s not responsible to spread misinformation like this to the world of watch noobs. Good luck finding a laser etched crown on the green crystal of a Milgauss GV. To go a step further, if you see a crown symbol (let’s call it a Coronet since we’re trying to be Rolex experts here) with an S at the bottom, it means the crystal was replaced by the Rolex service center. Now, what if the watch had the crystal replaced with the watchmakers NOS non-etched crystal? Or what if your otherwise genuine watch had an aftermarket replacement crystal installed to save money? Does it mean you’ve got a fake in your hands? Nope.

6. Real Rolex watches have a Cyclops magnification lens that magnifies the date 2.5 times.

That’s true. Most Rolex watches have a 2.5x magnifying Cyclops lens, and this is often one of the first ways to spot a fake. But, not every Cyclops lens is 2.5x, especially on newer crystals. And not all Rolex models have a Cyclops, so don’t get worried because you find a Sea-Dweller without it. Here is a video authenticity guide for Cyclops magnification. Although, Hodinkee seems to think the Cyclops that is real “has probably a 3 to 4 times magnification.” See, even the watch industry experts can’t agree on basic things!

7. “With the exception of a few ladies watches which have engravings, Rolex case backs are smoother or have a hologram.”

The fact that these awesome and heavily visited and admired blogs would post this kind of garbage should make you want to vomit your eggs benedict from Sunday brunch. What about the Sea-Dweller? What about Cellini models? What about the Milgauss GV? What about the Deepsea?! And by the way, the holograms were stickers that most folks without OCD removed within moments of buying their watch. They were STICKERS that fall off eventually. And most importantly, Rolex stopped using them around 2007. Now they just using a clean plastic protective sticker with a slice of green on the edge. Don’t buy a Rolex just because it has a damn hologram, those holograms can be bought in sheets. Even the new red Sea-Dweller has engravings on the caseback.Genuine Rolex watch with engravings on the caseback

Rolex engraved caseback - genuine watch

Watch this to see what authentic Rolex watches look like with all the stickers.

8. “There are only two very rare models of Rolex from the 1930s which have clear case backs which allow you to see the inner workings. If you are buying a relatively modern Rolex with a clear back it is a fake.”

What’s wrong with bad info like this is the definitive “it is a fake.” What about the Rolex Prince? It is an example of a modern Rolex watch with a clear caseback.

Rolex watch with a clear caseback

How to spot a fake Tag Heuer?

1. Buttons on the side have no effect on the small chronograph.

We’ll give you that one on the merits of common sense.

2. “Tag Heuer uses LumiNova which glows very brightly in diminished light conditions, test your watch by charging it with a torch and checking the luminosity of the glow in the dark elements.”

Like Omega, Tag uses SuperLumiNova. Tags glow nicely, but just because they don’t glow doesn’t mean they are fake. Just ask the Tag experts over at Calibre 11.

3. Tag Heuer use sapphire crystal glass as such, if water is dropped onto the face the droplets should pull together rather disperse.

WTF did we actually just read? So now we’re getting into the scientifics of what should happen to the properties of water when touching the surface of a genuine Tag Heuer sapphire crystal!? What about one of the most popular Tag watches, one that Hypebeast and the others have featured before: The Monaco. Which can be had with a throwback acrylic crystal.

Tag Heuer Monaco with plastic crystal

4. The words “Swiss Made” should be printed on the bottom of the face.

You know, because the fakes print Swiss Made on the top of the face.

5. “On the crown, the Tag Heuer logo should be pressed into the steel not glued on. Glue residue and uneven edges are sure signs of a fake. “

The original infographic refers to the crown, but we’re going to assume they actually meant dial. It’s true that any time you see a sloppy job on a watch, it makes it a questionable piece (or at least a questionable service). We’d have to agree with the advice that genuine Tag Heuer watches have the logo pressed into the steel, BUT many Tag Heuer models have the logo printed on the dial – just like the Omegas we talked about earlier.

Tag Heuer logo printed on the dial of a genuine watch

6. Fakes often have solid links or a line on the link which might make you think the links are two pieces, genuine Tag Heuer watches will have a left and right piece for each of the links.

It’s not that this is wrong, it’s just incomplete and misleading. Not all Tag Heuer bracelets are made up of links that have two pieces. Maybe in your 17 year old Tag. What about the Aquaracer that has 3 pieces? Or the Carrera which has 5 pieces!

Ladies Tag Heuer bracelet

7. Blue screws indicate a COSC approved movement, many Tag Heuer watches are not. If it is COSC approved, your watch should always come with a COSC certificate card.

Blue screws DO NOT indicate a COSC approved movement in a luxury timepiece. Screws are blued either by heat or chemical treatment. You can fake blue screws. If the screws were truly blued, it means they were cleaned and polished, then held in and out of a flame until the desired purplish-blue was obtained, then immediately dropped in water to cool. This is a hardening method watchmakers use. You can get decorated ETA ébauches complete with blued screws that are not necessarily COSC.

8. The movement should include a serial number which matches the casing and the paperwork which goes with it.

This goes back to the whole box and papers thing. Not necessary and not a sign of a watch being a fake. How idiotic is it to think they can fake a watch but not a piece of paper? DO NOT buy a luxury watch based on the box and papers. What if they bought a box set from eBay? Best practice: use common sense.

Some Tips Before You Buy (according to the shitographic)

If the price appears too good to be true, then it likely is.

Common sense again. If it’s a $12,000 Rolex being sold for $269, then it’s probably fake, right? But just because it’s a $12,000 being sold at $8,000 doesn’t mean it’s fake. It just means it’s an old serial, missing a link or two, with scratches, and missing the box and papers. The dealer may have gotten into it low and just wants to move it for cashflow. We know from experience that luxury watch buyers want the lowest price, but whenever we lower the price, they are less likely to buy. A strange world we live in, isn’t it?

Be very careful on sites like eBay.

This is another myth, since many of the most reputable watch sellers in the world post their inventory on eBay. eBay isn’t hell, it’s actually a good place to get an idea of what something might actually be worth. It’s also a starting point for a lot of people to get the conversation started with a trusted seller. Common sense: if it’s a 1 or 2 feedback seller with a Submariner for $3k, then it’s less likely they are selling a fake and more likely that they don’t even have a watch to sell in the first place – they could have stolen the pics and posted it hoping for someone to bite.

Just because the watch comes with an authentic looking box, manual and certification, it doesn’t mean that it is genuine.

Duh. But this infographic just put all kinds of emphasis on the whole box and papers thing. Make up your mind!

Buying in store, follow your instincts.

Yeah, it’s funny because some of the most widely known online sellers are regarded as expert but actually operate out of We Buy Gold places with bulletproof glass.

Have the watch inspected by an expert.

When in doubt, go to your local AD and ask them to authenticate the watch or give you an appraisal. It will cost money, as it should since it takes them time – plus, you didn’t buy the watch from them in the first place, which would have already had this piece of mind built into the price. With that said, never go to an AD expecting free authentication, that’s just messed up!

Our Take: How did this misinformation happen?

Watch sites, even ones that don’t actually deal in Rolex, Omega or Tag Heuer, think they need to produce content for SEO (search engine optimization), and they outsource the topic for a non-expert content writer to gather info and produce an eye-catching infographic that they shoot out to all the blogs with permission to repost. The blogs repost, adding a link back to the watch site, which tells Google it must be a quality site if so many other sites are linking to it.

Blogs need to post daily content for SEO and for their visitors to keep coming back each day to consume fresh content. Facts aren’t checked, and the article gets shared by hundreds of readers based on title and infographic design. Now, fast forward to the poor soul who finally saved enough dough to pull the trigger on his first luxury timepiece. That person will do a quick search and find “reputable” sites that posted this shit. That poor soul will be misinformed and walk away thinking they just read all there is to know about discerning real from fake.

Don’t be a poor soul. Read this post, then go to other reputable watch sites and read their posts, join forums and ask them, etc. This article was written in-house by KeepTheTime staff that has been handling luxury watches for almost 20 years and wasn’t outsourced to Fiverr for $5.

We’re disappointed at all the publications that shared this nonsense so authoritatively without basis. But huge congrats to the site that got so many others to post their infographic. Surely those same publications won’t post our article since we’re not willing to pay them as much. Oh, Internets.

Conclusion

The point here is this: don’t jump to conclusions as soon as you see a luxury watch, and follow your instincts. Do your research, compare photos online, and when you think you’ve found an answer, go search another source for backup. Don’t depend on click bait infographics about luxury watches from sites and sellers that don’t specialize in luxury watches. Don’t run around acting like a watch know-it-all. One of the things we’ve found that most highly regarded watchmakers have in common, they say they don’t know before they say they’re sure. Stay smart and humble, but aware and well-educated.

This content is designed as a reference only and is not directly endorsed or authorized by Rolex, Omega or Tag Heuer. Blah, blah, blah.

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