6 Common Myths About Genuine vs. Fake Watches

genuine vs fake watches
Adam R. Harris

By Adam R. Harris | Jan 30th, 2019

Two things never fail to amaze me. First, when people buy luxury wristwatches from non-authorized distributors like eBay and then ask if it’s genuine or a fake. The second is the vast array of websites by so-called “experts” professing to tell ways to spot a fake watch, even if you don’t know how to spot a fake watch.

There are two types of people who buy counterfeit watches. The first are people who want the feel and look of a watch but can’t afford it. The second are the ones who are just duped or, to put it more bluntly, cheated. These are the people that I am here to help. Every year I teach a class for the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors on detecting counterfeit watches.

Think you can’t be fooled by fake watches?

It happens more often than you think. Only yesterday I heard about this expensive “Hublot” watch that was purchased on eBay as a birthday present. The seller, who had great reviews, said it was “100% authentic.” Take a look.


I am sorry to say that this is an atrocious fake! It is a perfect example of how to spot a fake Hublot. The movement is a Chinese SEAGULL movement. If the watch were a real Hublot, it would have been a high-end ETA movement.

We might be able to instantly recognize this cheap Chinese fake “Hublot.” But the market is full of counterfeits that are much more serious. In these cases it’s harder to detect a Hublot replica vs original with the naked eye. In the trade, we call these “super-fakes.” Here’s an example: this Rolex Explorer offered on eBay with multiple bids selling for $4,990.

Can you tell that it isn’t genuine?

genuine vs fake rolex

Fake Watch Myths

In my other articles, I go into a lot more detail on how to identify fake Rolex and Panerai watches so you don’t confuse them for genuine luxury watches. But let’s start with six common myths about fake watches that may lead you to believe that you are buying a genuine watch when you are actually purchasing a fake.

Genuine Rolex Explorer II
Genuine Rolex Explorer II

FAKE WATCH MYTH #1: Fake Watches are Lighter than Genuine Watches

Rubbish! Counterfeiters today easily make watches that are the same weight. How? Well, they are using the same ETA movements as the original manufacturers or second source copies. Therefore weight is no longer an acid test.

FAKE WATCH MYTH #2: It’s Not Complicated

You will read that complications never work on fake watches. It is true that in many cases they do not. But many luxury watches do not have any complications except the date, which may work on a fake watch. Therefore, the complication test is usually not helpful in separating the fakes from the real.

FAKE WATCH MYTH #3: The Date Bubbles on Fake Rolexes Don’t Magnify Enough

It used to be that the “Cyclops,” the lens over the date on a Rolex did not magnify 2.5 times on a fake Rolex. That is not so difficult to fake anymore. I have seen many fake Rolex watches with the correct magnification. I would not depend on that as a litmus test.

FAKE WATCH MYTH #4: A Genuine Movement Means a Genuine Watch

Have you heard that movements on fake watches are never the same? How wrong that is. Most watch brands today buy their movements from ETA, the world’s largest supplier of mechanical movements. The counterfeiters can now buy Chinese or Japanese reproductions or indeed actual ETA movements from secondary sources. Take a look below at how similar reproduction movements look. Which of below is authentic and which is fake? They look pretty similar, don’t they?

Panerai fake vs real

FAKE WATCH MYTH #5: Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth

There is no such thing as a free lunch, right? The conventional wisdom is that gifts of luxury watches are fakes. Well, this may be close to the truth. But real watches are inherited and sold. If we all go around scrapping inheritance gifts, it may be an expensive error. This is hardly a definitive test for telling genuine finds from imposters.

FAKE WATCH MYTH #6: All the Watches on Craig’s List are Fake

Is this a myth? Probably not, honestly. I can’t recommend looking on Craig’s List for a luxury watch.

Twenty years ago the fakes were really fake. You could look at a watch and really quickly determine it was trash. Not anymore. As manufacturers add counterfeit measures, the counterfeiters copy them. Today we have super fakes that take experience and knowledge to detect.

Adam R. Harris

Adam R. Harris

Adam R. Harris is an instructor with the National Associate of Watch and Clock Collectors.


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