Most real versions of commonly-replicated watches are high-quality and made in Switzerland. These watches take years to handcraft, and therefore cost a lot of money---usually thousands of dollars. Since real luxury watches are highly valuable, many fakes abound. They are typically made in Chinese sweatshops, are sold by shady dealers, and almost always weigh less than the real version they are trying to imitate. One sign of any fake watch is the logo looking different than, or the font of the company’s name contrasting, the original (most luxury Swiss watch brands display both just below the 12:00 mark on the dial). Other times, the company’s name is misspelled, and sometimes neither that nor the logo appears on a fake.
If you were told that your watch is a Breitling, Panerai, Rolex, or Patek Philippe, here are some company-specific guidelines to determine if the watch is real or not:
Genuine Breitling Superocean
In a real Breitling, only the numerical day of the month (i.e. 20 for November 20th) is shown in the calendar display. This isn’t the case with many fakes, which also display the day of the week.
Breitling’s only model that shows the inside of the watch while still in tact is the Bentley Mulliner. This model is relatively rare, so be aware if your Breitling has this feature (also called an “open-heart” or “skeleton” design).
In most Breitling models, the movement of the second hand is constant, so if you hear or see a separate “ticking” noise/motion for each second, then that should be a warning that your watch is a fake.
Breitlings always have their serial number displayed on one of the links if the strap is made of metal, or on the back of the watch if the strap is made of leather. Every Breitling serial number is unique to the specific watch, so that if you were to do an Internet search of your watch’s serial number, the same model will appear in the search results. If there are different or no results for your serial number, or it is not displayed anywhere on the watch, then you can assume that your watch is a fake.
If the Breitling comes with its original strap, then the company’s name will always appear deeply engraved on the buckle. Many fakes lack this feature, or it is not deeply engraved if present. (Picture)
Speaking of straps, if yours is made of leather, then the words “cuir veritable” should appear if made of classic (bovine) leather, or “croco veritable” if made of crocodile leather. If neither appears on your Breitling’s leather watch strap, or it’s incorrectly labeled, then it is most likely a fake. However, if you bought your Breitling used, you can disregard this step, as the original owner may have replaced the strap.
The crystal of Breitlings have a very light bluish glare, if any, when exposed to light, whereas fakes have a blinding white glare. This is because of the Sapphire crystal used in most of the newer breitling models. If you vintage breitling has a plastic feeling or acrylic domed type crystal, fear not, most vintage Breitlings were originally made with this type of crystal.
And if your Breitling is new, always make sure to ask for a certificate that comes with all new models. If your dealer cannot give you the certificate in this case, you can usually assume it’s a fake.
Panerais always come with a sandwich dial, which just means that the luminescent green font of the numbers on the dial is actually made of fabric sandwiched in between two pieces of black velvet, hence its name. If you look closely enough and realize that this detail is missing, then you can suspect your watch to be a fake.
The 9 o’clock marker is absent in a real Panerai, with the left subdial in its place. However, a fake Panerai will usually have the 9 o’clock marker present, with the left subdial appearing further towards the right.
The hands of a genuine Panerai will always be on the longer side, enough to touch the edge of the dial. However, a fake Panerai will usually have shorter hands.
All words displayed on the case of an real Panerai will be engraved deeply on the watch and clear to read. On a fake, these words will be acid-stamped, thus making them more difficult to read.
The crown of a Panerai is always flat and wide, with most fakes missing this detail. In addition, the crown protector on the real version will be attached to the case and have a handle that fits perfectly along it. Fakes do not normally have these features, and the handle will also be too long or short in many instances.
All real Panerais have angled lugs, whereas fakes typically have straight ones. In regards to the strap, all Panerais come with hand-stitched leather straps, and the stitching is clearly visible because of it. However, fakes usually do not have visible stitching, if any (sometimes the strap is just kept together with leather glue in these instances). In addition, the buckle on a real Panerai will always be stamped with the reference number and the company’s name. On a fake, the reference number will be difficult to read if it’s even on there at all.
Genuine Rolex Submariner
The serial and model numbers of a real Rolex will always appear shiny and clearly visible on the side of the watch just behind the 6:00 mark. If a fake comes with a serial number, it will appear more dull due to being acid etched, and/or appear in a different place on the watch.
If you look inside a genuine Rolex, you will notice that the name of the company is engraved on the movement. You will not find this detail on a fake.
The small, convex magnifying glass above the date window on a real Rolex is known as a cyclops. This detail usually appears straight or less magnified on a fake, if it appears at all.
All Rolex watches are waterproof, whereas fakes usually aren’t. However, we do not recommend putting your watch in water to determine its authenticity, as you will still want to return it to your dealer in working condition if it is fake.
Real Rolexes do not have any engravings on the back of the case, while a fake may have this feature.
If a genuine Rolex was made after 2002, it will always have a micro-etched crystal of the company’s logo. However, this feature is extremely difficult to see with the naked eye, so it is best to go to a reputed jeweler to determine its presence.
Fake Patek Philippe
If your Patek Philippe model has subdials, they will always be symmetrically placed, functional, and with the correct detailing in a real version. This will not be the case in a fake.
The pusher on a genuine Patek Philippe will be smooth and easily placed; most models have only one. On a fake, they will typically be rough, tilted, and/or have multiples, if there are any present.
Swiss watch makers put great care into crafting their watches that generally do not come with fakes. With this in mind, if you want a luxury watch, please buy the real version if you can afford it.