Rolex or replica, that is the question. Rolex watches, a top-quality luxury item, are strictly controlled. The authentic models are released in a calculated way to keep demand high. Knockoffs vary from fakes that are so obvious the phony can be spotted at 10 paces, to copies that are so close only a jeweler examining the parts could tell. Although you may think places that sell fakes are backstreet operations, there are also serious-looking stores that stock imitations difficult to tell from the real McCoy. Knowing what to look for when investing in a Rolex will save you the embarrassment of handing over real money for a fake product.
Feel the weight. A real Rolex is heavy because it is made from stainless steel that is recast under a vacuum to give it a finish that is resistant to corrosion. A good copy will inject lead to make the fake feel heavier. If the watch has any scratches on it, chances are it's a copy.
Check the case back. If the case back is clear, you don't have to look any further because Rolex doesn't make clear case backs. The only exception to this rule was two manual-wind models that were made in the 1930s.
Look for engravings on the case back. A real Rolex has a smooth case back without engravings. Copies, on the other hand, often have ornate Rolex engravings that identify them as imitation rolex watches.
Examine the hologram sticker. A genuine Rolex has a 3-D sticker on the case back. Looking at it from different angles causes the hologram to change. The Rolex crown and reference number were changed from gold to black in 2002, so check that as well.
Inspect the date magnification. A real Rolex has a magnification bubble of 2.5 over the date to make it easier to read. A fake will have a magnification of 1.5 at best.
Scrutinize the stem for a rubber seat. Pull out the stem as though you were going to wind the watch and look check to see if there is a black O-ring on the Daytona, Submarine or Sea-Dweller models.
Study the hands. The Yacht-Master's minute hand is thicker than the hour hand. Make sure the minute hand on a Daytona extends to the hash markings on the outer edge of the watch and is rounded rather than square.