Rolex or Fauxlex?

May 12th, 2012 by James L. Sweaney, CGA, FGA. GG

A recent appraisal exemplifies the challenges we face in our appraisal practice. A young doctor contacted us, anxiously inquiring if we were qualified to appraise Rolex watches. He wanted to return a watch he purchased on the internet, but the vendor required a written appraisal from a qualified appraiser. The client had shown the watch to several Rolex dealers who told him the watch was not a Rolex. We’re not watchmakers, but frequently value Rolex watches for insurance. We also buy Rolex watches for resale in our Estate department.

We’re always extremely cautious when appraising or purchasing Rolex watches. The most well known watch brand on the planet, Rolexes are the most counterfeited items we see in our business. Usually, they are very easy to detect, with dead giveaways like glass windows that allow you to see the movement or quartz movements or crude attempts to copy the Rolex marks. This watch proved to be much more of a test.

Our client had purchased the watch on Ebay, where it was represented as a 1972 gent’s Rolex DateJust, stainless steel and gold. It was accompanied by a “Horological Institute” appraisal, which described the watch and and stated the retail replacement value to be $9200.00. Our client told us he paid $2600, so the first flag was the “feel good” valuation. Common sense should tell you that the person you are buying from is not going to give you $6600 worth of value for nothing.

We read the appraisal carefully and noticed several more discrepancies.

The photo on the appraisal and the description did not match the watch, which had a Rolex Oyster style bracelet– photo and description were of the Rolex Jubilee style bracelet.

The appraisal stated the watch was stainless steel and gold– careful examination of the gold colored sections of the bracelet revealed they were gold plated, not solid karat gold as a real Rolex would be.

The appraisal described the dial as custom set with .10 ct of VS G-H single cut diamonds– our inspection showed the stones were not single cut, but fully brilliant cut, and were not diamond, but were CZ .

On opening the case, to our surprise, the movement appeared to be a Rolex Oyster Perpetual– like the bracelet and dial, it had correct Rolex trademarks, and it’s overall quality was excellent. Both of our watchmakers who examined it initially thought the movement was genuine Rolex. Only by carefully comparing the movement with a genuine Oyster perpetual movement were we able to detect subtle differences– the layout of the movement wasn’t quite right, and other small details such as  the notching on the gears, the anodizations and finish, and some of the numberings didn’t match up. A fine quality movement, but not Rolex.

Genuine Rolex movement

We concluded that this was a high grade counterfeit. We had heard about such high quality fakes, manufactured in Italy and Switzerland, that are so good they can fool even a skilled watchmaker.

Some “Fauxlex” watches are mere imitations, with enough obvious differences from the real Rolex to be easily recognized for what they are. You can find these all over the internet, most selling for less than $100.

In this case, the maker copied the genuine article with precision and skill, with the obvious intent to deceive and cash in on the Rolex brand and reputation. Since the movement in this case was of such excellent quality, we appraised the piece for $300, but nowhere near the $2600 our client paid. We wished him luck getting his money back.

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One Response to “Rolex or Fauxlex?”

  1. SarahE Says:

    I love vintage jewelry and frequently shop on eBay, but as this post illustrates, it pays to be leery of listings selling some premium brands. Sometimes a fake is poorly enough done that it sets off warning bells right away. More often, though, the quality is fair to good and much better than the buyer’s knowledge of what the genuine article should look like. This buyer is lucky he found you and I hope things worked out for him. Thanks for a very informative, and interesting, post.

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