Rolex watches are prized for their incredible quality and value, making them popular targets for thieves and counterfeiters alike. So when buying a Rolex, how can you be sure it’s genuine, and can Rolex watches be traced?

Rolex watches are traceable as every genuine Rolex watch has a serial number and the model number engraved on the watch. Rolex keeps an extensive database of every watch they have ever produced, and tracing them can be done online with your serial number.

Rolex has gone to great lengths to protect its customers from buying fake products as a global premium brand. Their best way to counter this is to encourage customers to register them with Rolex as a security measure. Let’s learn more about how this works, whether your Rolex is genuine and legal, and how to trace a stolen one.

Rolex Serial And Model Numbers And Where To Find Them

Rolex has a proud heritage and is recognized and respected as one of the world’s premier watch brands. Owning a Rolex exudes status and success, and Rolex themselves make every effort to protect their IP by etching both the model and serial number on the watch.

Where To Find Your Rolex Serial Number

The serial number is engraved on the watch on the six o’clock side on the steel plate where the body meets the bands on both sides. To find the serial number, you will need to remove the strap, and as you do, you will see the serial number underneath it.

The Rolex Reference Or Model Number And Where To Find It

The reference or model number is on the watch’s opposite side from the serial number. This is etched in the same position as the serial number but on the twelve o’clock side of the watch. If you have taken the strap off to check the serial number, you may also check the model number.

How To Tell If A Rolex Is Genuine

As with many of the world’s premium watch brands, scammers make a lot of money every year by selling thousands of fake Rolex’s to unsuspecting customers with promises of great prices, and sadly too many people fall for it.

The saying that ‘if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is’ is particularly relevant regarding these timepieces as they represent the pinnacle of success and status and everybody wants to own one!

So, here are some professional tips that you can use when looking at a Rolex to tell if it’s genuine and some additional advice on where and where not to buy your Rolex.

Where Not To Buy A Rolex

Never buy one from a street vendor, no matter how convincing they are. Rolex dealers are certified and authorized as genuine distributors, and the cliched image of the range of luxury watches pinned inside a greatcoat should raise red flags by the dozen!

No reputable dealer of these watches will be offering them on the street for a fraction of their actual value.

Don’t buy Rolexes online unless the dealer has a real-life brick-and-mortar store with an actual address that you could visit. If you don’t have a store reference that you can confirm and a business name and brand you can verify, stay away!

Any second-hand Rolex should have the option available for physical inspection; second, they all come with warranties.

If they cannot produce the paperwork that accompanies all Rolexes, it indicates that this is not a genuine product and that you are about to lose a lot of money, because the chances of you getting that paperwork on the street is less than zero.

Now that you know where not to buy a Rolex let’s look at how you can identify a real one from a fake.

How To Tell If A Rolex Is Genuine

Companies that make premium value products like Rolex know there is a vast market for stolen and fake products.

We will look at how to recover and trace a stolen Rolex later on, but for now, let’s look at some methods you can use to determine whether the Rolex you are looking at or have is a genuine article.

Check The Serial Number Appearance

Real Rolex serial is engraved and will appear as deeply, solidly etched numbers in the steel, while the fake serial number may appear a sandy and light in texture, lacking depth and robustness when looked at in the light.

The Back Of The Case Is Solid

Aside from a few Rolex models from the 1930s, all Rolex case backs are solid steel and smooth with no engravings or markings, and Rolex has never produced a model with a transparent back case or with any markings.

Rolexes Are Heavy

Because Rolex uses superior materials to produce their watches, a genuine Rolex will feel heavy in your hands. If it feels lightweight or flimsy, the chances are you are holding a fake.

The Cyclops Lens Over The Date

Rolex uses a specific magnification for this lens that magnifies the date. The Cyclops lens magnifies the numbers 2.5 times, making it easier to read. If the date numbers seem abnormally large or small and difficult to read, the chances are that the watch you are looking at is not a genuine Rolex.

The Watch Text Is Precise

One of the quickest and easiest visual ways to tell a fake Rolex from a real one is to check the text on the watch face. Rolex is precision watches, and their text will be perfectly aligned, clear, and smooth to the eye with no evidence of misalignment, uneven spacing, or bubbling. If you see any of those characteristics, it’s not a genuine Rolex.

You Get What You Pay For

The average price for a Rolex would fall between $7000 and $12000, and even second-hand models would be expensive. If you are offered a Rolex for well below that price, it is either stolen or fake and best kept far away from your cash.

Rolexes can sell for up to $75000 or more, the most expensive watches can sell for millions of dollars, and Paul Newman’s Daytona Ref. 6239 sold for more than $17 million on auction in 2017.

Rolex Don’t Use Rubber

Rolex has never used rubber on a strap or case in all the years of producing watches, so if you feel rubber anywhere on the watch, it’s a fake.

Skeleton Dial Rolexes Are Fake

Skeleton dial watches show the internal workings and mechanism of the watch. While some premium brands offer this style and design, Rolex has never made a watch with a skeleton dial – if the Rolex you are looking at has a skeleton dial, it’s a fake.

No Rolex Has Ever Been Made In China

Over the years, Rolex has manufactured its watches in various countries outside of Switzerland, including Italy, Venezuela, Mexico, and the USA. Still, they have never manufactured timepieces in China. If your Rolex says “Made In China, ” regardless of how heavy it is or how close the characteristics of the watch resemble the real thing – it’s a fake.

Rolex Does Not Use Gold Plating, Chrome, Or Chrome Plating

Rolexes that utilize gold only use 14 karats or 18 karat gold, and you will never find gold plating on a genuine Rolex. Their Oyster range uses only platinum, steel, or gold, and if you find chrome or chrome-plate on your Rolex, sadly, this is not a real one either.

The Rolex Box Is Distinctive

With every Rolex, you get the box, and these boxes carry the same feeling of luxury and quality as the timepieces they hold. They are larger than standard size boxes for other watches, and if your Rolex came in a small package, the chances are it’s not a genuine Rolex.

Genuine Rolexes Have Paperwork

We touched on this earlier during the discussion. When buying a genuine Rolex, it comes with papers, which are the warranties and chronometer certificates, and through these, the watch can be traced and tracked using the matching serial numbers.

Also, remember that if the watch does not come with paperwork, this could well indicate that it has been stolen, and you can use the methods below to check if the watch has been stolen.

Check The Rolex Watch Mechanism

You can do the steps yourself, but another way to check your Rolex’s authenticity is to examine the watch’s internal mechanism.

Still, this procedure is best left to qualified and Rolex-certified watchmakers as the watch has to be opened and put back together.

All Rolexes are mechanical and automatic, so they are not powered by a battery or quartz mechanism. Inspecting this aspect of the Rolex is a sure-fire way to determine whether the watch is genuine or not, but again, this must be done by a certified watchmaker.

Now that you know all the tricks and tips to identify whether the Rolex you are looking at is a genuine article let’s look at how you can trace your Rolex and determine whether it has been stolen or is a legitimate product.

The Rolex Gang

Rolex watches are in high demand, making them a valuable target for criminals, where gangs and syndicates specialize in stealing them.

Until 2021  In South Africa, a syndicate called the Rolex Gang terrorized citizens in Johannesburg, targeting Rolex owners and often hijacking and robbing them at gunpoint. They only took the watches, even though many victims had other valuables.

How To Determine Whether A Rolex Is Stolen

You can use several channels to check the legitimacy of your Rolex, starting with the paperwork you get with the watch. As mentioned previously, genuine Rolexes come with warranties and chronometer certificates, and any genuine new or second-hand Rolex will have these. The seller will be aware that without them, there will be doubt about the watch’s authenticity.

Secondly, Rolex encourages their clients to register their watches with the company and will have the serial number on record permanently.

If the watch is reported stolen and then pops up on their network elsewhere, it can be identified via the serial number, and appropriate action can be taken to return the watch to its owner.

Contact Rolex HeadQuarters

If you suspect your Rolex is stolen or your Rolex has been stolen, you can contact Rolex head office and report the incident or give them the serial number, and they will advise you whether the watch has been reported stolen or not.

Because both the reference and serial numbers are listed on the certificate and the Rolex database, it is a relatively simple task to determine the authenticity of the watch you are looking at. 

The Lawsuit

For many years, a website called invited Rolex owners to register their serial numbers on this website to prevent theft and to make stolen Rolexes easier to trace.

However, in late 2018, Rolex filed a lawsuit against the website owner for trademark infringement, unfair competition,  trademark dilution, and cybersquatting, claiming that the site owner had unlawfully used the trademark terms and displayed their branding.

Rolex also claimed that the site owners used the Rolex name to drive traffic to the site and could not vouch for the services offered as this competes with the watchmaker’s in-house proprietary database and tracking systems to recover and track stolen Rolex watches around the world.

Rolex claimed that the defendant was creating a false impression of association with Rolex and using their name, reputation and goodwill to trade on their name, thereby confusing Rolex customers regarding the legitimacy of this ‘recovery’ business.

It seems Rolex’s action was upheld as this site is no longer available.


Rolex watches are, by their very nature, rare and highly recognizable in this world relative to other brands. As such, the manufacturer has gone to great lengths to ensure that their watches are both traceable and that fake watches can be identified to prevent fraud in the marketplace.

Suppose you own a Rolex and have not registered it yet. In that case, that should be the next step you take after reading this so that in the event your watch is stolen, reporting and tracing it can be done easily and quickly – after all, this is an investment, and investments should be protected at all times.


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