How to Spot a Fake Luxury Watch

This is the first post of a three part how-to series offering guidance for luxury watch buyers.

If you plan to shop around for your next timepiece, you should know how to spot a fake luxury watch. With an estimated 40 million fake Swiss watches flooding the market each year, luxury watch buyers are at risk of buying a counterfeit watch.

Before you begin shopping for a luxury watch, you need to research the brand and the model you’re interested in. You should know what the real watch looks like in order to detect deviations. Look on the brand’s official website or one of their authorized dealers for images of the authentic model. While the internet is a good place to start, actually visiting an authorized dealer to handle the watch in person is the best way to learn how the genuine article feels and sounds.

Once you’ve done your research, here are 6 ways to spot a fake luxury watch:

1. Spot a fake seller

You can often spot a fake luxury watch by the seller. Researching the seller is just as important as researching the watch. Counterfeit watches aren’t no longer sequestered to back alley transactions and shoddy websites. In fact, counterfeit imposter sites can mimic a brand’s official website so closely that consumers are unknowingly duped into buying counterfeit goods. When shopping online, The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry FH  advises consumers to be wary of a website that is new, not listed in search engines or that provides no valid contact address. It’s also wise to check if the business is registered with the Better Business Bureau.

2. Spot a fake price

Albeit obvious, price is certainly something to consider. Swiss and ultra high-end luxury watches like Audemars Piguet, Franck Muller and Patek Phillipe are famously expensive, and for a good reason. Fine quality materials and intricate, hand-manufactured mechanisms don’t come cheap and aren’t sold with steep discounts. In fact, boutique-quality replicas, or superfakes, can sell for prices similar to MSRP of the authentic model. Even if the price is only slightly lower than you’d expect, be sure to rule out any of the following signs commonly seen with fake watches.

3. Spot a fake dial

The dial text of an authentic watch will be perfect in every way: spelling, spacing and alignment. First and foremost, check for the obvious- misspellings including a misspelled logo. Counterfeiters will sometimes misspell logos in an attempt to avoid forgery lawsuits. The logo should also be perfectly placed and aligned. Inspect it for mispositioned letters and inconsistent letter spacing. Finally, pay particular attention to the font, as it is usually proprietary to the brand.

4. Spot a fake serial number

The serial and model numbers of authentic luxury watches will be perfectly aligned and deeply stamped with solid lines. Conversely, the numbers on a fake or replica watch are often out of position, etched unclearly or in a completely different font than the original. When closely examined, lower quality markings can be made up of tiny, faint dots or have a sandy-like appearance from acid etching. If possible, you should always contact the brand to verify the serial number.

5. Spot a fake case

There are several items to observe when inspecting the watch case: weight, finish and dimensions.


Counterfeit watches are made with cheaper materials and tend to feel lighter than the authentic model. Obviously the weight of the watch cannot be observed unless inspected in person. However, telltale signs of low quality materials include rust, chips or spots worn through to the base metal.


Genuine luxury watches are also hand finished to be even and smooth. A watch case with inconsistent color, sharp edges or rough finishing is immediately suspect.


Knowing the exact case dimensions of the watch case is also important, particularly the thickness. If the watch is thicker than it should be, it’s likely to house a counterfeit movement.

6. Spot a fake movement

Movement refers to the internal mechanism of the watch, which affects the volume and movement of the hands.


Swiss luxury watches are engineered with smooth movement mechanisms that function at a low volume. If you are purchasing the watch in person, take note of audible ticking. You should not be able to hear the ticking unless the watch is close to your ear.


Closely observe the movement of the hands. Counterfeit watches tend to have fewer jewels, which results in rougher movement. However, detecting a fake movement will ultimately require inspection by a professional. The most reliable way to verify authentic movement is to have it examined by an unbiased professional.

Stay tuned for part 2 and 3 of this series for more information on buying authentic luxury timepieces. encourages you to buy luxury watches from authorized dealers whenever possible. has partnered with TAG Heuer and Richard Mille to offer eTitle authentication. To instantly verify the authenticity of a TAG Heuer or Richard Mille timepiece, enter the serial number into our Check Authenticity search bar. To find a Authorized Retailer offering eTitles for TAG Heuer and Richard Mille timepieces, we welcome you to visit our store locator page.

Related: 5 Qualities Counterfeit Watches Can’t Copy