Have you also ever wondered where to authenticate watches?
If you have, there is a high chance that you want to know how authentic your great uncle’s Rolex is or what the family pocket watch heirloom costs in today’s money.
Sometimes, you might also want to be sure that you are getting good value for your money.
In this time and day when knockoffs are doing a great job of looking like the real thing, no one can blame you for wanting to be sure that you are not spending thousands on a bad purchase.
Read on to find some of the best methods to authenticate your watches – whether by yourself or with a reputable provider.
Method #1 – Authenticate by Yourself
You don’t have to spend any money on authenticating your watches when you can do it yourself.
I have mentioned somewhere on this website that I once bought a fake Casio watch too (a GA-2100 model). I did not know it was a fake till I was looking for a watch setting online and saw that the watch used for the tutorial was different from mine in some aspects.
Granted, that was not a luxury watch, but it still counts if you are buying any other watch also.
Here’s what to do:
Check the Serial Number
If the watch still has a serial number on it, all the better.
This method works best for luxury watches as they are the ones watch experts and brands care enough to list serial numbers for.
Unfortunately, we don’t think that these watchmakers have put much thought into creating personal online databases where users can check the authenticity of their watches. If you are tech-inclined and you are reading this, you might want to develop a start-up around the concept.
That said, we found a general online guide to serial numbers for Rolexes and authentic Omega serial numbers too. Depending on the make of your watch, check online for a serial number checker from a trusted database and cross-reference against it.
Special Note: While we don’t expect the databases to be wrong, remember that most of them are not maintained by the actual manufacturers of these watches. That one database doesn’t have your watch listed does not make the watch a fake.
Check the Model Number
My Casio watch above had the wrong serial number, but I didn’t know that at the time of purchase.
It looked like the real thing and works (still works to this day) but the model number does not tally with the original models.
Most fake Rolexes, for example, can be found out based on the model number only.
Fortunately, you just have to look around online to find the model numbers for most watches around today. If you cannot find yours there, or it seems off, there is a high chance that it is a fake.
Observe Design Elements
This approach is best suited to those who have a keen eye for details.
Otherwise, something might be right in front of you and you would not see it. Remember a random person on this page who bought a fake Casio watch again? (:side-eye)
Most counterfeiters don’t have the time and calm that original watchmakers had to put all of the timepiece together. Thus, they only need to get most of the watch right and forget about the rest because they know not many people will check that part out.
When observing the watch keenly, look out for the following:
- Wrong color tones
- Incorrect watch magnification glass size – works on watches that have a date window or any other complication that needs magnification
- Poor watch hands design
- Inaccurate case design
- Logos – they have to match in color weight, position, and design with an authentic watch of the same model
Check Watch Movements
If you can get to the back of your watch by yourself, you should look at the movement.
Anyone knowledgeable about watches should be able to tell a properly designed machine from a poor one. If you are not that experienced with watches, you might want to compare the movement on your unit to an authenticated original watch.
The emphasis is on authenticated because you might have the original watch and think that it is fake. After all, you compared against a fake. We don’t want you to be the person in those shoes.
Special Note: for family heirlooms and high-end luxury watches, we don’t recommend trying this step at home. It is easier to damage the watch – either externally or internally – when digging around like this.
Method #2 – Authenticate from Third Party Vendors
Many watch enthusiasts are always wary of putting their money on high-end watches.
Most times, these watches are not even new but second-hand versions which are still loved for their vintage appeal. Who is to say, though, that they are the real deal?
This is where reputable third-party vendors who go the extra mile come into the mix.
eBay has had an authentication program running for some time now and there has not been too much error on their part.
The retailer started with authenticating bags and quickly moved into the luxury watch department. Now, the eCommerce platform carries tens of thousands of luxury watches with a certified authentic badge.
eBay does not just take the word of vendors for it. The platform checks out all the watches on sale by itself to be sure that they are what they say they are.
The best thing about this move is that the company now features new, second-hand, and vintage watches for interested users. All authenticated, it becomes easier to buy a reputable watch from them right out of the box.
PS Even if after buying, the buyer feels that they got a fake, they can return the watch to be re-authenticated by an independent contractor. If it is discovered to be a fake, they get a full refund.
Method #3 – From Watchmakers
Fortunately, some watchmakers know that their buyers and target audience will need this kind of service.
We assume that if you are going back to the watchmaker, it is not because you wanted to buy a watch. After all, anything you buy directly from them will surely be the real deal.
When thinking of going back to verify from a watchmaker, here are the ones we know to offer such a service currently:
- Omega – for every Omega watch older than 30 years, the watchmaker will issue a Certificate of Authenticity. The caveat is that you have to take the watch to the officials in Switzerland. Otherwise, you can take it to a local Omega shop that participates in the program and they have it shipped over for you.
- Audemars Piguet – AP is at the heart of a lot of fakes so it is logical that they started a second-hand store. Since they will only buy back authentic AP watches, you can go there to have your timepiece checked for authenticity.
- Patek Phillipe – while it doesn’t want to have anything to do with second-hand watches, PP will help you check if your watch is an original or not. You’ll have to buy an ‘Extract from the Archives’ which can be sourced at the local stores. Afterward, you send pictures of the watch in (they have specifications for which shots to take) and wait for the brand to check the wristwatch’s authenticity for you.
- Richard Mille – this brand makes only a very few wristwatches so it doesn’t find it difficult to start and keep up with a pre-owned service. Thus, you can take your watch there for verification or just go buy an original pre-owned Richard Mille.
This is, by no means, an exhaustive list. That you don’t see your watchmaker here does not mean they don’t offer authentication services also.
Make sure to do some little digging around them to find out. You can simply reach out to their customer care reps and have all of your questions answered.
Method #4 – Go to a Watch Expert
Watch experts are not know-it-all but there is a high chance that they know more than you do about the timepiece you are carrying.
It is recommended that you go to specialized professional shops to get the watch authenticated. For example, don’t go checking the authenticity of a Rolex at an Omega shop.
Of course, they could help you run a few checks to see if it’s the real deal. Since that’s not what they deal with, though, they might not be in the best position to give you the best support.
There are also several reputable third-party expert brands that you can find online. Look for the best ones near you – or those that you can simply ship your watch to.
Make sure to only ship your watch to a trusted company, though.
Authentic luxury and/ vintage watches fetch a good sum and a non-reputable service won’t blink twice about stealing it from you.
Common Issues with Authenticating Watches
Authenticating watches, especially when doing it yourself, can be a hassle for a variety of reasons.
Named after the Frankenstein monster, this refers to watches that have different parts from different sources.
Some of these watches are originals that have had to be repaired and serviced over the years. Thus, new parts from other watches have been introduced into them.
Knowing that, some counterfeiters also take original parts of watches and blend them with new parts to make fakes that they can pass off as vintage.
Such a situation can make it slightly difficult to know if a watch is a real deal.
We mentioned this up there but it has to be reiterated.
Don’t authenticate your watch against a fake.
The fact is that you don’t know which of the watches is fake. Thus, if someone were to tell you that they had the original whereas it’s a fake, you would think yours is a fake.
In the worst-case scenario, you might even have a fake too but think that it is an original.
Make sure to only check your watch against certified authentic watches for the best results.
That’s all we have today on where to authenticate watches – whether you are just buying them for the first time or you want to confirm the originality of a piece that has come into your possession.
There might be more methods of authenticating your watch out there, but these are as straightforward and easy as possible. Most of the methods here won’t cost you a thing so we believe that sits down well with you.
We wish you just the best and most authentic timepieces ever.