Here’s how you can tell a watch might be worth more than it appears — or if it’s actually a ‘super fake’ designed to fool even the experts


In September, Paul Altieri, the CEO and founder of Bob’s Watches, wrote a story for Robb Report about one of the most memorable stories he’d encountered in his watch resale career: A Canadian woman called him to say she’d found a Rolex stuck between the cushions of her thrift store couch.

The watch ended up being a rare, valuable timepiece – a vintage Rolex Daytona 6241 “Paul Newman” worth over $US250,000.

Understandably, the lucky finder’s tale went viral. Business Insider followed up with Altieri to learn some tips about how a non-expert can tell if a watch might be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, like the now-famous “Couch Watch” – or if it’s actually a fake.

Read more: A woman says she found a rare $US250,000 Rolex wedged in the cushions of a thrift-store couch she’d bought for $US25

Tell-tale signs a watch might be more valuable than it looks

If you, like the unnamed Canadian woman at the centre of Altieri’s story, stick your hand in a couch to retrieve a fallen phone and pull out a luxury watch instead, there are certain key things that might tip you off that your find is valuable.

Certain brands’ authentic timepieces are quite valuable across the board: “If it says Rolex or Patek Philippe on the dial, and it’s real, then chances are the watch in your hand could have significant value,” Altieri said.

Unfortunately, determining authenticity isn’t that simple – even for your average jeweller.

“Find a reputable dealer by searching online for an expert. Your local jeweller is usually not experienced enough with vintage watches to help you,” Altieri advised. “And I never recommend eBay or Craigslist or online forums for inexperienced buyers or sellers. There are simply way too many unscrupulous dealers there.”

As for whether the layman can tell he’s got a $US250,000 watch in his hands – there’s no one specific mark to look out for. But overall, an authentic luxury watch will have meticulous attention to detail.

“Look for quality of craftsmanship. Both companies make watches of superior workmanship. The quality of the dial, the polishing of the case, and the font (writing on the dial) will be perfect on an authentic timepiece,” Altieri said.

Tell-tale signs of a fake watch

The fake luxury watch market is becoming more and more sophisticated, according to Altieri. And some of the highest-quality fakes (known as “Super Fakes“) can cost up to $US500 and are difficult to spot – even for experts.

The average person can look out for certain hints that a watch is a run-of-the-mill fake, Altieri said:

  • Its weight – “Fakes are usually lighter in weight than authentic watches.”
  • Its craftsmanship – “The case, the dial, the hands, etc., is of poor quality.”
  • Its quartz movement – “The second hand moves/stutters along on a counterfeit watch, whereas a real Rolex has a smooth second hand movement.”