Nothing says luxury like a Cartier watch. The cerulean cabochon, the enchanting guilloché, the seamless movement—these are the inimitable hallmarks of Cartier’s timeless timepieces.
However, forgeries are an inevitable part of any luxury industry, and watches are no exception. The global trade of counterfeit Swiss-made watches reached over $3.5 billion in 2018 alone, so there’s reason to use caution when purchasing a Cartier watch.1
With that said, discerning a real from a fake Cartier watch is simple enough—as long as you know what to look for in the most popular Cartier watches. This thorough guide will help you understand how to tell if a Cartier watch is real.
The Key Points of Inspection
As one of the foremost makers of fine watches, Cartier’s craftsmanship is unmatched. On a genuine timepiece, even the tiniest of flaws will be absent.
Apart from the overall construction of your watch—which should be of the utmost quality—there are several areas to scrutinize more carefully when looking at the best Cartier watches for ladies or men. When you or a Cartier authorized dealer are handling a new or pre-owned Cartier watch before purchase, these are the five details you should examine.
#1 The Screws
If you’re wondering how to tell if a new or pre owned Cartier watch is genuine or if your Cartier watch will hold its value, the case is an excellent place to start. Cartier cases will never “snap on.” There should always be flathead screws holding together the front and back of a Cartier watch case.
If you see a watch with cross-shaped Phillips head screws—or, worse yet, imprints of screws—don’t buy it.
#2 The Dial
One of the telltale signs of many a Cartier watch is the ornate rippling pattern on the dial. The precise beauty of this decorative detail—called a guilloché—is nearly impossible for fraudsters to replicate. If the markings are missing or the spacing between the undulating lines seems uneven, you may have a replica Cartier on your hands.
The dial contains two other signs of authenticity that are often omitted:
The words “SWISS MADE” appear below the 6 o’clock marker (VI), close to the bezel. This minute element is nearly imperceptible, making it a commonly forgotten feature on even the best forgeries.
The Secret Signature
On either the 7 or 10 o’clock marker (VII or X), you’ll find the word “Cartier” written in delicate capital letters. Called the “secret signature,” it’s an oft-missed detail that can confirm the authenticity of your watch.
#3 The Case Back
The inscriptions on the case back of a genuine Cartier watch tell a story. Turn your timepiece over, and you should notice the following details:
- The Cartier logo
- The declaration that the watch is “Swiss made”
- The words “water resistant”
- A four-digit model number
- An eight-character serial number with two letters and six digits
Depending on the model you have, you may also find the words “automatic” and “stainless steel.”
Perhaps more important than what is engraved on your case back is how it is engraved. The inscriptions should be clearly defined and engraved somewhat deeply into the material. Look out for lightly etched lettering or crooked placement—both are signs of forgery.
#4 The Signature Blue Appointments
On some of the most popular Cartier watches, including the Ballon Bleu, Santos, Tank, Ronde, and Panthère, the brilliant blue details make a remarkable statement. The hands of these watches should be a deep sapphire blue.
Additionally, the crown should be capped with a matching blue cabochon stone. The gemstone of a true Cartier watch will be set into the crown’s metal, not glued in place.
#5 The Weight
Quite simply, real Cartier watches are heavy. Not so heavy as to be cumbersome, but you should feel the weight of such a tour de force timepiece on your wrist.
The sturdy, scratch-proof sapphire crystal glass that protects the dial is a hallmark of Cartier’s design. Similarly, the premium stainless steel or gold of the case will have a certain weight and sturdiness that conveys the quality of the materials.
If the watch feels light or hollow, there’s a high chance you’re holding a Cartier fake.
What To Do If You Think Your Cartier Watch is Fake
If, after checking all of the above factors, you still find yourself asking, “how can I tell if my Cartier watch is real?” bring it to an authorized Cartier dealer like CJ Charles. A reputable jeweler can quickly tell the difference between a genuine Cartier and replica watches.
Always Buy from an Authorized Dealer
Whether you’re buying a Cartier watch new or pre-owned, always shop with a trusted seller. In addition to the peace of mind that comes with an authorized dealer, you’ll receive a certificate of authenticity with your purchase. Should you ever choose to sell your stunning timepiece, your buyer won’t have any need for a guide like this—they’ll know they hold a genuine Cartier watch.
When Nothing But the Real Thing Will Do, Trust CJ Charles Jewelers
When you choose CJ Charles Jewelers for your Cartier watches, you choose to exceed the ordinary. Our team of experts will gladly answer any questions you may have about our range of luxury watches—watches that are guaranteed to be the real thing.
- Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie. Counterfeiting “costs” the Swiss watch industry CHF 2 billion. https://www.cjcharles.com/collections/cartier