Rolex Laser-Etched Crystal: Ultimate Guide

Rolex Laser Etched crystal

Rolex Laser Etched crystal: Ultimate Guide

Also known as Rolex LEC – Laster etched crystal. Also known as Rolex hologram on the crystal.

The Rolex laser-etched crown is a minuscule detail of modern Rolex watches that few people know about. As the name suggests, it is a small laser engraving in the crystal at the 6 o’clock position, just above the hour marker.

As you can guess, the laser-etched crown is yet another of Rolex’s many ways to tackle counterfeit watches. Rolex, for example, introduced the engraved rehaut of its watches, but many counterfeiters caught on, and the LEC is an even more technically advanced anti-counterfeiting measure.

So how does the Rolex laser-etched crown work, and when did it start? Learn everything about the Rolex LEC in this article.

When did Rolex start with the laser-etched crystal?

Rolex began with the laser-etched crystal in 2001, and it was implemented in the entire Rolex collection, including the Cellini models in 2003 or the beginning of 2004. The only Rolex watch that does not have the laser-etched crystal is the Milgauss with green glass.

The introduction of the laser-etched crown was done step by step and only started with the Submariner no-date, Air King, Explorer, and Daytona models. The Y series followed in 2002.

Some sources state that the ladies’ watches started receiving the LEC in the spring of 2000 and that the Yachtmaster got the crown in 1999. Have in mind that it varies from model to model how early the etched crystal was implemented. For example, the Explorer 16570 got the LEC crystal in 2006.

Rolex etched crown

The laser-etched crown is very difficult to see with the naked eye, and this is one of the reasons many people are not aware that it exists. But how can you see it?

The fact is that the crown in the crystal is technically not engraved or etched on the crystal. Instead, the etching is inside the glass, and small dots (bubbles) create the coronet inside the crystal. The dots are placed at different heights so that it doesn’t create a weakness in the crystal.

How to spot the Rolex laser-etched crystal

The LEC is particularly difficult to see if the watch has a light-colored dial. On the black dial, it’s relatively easy to spot the coronet if you know where to look.

If you cannot find the coronet, try using a loupe. Make sure that you have good lighting. Make sure that you also have bright light and look at it from an angle.

Another way to look at it if you still cannot find it is to use a small flashlight and light with it from the 12 towards the 6 o’clock position. This will make the LEC glow up so that you can see it with your naked eye.

Rolex Laser etched crystal

Another way is to use a camera with a macro lens if you have one. The camera may be able to see it even if you don’t.

At this time, it is “only” a corroded or etched coronet with a thicker, more constant structure as a result. You can recognize these with the naked eye easily and therefore it is quite easy to expose a counterfeit. However, it is only a question of time before better laser coronets occur in the counterfeit market and the laser coronet on its own is no 100% identification of a genuine watch.

All Rolex has the LEC at the 6 o’clock position, but have in mind that if the crystal has been changed, the crown may be at a different place. Only, of course, if the crystal has not been applied in the right way.

Rolex service crystal

If you have had your crystal serviced, it may have gotten a service crystal.

On a service crystal, you will still have the laser-etched crown, however, if it is an original service crystal, it will have a small “S” inside the crown.

At the same time, there have been reports of people who have had their crystal replaced and gotten a crystal without the ”S” inside the coronet (which stands for service).

But there is no set rule here. Most of the time, if you have the crystal replaced by an authorized Rolex service center, you will get a service crystal with an ”S” inside the coronet. But in some cases, you may get a replacement crystal without the S. In fact, you may even get a crystal without the crown at all.

Rolex laser etched crown service crystalHaving a service crystal with the S inside the coronet does not necessarily devalue your watch. It just indicates that the crystal has been changed sometime during its lifetime.

Have in mind that even if your watch is older than when the laser-etched crystals were introduced, it may still have a crystal with the coronet. This can happen if your watch is serviced or repaired, and the crystal is replaced with a non-time-correct crystal for the model.

Rolex laser etched crystal

If your Rolex watch does not have the laser-etched crystal…

There can be several reasons why your watch does not have the crown.

The most common reason amongst people who ask is that their watch does, in fact, have it, but it’s just that it’s so tiny and difficult to see that they miss it.

Another reason is that you have a model that is not supposed to have it. Not all models got it at the same time, and your watch may be produced earlier.

A possibility is also that the crystal has been replaced and the ”wrong” crystal has been used.

Do fake watches have the laser-etched Rolex crown?

Do not mistake that as long as a watch has a laser-etched crown, it is authentic. Because the fact is that counterfeits have already caught on to the laser-etched crystal.

Some fake watches have the laser-etched coronet, however, most of these coronets are very poorly made, and will be visible at just a glance. The crowns will almost look acid-etched, and the best way to tell them is that you can see them clearly with the naked eye.

If you are still struggling to find the laser-etched crown, refer to this video:

77 thoughts on “Rolex Laser-Etched Crystal: Ultimate Guide

  1. Fantastic article. I bought a 2019 Submariner and panicked when I could’t see the etched crown. Used a loupe and nothing, read the article and then used a flashlight at 12 angled down. Low and behold the crown appeared, sighs of relief!

    1. Glad to hear! It can definitely be a bit tricky to see!

      Kind regards,
      Millenary Watches

  2. Can’t seem to find this in my F serial Daytona 116523. It’s a 2003-04 one. You think this could have made its way to this model slightly later considering F series is from 2003-2005? Thanks

    1. Hi,
      Yes, it is possible that the laser-etched crystal hadn’t been rolled out fully for this model yet as it is from the transition period.

      Kind regards,
      Millenary Watches

  3. Greetings!

    As your article states… Rolex “began with the laser-etched crystal in 2001, and it was implemented in the entire Rolex collection, including the Cellini models in 2003 or the beginning of 2004”.

    However, I cannot see the LEC on my Datejust II from 2013. I have been using a lighted magnifying glass to try and find it.

    I purchased this watch brand new from an authorized Rolex dealer (Underwood’s Jewelers) in Jacksonville, FL in June 2013, complete with chronometer certification and warranty card. Is it possible that Rolex was not utilizing this method on ALL models in 2013?

    1. Hi,
      It sounds strange that this model does not have it. And since you bought it brand new from an authorized retailer, it’s not likely that the crystal was changed for a crystal that do not have the LEC.
      I would guess that your crystal has it, just that it is so minuscule that you have a hard time seeing it. This is the only logical explanation I can think of as it is too old to have been a “new old stock” watch that has been lying in the safe for that long (most likely), and if it was produced around 2013, even a few years earlier, it was still some time between the production of the watch and when Rolex fully rolled out the LEC to all models.

      Try looking for it again in different angles and using a flashlight from a horizontal angle and you should be able to find it.

      Kind regards,
      Millenary Watches

  4. My 2005 Explorer, which I bought used in 2018 and had serviced by Rolex right away, really doesn’t seem to have it, and I’ve looked with light, with a loupe, everything. Rolex didn’t raise any flags about non-original parts when they had it, and the only piece they replaced was the crown. You think it’s possible Rolex were still working through a supply of non-etched crystals that late? I can’t think of any other explanation. Thanks.

    1. Hi,
      Yes, that is certainly a possibility. It’s also worth pointing out that your watch may have been serviced prior to you purchasing it. Most Rolex service centers simply didn’t throw away the crystals they had on the day that Rolex started to roll out the laser-etched crystal. In fact, some watches that are serviced today receive crystals without them, depending on where they are serviced. With that said, it is absolutely possible that the crystal is a real Rolex crystal but just not a laser-etched Rolex crystal.

      If they didn’t react, it’s probably a genuine Rolex crystal but just an older version. It’s certainly not uncommon and nothing to worry about.

      Kind regards,
      Millenary Watches

  5. Hey I purchased a 2023 Yacht master -40 with the chocolate dial. Having a hard time finding the LEC. Bought it from an AD with all papers

    1. Hi,
      This watch should certainly have it. If you purchased it right from the AD, there’s no doubt that it has it – it’s just minuscule and difficult to see 😉

      Kind regards,
      Millenary Watches

  6. Hi,

    i’ve purchased a 2003 Datejust 16234. I’ve really looked from any angle, with flashlight, with loupe, with Macro Lens. There is no LEC. Could it be that the 5-digit DJs didn’t get the LEC in these years? I think those were the first DJs with sapphire crystal, so could this be totally normal that there is no LEC?

    Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi,
      It’s difficult to say. It could be that it’s just very difficult to see it. It could also be that the crystal has been mounted correctly so the LEC is in a different place than at 6 o’clock. It’s always hard to say in the early years as there are discrepancies and it’s not as clear-cut as Rolex may have used shelf-parts from other models in the beginning. That said, it’s not completely impossible that the watch did indeed come without an LEC from factory. A tip is to at least check that it is a sapphire crystal and not a sapphire crystal.

      Kind regards,
      Millenary Watches

  7. Hi, my brother purchased a 1998 16610 Submariner yesterday from an AD in the UK. The crystal appears to have been replaced at some point and has the LEC in the right place. However, it does not have the service ‘S’ within the etching. Is it feasible to have a non ‘S’ LEC used in service?

    1. Hi,
      Yes, absolutely. It’s very common that the service centers simply order new crystals that do not have the “S” in them. In fact, the “S” was more common back in the day. Nowadays, most replacement crystals simply have the regular coronet.

      Kind regards,
      Millenary Watches

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