Wear-induced roughness in terms of grooves, sharp ridges, and edges leads to scattering of the reflected light and leads unavoidably to a reduction of the optical signals in a standard specular geometry. However, by using a double-layer system consisting of titanium aluminum nitride (TiAlN) on top of a titanium nitride (TiN) layer we obtain an increase in the reflected light as a result of wear. The relative change of reflectance of light from the tribological TiAlN coated surface to the underlying layer of TiN is similar for non-worn surfaces and for surfaces exposed to an abrasive wear process. The induced roughness reduces the signals from worn samples, in a standard specular geometry, by up to 30% compared with unworn samples. Our model system of TiAlN coatings on top of ‘optical’ signal layers of TiN deposited on a 100Cr6 steel substrate, was exposed to a reciprocating wear process with up to 105 repetitive cycles in a linear tribometer. The worn TiAlN layers of thicknesses up to 3 lm, with strongly developed grooves and ridges, were subsequently used for the reflectance measurements. The results show that optical reflectance monitoring is a potential technique for intelligent determination of a residual thickness of realistic tribological coatings prior to complete wear.