Structure Guide To Rolex Serial & Reference Numbers

Mar 15, 2019
Structure Guide To Rolex Serial & Reference Numbers

Hidden but not invisible, Rolex serial numbers and model numbers are usually engraved between the lugs of the watch. So, if you remove the bracelet, you will see them. Since serial numbers and model numbers serve distinctive purposes, we will talk about them individually.


First, Rolex is recognized as one of the powerful watchmakers in the world. It stands for high-quality and superior standards. Therefore, the Swiss brand is almost synonymous with “luxury watches” and “success.” With peerless sophistication and quality materials, the 904L steel – for example, Rolex watches tend to be pricey. In fact, the cheapest Rolex model has a retail price of around $3000.


For the above reason, Rolex has suffered from replication from copycats, whose goal is to deceive Rolex consumers and make money. Undeniably, it is the high demand of Rolex watches across the world that leads to all kinds of fake Rolex watches in the market. In some cases, fake watches could seem to be so real that only a watch expert could tell whether it is genuine or not.


Thus, Rolex has added a few extras on the watches, allowing consumers to spot a fake Rolex more easily. The Geneva-based watchmaker gives its watches unique serial numbers and model numbers. Subsequently, consumers should know better how to tell real watches from fake ones.


front view of Rolex GMT Master II Ref. 116758SA watch

Rolex Serial Numbers

First, when coming out of the production factory, every Rolex watch has its own unique serial number (though there are exceptions after the resetting of serial numbers). The serial number also shows buyers the approximate year of manufacture of the watch.


However, after the numbers reached #999,999 in 1954, Rolex underwent a resetting of serial numbers. This way, you can possibly find a 1960s’ Rolex watch that has a serial number similar to that of a 1950s’ model. To differentiate the pre-1954 and post-1954 serial numbers, Rolex refurbished the back case of the latter on the inside with date codes, although they’re only visible when the back case is open.


In 1987, Rolex serial numbers changed once again after reaching #9,999,999. Now all serial numbers come with an English alphabet and 6 digits. The alphabets, however, does not necessarily start alphabetically, as Rolex decided the serial numbers should start with “R” then “L” and “E.” In addition, there are also other non-sequential letters.


Most confusingly, the biggest significant change in Rolex serial numbers came about in late 2010. Indeed, those post-2010 Rolex watches with random serial numbers make it hard to tell the year of manufacture. Although Rolex did not give a reason for making random serial numbers, there are several speculations. One of them suggests that it is to fight against counterfeit watches.



front view of Rolex Datejust Ref. 179171 watch

Checking Rolex serial numbers

Traditionally, Rolex serial numbers are at 6 o’clock between the lugs. However, in 2005, Rolex also started engraving the numbers at 6 o’clock on the Rehaut (interior bezel under the crystal).


Unlike the past, today the onset of the internet has truly supported the watchmaking industry. As long as you have access to the Internet and check the serial numbers, you do not need to worry much.


Thus, with your purchase papers or the numbers on the 6 o’clock lugs/Rehaut, you can carry out a Rolex serial number lookup through the net and confirm its authentication. If it appears to be real, then you can identify the year of manufacture of your watch.


Despite the fact that Rolex has never released its official serial numbers, below is a Rolex serial number lookup chart that you can use to estimate the year your watch was released.

Rolex Model Numbers (Also “Reference Numbers”)

Unlike serial numbers, Rolex model numbers are usually the same for timepieces in the same collection. Generally, an authentic Rolex watch normally has its model/reference number engraved between the lugs at the 12 o’clock window.


In other words, Rolex model numbers are normally provided to show the model type of the watch, the nature of the bezel, and the material used. Now, take Rolex 16610 for example. Obviously, the first 166 means it’s a Rolex Submariner, has an engine-turned bezel (1) and is made of stainless steel (0).

ROLEX    COLLECTION NO. USED BEZEL TYPE NO. USED Polished 0 Submariner (no date) 55 & 140 Engine Turned 1 Submariner 16, 166 & 168 Engine Turned 2 Sea Dweller 16 & 166 Fluted 3 GMT Master 16, 65, 167 Hand-Crafted 4 GMT Master II 167, 1167 Pyramid 5 Day-Date (President) 65, 66, 18, 180, 182 & 183 Rotating Bezel 6 Datejust 16 & 162 Daytona Manual Wind 62 Daytona Cosmograph 165, 1165 MATERIAL NO. USED Explorer II 165 Stainless 0 Oyster Perpetual 10, 140, 142 Yellow Gold Filled 1 Airking 55 & 140 White Gold Filled 2 Date 15 & 150 Stainless & Yellow Gold 3 Oysterquartz Datejust 170 Stainless w/ 18k White Gold    4 Oysterquartz Day-Date 190 Gold Shell           5 Yachtmaster 166, 686 & 696 Platinum            6 Midsize Oyster Perp DJ 68, 682 14k Yellow Gold                7 Ladies Oyster Perpetual 67, 671, 672 18k Yellow Gold                 8 Ladies Date 65 , 69, 691 & 692 Ladies Datejust 65 , 69, 691 & 692

Although most of the watches are with 4-6 digits, some have extra letters that share more details of the watch. For example, a “16610LVRolex” watch means it’s a Rolex Submariner (166), composed of a Green (LV) Engine Turned bezel (1) and Stainless steel material.


In conclusion, it’s really important for you to conduct a Rolex serial number check as you get yourself a good Rolex watch for “timely” elegance. Clearly, you can do this either online or offline (if you have the reference chart).


On one hand, model numbers speak of the nature of the watch. On the other hand, serial numbers inform you of your watch’s originality. The serial numbers can also help you estimate the market value of a Rolex watch before you buy or sell it.

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