Rolex designs some of the best watches in the world. Not only are they beautiful and expensive, but they also run like clockwork. Inside every Rolex is a secret history of what it is and where it came from - and it wants you to know it.
Here’s a guide to help you understand your Rolex better than ever before.
Firstly, don’t confuse model numbers with serial numbers.
These are two totally different things. The Serial number is a unique number only for your watch and can also tell you the estimated date of production. The model reference is Rolex’s way of identifying the model and materials used on your particular Rolex.
First, we’re going to focus on your Rolex’s serial number.
What Is The Serial Number For?
This is your Rolex’s passport, driving licence and name all rolled into one short code. It will tell you when it was built and what materials were used to build it, and any other history linked to your particular piece.
Where Is My Rolex's Serial Number?
Every Rolex, be it for men or women, has its own unique number. The location of your Rolex’s serial number will depend on when it was made, but the basic explanation is that it is engraved near your 6 o’clock lugs.
And that’s not a euphemism. Lugs are the part of the watch that attach the body of your watch to the bracelet (or strap).
To explain in another way - if your Rolex was a map, the serial number would be on the “south” of your watch. However, serial number locations differ depending on when your Rolex was made. For example:
If your Rolex was manufactured before 2007: The serial number will be located between the lugs at 6 o’clock (where the bracelet connects to the watch). You’ll need to remove the bracelet - carefully - to see the serial number.
If your Rolex was manufactured between 2008-2010: Rolex decided this was too complicated and put the serial numbers on the 6 o’clock inner bezel (the thin band between the watch face and the outer casing).
If you have an older Rolex, the serial number may be elsewhere and may also require closer inspection, so we recommend asking an expert to help you find out more.
What Do Serial Numbers Look Like?
This depends on when your Rolex was manufactured.
From 1927-1987, every Rolex had a 5-6 digit serial number depending on the year.
The higher the number, the more recent the Rolex.
From 1987-2010, Rolex’s started with a letter followed by six digits. For example, W00001 would have been the serial number for the first men’s Rolex watch made in 1994.
Since 2010, however, serial numbers have been randomised eight-digit codes; this has now stopped enthusiasts being able to track and date of productions.
For Rolexes with a letter, the letter is the most important part, because it tells you approximately when your Rolex was made. The numbers are just to differentiate one Rolex from his brother and sister watches.
Why Should I Care About My Serial Number?
You’ll be unsurprised to hear that your Rolex’s serial number will have some impact on its worth. But even if you want to keep hold of it, at least you’ll know more about your shiny men’s Rolex than you did before. Its also good to make sure for yourself that the number on your watch matches the paperwork. Many time in the past, offical rolex dealers and staff members have given the wrong paperwork with the watch. This will dramatically effect the value of your Rolex watch.
Understanding Rolex Reference Numbers
Each Rolex has its own reference number, but it isn’t necessarily unique. This is because reference numbers relate to how the watch was made, not to differentiate it from its brothers and sisters.
Rolex reference numbers are four-six digits long and should be read like this: xx(xx)/x/x. These three codes (two-four digits/one digit/one digit) will tell you everything you need to know.
Where Is My Reference Number?
This one is easy. It’s between the 12 o’clock lugs (on the opposite side to your serial number). You’ll need to remove your Rolex’s bracelet to see it.
The First, Two-Four Digit Code
This is the model of your Rolex. For example, an Explorer II has a code of 165, while a Yachtmaster could be anything from 166, 686 or 696.
The Second, One Digit Code
This indicates the bezel of your Rolex watch - remember, the bezel sits between the face and the outer casing of your watch. Bezels can be decorative or functional, and the type of bezel will dictate what materials it can be made off (gold, platinum, steel etc.)
The bezel code will always be a number between one and six.