What Is a Rolex Serial Number?

Every Rolex watch that leaves the factory is assigned its serial number. Because of this, each Rolex serial number is unique (there are exceptions). Thus, in theory, a Rolex serial number may determine the watch's year of manufacture (around). There have been a few irregularities in practice; therefore, we'll say it's in theory. For example, Rolex reset the serial numbers in 1954, when it reached #999,999. The conclusion is that a timepiece from the 1960s may have the same reference number as one from the 1950s. Fortunately, Rolex also engraved the insides of the casebacks with date codes, making it easier to distinguish a pre-1954 from a post-1954 serial number (if you open up the timepiece). 

Rolex started using a letter & six digits to identify each watch at the start of 1987 when it reached #9,999,999. The bracelet must be taken off to view the serial & reference numbers. Moreover, to complicate cases they didn't start with the alphabet "A" but rather the alphabet "R," then "L," then "E," followed by some other non-sequential letters. Rolex made the most significant modifications to its serial numbers in late 2010 when it switched to using randomized numbers. For example, suppose a Rolex is produced after 2010. In that case, it is not possible to determine what year it was created because of this change. There are several hypotheses as to why Rolex has made this decision. The company does not want the public to know how many units they produce a year. At the same time, another speculation says that it's a measure against counterfeiting. 

Rolex Serial Number Look-Up Chart


Using the Rolex Serial Number Look-Up chart, you may approximate the year a Rolex was created (pre-2011). It's important to note that Rolex has never released official numbers, so these have been approximated, recorded & categorized by collectors over the years. It is not an exact science.


Where Can I Find the Rolex Serial Number?

The serial number will be there if you have the watch's papers. However, if you don't have any documents, you'll find them on the Rolex watch. On Rolex watches made before 2007, the serial number can be engraved on the case between the lugs at 6 o'clock. To discover it, you'll have to take off the bracelet.

The Rolex serial number is located between the lugs at 6 o'clock. Starting in late 2006, Rolex began laser engraving the serial number on the rehaut—where it can be seen through the sapphire crystal & case stamping. Finally, in late 2008, Rolex phased out the case engraving entirely & now exclusively displays the serial number on the rehaut.


What Is a Rolex Reference Number?

Rolex reference numbers (also known as model numbers) are shared across timepieces, unlike unique serial numbers. Among some other things, the first few digits identify the collection to which a Rolex watch belongs.


Furthermore, a reference number also includes codes for material & bezel type.


Finally, there are times when letters in a Rolex reference number reveal further information.


So, if we take these charts & the 116613LB reference number as an example, this will tell you: 1166 – Submariner 1 – Rotating Bezel 3 – Two-Tone Stainless Steel & Yellow Gold LB – Blue Bezel.


How To Use Rolex Serial Numbers & Reference Numbers?

The most common way a reference number is used is to identify precisely the type of Rolex watch you have (or have your eye on). This is especially important when sourcing your Rolex from the secondary market to ensure that what you think you're buying matches up with what you're buying. Understanding Rolex reference numbers is essential if you want to make an informed purchase.

A Rolex serial number is also an essential part of determining the age of a Rolex watch. This will help you know if the watch is an authentic vintage piece. Still, it will also reveal if all the other watch details (dial, bezel, bracelet) match up or if they were replacement/service pieces. When purchasing a pre-owned Rolex watch, the more you know about it, the better decisions you'll be able to make when picking which one to add to your collection.