Rolex serial number check: Explained & Exposed!
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The Rolex serial number check explained
Many people think you can actually verify the authenticity of a Rolex watch based on the Rolex watch serial number check. Of course it gives you some comfort as fake and replica Rolex watches in many cases don’t carry a correct serial number (or an existing serial number), but it is not that based on a serial number alone you will know if your watch is authentic. In our opinion it can indicate if a Rolex is fake. For example when the serial number simply never existed. But to know if a Rolex is real, there are many more checks to be executed.
The serial number check will at least answer the question in what year your Rolex was issued. And if it corresponds with the box, papers, bracelet and model of your watch.
In this blog we explain how to perform the check. But also why it is not waterproof. Ultimately we do have you covered and will explain how we authenticated a Rolex Submariner Hulk step by step. If you are looking to buy a pre-owned Rolex, we advise you to have a Rolex watch authentication service. We will also explain why!
Navigating this blog
- The Rolex serial number check explained
- Can I do the Rolex serial number check?
- How to perform the check
- The data-book explained
- Rolex model numbers
- Rolex clasp codes
- Why the checks are not waterproof...
- General Q&A
Can I do the Rolex serial number check?
You can definitely perform this check yourself. First locate the serial number on the Rolex. Second, find your year of issuance in the serial number data book. Third, check if your serial number corresponds with the guarantee certificate. Fourth, check the production year with your the age of your Rolex. Fifth, observe the quality of the engraving. Additionally you can also verify if the year of issuance corresponds with your box and papers. We will explain these steps in detail below.
You may encounter a Rolex without serial number engraved on the case. Sometimes these are faded due to really heavy wear or erased by someone. Please note this should be considered a huge red flag. In case of stolen watches, the serial number was often erased as this would clear out direct any leads to the watch. So our advise is to never buy a Rolex without serial number engraved on the case. For models with the serial number in the rehaut, the same applies. It must be present.
In case you are looking to buy a watch online, avoid buying a fake! Make sure to check out this service which makes sure your watch is 100% real!
How to perform the check
Our Rolex watchmakers have performed hundreds of Rolex serial number checks in the past 15 years. This is actually a crucial step when authenticating a Rolex watch, but as essential as the serial number itself is, the quality of how the serial number is engraved on the Rolex is maybe even more important.
We perform the following steps:
- *Removing the bracelet when the serial number is between the lugs*
- Observe the serial number on the case (at 6 o 'clock in the rehaut or between the lugs for older models)
- Check if the correct serial number is also included on the International guarantee card or papers
- Serial number lookup. Verify if it resonates with the ageing of the watch (see date book below)
- During a watch authentication service, details matter the most. We make sure that the quality of the inscription of the serial number is done in accordance with the quality and finishing that is applied by Rolex tools. This is basically shown by the quality of the engraving that can only be concluded by an experienced Rolex watchmaker or by comparing to a real Rolex.
We will explain the steps in detail.
step 1. Removing the bracelet
If you have a watch sold before 2007, the serial number is most likely located between the lugs. You will have to remove the bracelet. Remove the bracelet with the right tools and don't do this if you are not a watchmaker. Be careful, you may damage the case or bracelet if not done properly
step 2. The location of the serial number
You can find the 4-8 digits Rolex serial number inside the rehaut (newer models after c.2007) or between the lugs at 6 o'clock (models before c.2007).
- Where the serial number is located:
6 o’clock rehaut (inside case ring of the watch) or at 6 o'clock on the outside of the case between the lugs for older Rolexes. See photos below.
- What the look for:
The 4-8 digits of the serial number (e.g.761Z1R123)
The images below will help you to find the serial number in case you want to perform the Rolex serial number check by yourself. Don't mistake the reference numbers for the serial number. Or vice versa. The Rolex reference numbers are located between the lugs at 12 o clock.
The Rolex Submariner serial number is located in the rehaut at 6 o'clock (reference number model is 116610LN).
Serial number in rehaut of new 2020 Rolex Submariner date 126610LN
The reference number on a Rolex Submariner 5513 (vintage models), where the reference number is located between the lugs. Removing the bracelet is essential in this case. (credit photo: Tropical Watch)
step 3. Verify with box and papers
Verify if the serial number is also included on the Rolex guarantee papers (vintage Rolex watches) or on the Rolex guarantee card. Please note, papers and cards can be faked as well. Make sure to check with a certified watchmaker if the cards or papers are correct. Another option is to research which papers or cards would be issued in a certain year. In our blog about how we authenticated a 2020 Rolex Submariner we explain how we authenticated the guarantee card.
In case you don't have a full set (or the papers at least) it is not possible to verify the Rolex serial number check with official Rolex papers. Please note, when observing vintage papers or cards, it can be extremely hard to distinguish if they are correct. The reason is that you can easily buy authentic Rolex papers without any serial numbers included on it and fake it. Thus you can create your own Rolex Guarantee paper including the serial number of your own Rolex. This will make sure you fool somebody who thinks the Rolex serial number check can be performed by just comparing the serial number on the watch with the papers. With a rough estimate we think about >70% of the papers for vintage watches are faked. Just because it is so easy to fake and it gives you a premium of easy more than €500.
Nevertheless, our Rolex watchmakers do know where to look for. As said they know what Rolex papers or cards where issued in which year and also know how how to check the ageing of ink and perforated serial numbers. This is a craft that comes close to authenticating or validating a Rembrandt painting. As said, a proper Rolex serial number check is not easy.
step 4. Rolex serial number lookup
When you know your serial number, you can look up in which year it was produced. In order to understand if the Rolex ageing matches the serial number production date. The date on your guarantee card (sold date) may differ from the year of production. No need for panic. Back in the old days, not all Rolex were directly sold out. The good old days we would say.
We have included a data book at the bottom of this blog including serial numbers and the year certain Rolex serial numbers were produced. Including an explanation how to find the production year and match it to the Rolex serial number year.
step 5. Observing quality of the engraving
This is the most difficult, but also most import part. We will explain first how you can be fooled and then how we do it.
How to get fooled
Although it is a fairly common thing. The Rolex serial number gets easily mistaken in even high quality counterfeits. The serial number used on counterfeit watches often refers to an incorrect period. Or an incorrect model. As you have now, criminals have access to the Rolex data book as well. They find out in which years a model is produced and which serial numbers were issued. These serial numbers are applied subsequently on a counterfeit watch. They even go as far as faking patina, scratches and damages on a watch.
We have encountered a high value vintage Rolex with a correct movement, dial and hands. But with a fake case. In correct condition this watch would go for >€80k. Not in parts it is around €20k.
How to NOT get fooled
Please note Rolex does engrave the serial number with precision and care, so if it feels quirky it can be considered a red flag. You can see our pictures above to get a feeling about the level of detail and quality. Try to observe if the quality of your engraving is in accordance with pictures above. If you feel unsure, contact a certified watchmaker or feel free to drop us a message and have a look.
The data-book explained
An introduction to the databook
The serial number data-book includes an explanation of how the Rolex serial numbers are determined and what they stand for. Say if you have a Rolex Submariner from the year 1983 you can check if the serial number you have resonates with the serial numbers produced and sold by Rolex in 1987. Since Rolex does use cases and materials throughout years and some watches, for example Rolex Daytona's that sold very bad back in the days, this gives a mere indication if the period resonates with the Rolex you are checking. A certain Rolex Daytona can be produced in 1983, but can be sold in 1985. It is something you cannot imagine these days, but it was possible. As such the papers may say 1985 and the serial number refers to 1983. Therefore the check with the data-book (which something our Rolex watchmakers always do when they perform the Rolex serial number check) is essential but not an exact study.
We have the Rolex serial number database so you can check if your Rolex serial number is period correct. Since 2011 the Rolex serial numbers are random characters.
Rolex serial number lookup table
An easy way to check your Rolex serial number is with the database below which show the numbering system used by Rolex in the past.
You can check the Rolex year by serial number by the following steps:
When you obtained your serial number. Use the CTRL+F (buttons on your keyboard) and start with typing in the serial number until you have no hit anymore. Then go one number back and you will be in the "period" of your serial number.
|Year of production||Serial number||Year of production||Serial number|
Rolex model numbers
The Rolex model numbers are also engraved on a watch. These numbers are also called "reference numbers". Based on these numbers you know which model it is and which specifics it must carry. The model numbers indicate the material of the watch. Like steel, yellow gold, rose gold and platinum. Which complications it must have. Like date, chronograph settings etcetera. And also in which period it must be produced. Certain Rolex models are only built for a specific period.
Where to find the model number
You can find the Rolex model number between the lugs at 12 o clock. All Rolex watches, vintage and new, have the model number engraved between the lugs at 12 o clock.
Rolex model number 124300 engraved in the case.
What does the model number say?
The model number can tell you more than the period the watch is produced. It can also tell you the material used and type of bezel that should come with it. The 4-6 digit model number can be divided in three sections. For example a Rolex Datejust with model number 1603,.
16 = Rolex Datejust
0 = Stainless steel material
3 = fluted bezel
You can easily compare a model number with the following tables
The model number tables
Step 1 the model:
|Submariner (no date)||55 & 140|
|Submariner||16, 166 & 168|
|Sea Dweller||16 & 166|
|GMT Master||16, 65, 167|
|GMT Master II||167, 1167|
|Day-Date (President)||65, 66, 18, 180, 182 & 183|
|Datejust||16 & 162|
|Daytona Manual Wind||62|
|Daytona Cosmograph||165, 1165|
|Oyster Perpetual||10, 140, 142|
|Airking||55 & 140|
|Date||15 & 150|
|Yachtmaster||166, 686 & 696|
|Midsize Oyster Perp DJ||68, 682|
|Ladies Oyster Perpetual||67, 671, 672|
|Ladies Date||65, 69, 691 & 692|
|Ladies Datejust||65, 69, 691 & 692|
Step 2 the material:
|Yellow Gold Filled||1|
|White Gold Filled||2|
|Stainless & Yellow Gold||3|
|Stainless w/ 18k White Gold||4|
|14k Yellow Gold||7|
|18k Yellow Gold||8|
Step 3 the bezel type (if applicable):
Rolex clasp codes
Many Rolex watches have clasp codes engraved on the inside of the clasp hinge. These Rolex clasp codes are also named bracelet codes. They effectively tell you if a clasp is period and model correct. Some models were for example issued on Oyster bracelets and some (also) on jubilee bracelets. In addition, if you know your watch is from a specific period. You can check if the clasp and bracelet that comes with it, can be the original one. We say "can be" with a reason. We will explain that later.
The clasp codes table
If you have a clasp. Just lookup the bracelet code to see from which year it is. And make sure it corresponds with the watch it's serial number and model number.
|A or VA||1976|
|B or VB||1977|
|C or VC||1978|
|D or VD||1979|
|E or VE||1980|
|F or VF||1981|
|T or W||1995|
Why it is only an indication
The clasp code will give you an indication of the period and model correctness. In other words, it will give sense about if the bracelet was issued with the watch. Many watches, especially vintage, have replaced bracelets. After wearing a watch multiple years, the bracelet should be replaced to ensure you won't lose a watch.
But, if you now only have a Rolex Submariner case from 1988. You can easily find a bracelet for sale online on eBay that is from that same year. And then sell it together. It makes sure the watch "set" is correct. But it wasn't originally sold with that specific bracelet.
Why the checks are not waterproof...
Unfortunately the Rolex serial number check is not waterproof. Basically it is a number which is engraved in the rehaut of the Rolex at the 6 o’clock hour mark or between the lugs on the outside of the case. The clasp codes and model numbers only give an indication on it's own. If a fake watch maker is really thorough, he makes sure the Rolex serial number he uses is correct. By making sure the serial number resonates with the existing serial numbers (i.e. period correct and model correct) and the clasp and model numbers are correct for the time and period.
So, If a replica watch carries a genuine and correct serial number, the serial number doesn’t give away it is a fake…
Rolex authentication service
It really takes a trained and experienced person to authenticate a watch. Observing for example the ageing, engraving quality, material quality and many more points is needed to conclude if a watch is real. Therefore we advise you to have your watch authenticated by a Rolex watchmaker.
How do you check if a Rolex is real
To spot a fake Rolex can be easy. Knowing it is real is definitely not. It means observing the watch in detail and validating if it corresponds with research and the experience you have available. Since this means experience and knowledge, certified and experienced Rolex watchmakers are the best positioned.
If you want to know how to tell if a Rolex watch is real, read our blog real Rolex versus expensive fake Rolex. Or how we authenticated a Rolex Submariner Hulk, which provides insights in which details to observe and what steps to take. From validating the workings of the watch, to the crown logos on the glass, case and crown. We got it covered and supported with photos.
One give away: if it is too good to be true, our guesses is that it will be...
Can I verify authenticity of Rolex serial numbers?
You can verify the authenticity of Rolex serial numbers with the lookup table at the bottom of this page. But if you want to verify the authenticity of the number itself, you must be sure to observe the engraving closely. Compare it to photos available online for that specific model or for a specific period or year. Make sure the engraving quality is comparable and the position is correct as well. For pre-owned pieces this might be a problem as they can be damaged or less crisp due to ageing of the material.
For new Rolex watches it became more difficult after the introduction of random serial numbers in 2011. But an experienced Rolex watchmaker knows which serial numbers are valid and which are not. In addition, these recent watches are more often possible to check with the Rolex guarantee cards. Be aware, these cards can be faked as well. But an authentication service by an experienced watchmaker can help you authenticate the cards, box and serial number on the watch.
Rolex serial number check for stolen watches
When you buy a Rolex, you want to be sure it is fair and not stolen. The serial number can help you out. There are multiple databases online with stolen Rolex watches registered. We personally always use TheWatchRegister.com when we authenticate a watch. It will ask you to inform the right institutions if the watch has a match with the database, and ypu should certainly do that. It costs around 10 GBP for one single check.
How to authenticate Rolex serial number
Authenticate the Rolex serial number in 4 steps. First obtain the 4 to 8 digit serial number from the case between the lugs or on the rehaut on 6 o clock. Second, verify if matches with the international warranty card or papers. Third, lookup and match the Rolex serial number with the year of production. Fourth, observe if the quality of engraving is correct with comparing to real engraving pictures.
Want to check if a watch is real?
- Zero risk purchase - сheck a watch before you buy it
- Authentication by brand-certified watchmakers