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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!

    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:

    1. *Removing the bracelet when the serial number is between the lugs*
    2. Observe the serial number on the case (at 6 o 'clock in the rehaut or between the lugs for older models)
    3. Check if the correct serial number is also included on the International guarantee card or papers 
    4. Serial number lookup. Verify if it resonates with the ageing of the watch (see date book below)
    5. 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. 

    Rolex watch serial numberThe 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
    Serial number in rehaut of new 2020 Rolex Submariner date 126610LN

    (Neo) vintage Rolex serial numberThe 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
    2011-Present Random/Mixed 1968 2,426,000
    2009-2011 G000,001 1967 2,164,000
    2008-2009 V000,001 1966 1,870,000
    2007-2009 M000,001 1965 1,791,000
    2006-2008 Z000,001 1964 1,713,000
    2005-2006 D000,001 1963 1,635,000
    2004-2005 F000,001 1962 1,557,000
    2002-2004 Y000,001 1961 1,485,000
    2001-2003 K000,001 1960 1,401,000
    2000-2001 P000,004 1959 1,323,000
    1998-2000 A000,002 1958 1,245,000
    1997-1998 U000,001 1957 1,167,000
    1996-1998 T000,001 1956 1,095,000
    1995-1998 W000,001 1955 1,010,000
    1993 3/4 S000,001 1954 935,000
    1992 1/4 C000,001 1953 869,000
    1991 3/4 N000,001 1952 804,000
    1991 1/2 X000,001 1951 735,000
    1991 1/4 E999,999 1950 672,000
    1990 1/2 E000,001 1949 608,000
    1990 L999,999 1948 543,000
    1989 L000,001 1947 478,000
    1988 R999,999 1946 413,000
    1987 1/2 R000,001 1945 348,000
    1987 1/2 9,999,999 1944 284,000
    1987 9,760,000 1943 253,000
    1986 9,300,000 1942 224,000
    1985 8,814,000 1941 194,000
    1984 8,338,000 1940 165,000
    1983 7,860,000 1939 136,000
    1982 7,366,000 1938 118,000
    1981 6,910,000 1937 98,000
    1980 6,430,000 1936 82,000
    1979 5,959,000 1935 62,000
    1978 5,481,000 1934 55,000
    1977 5,005,000 1933 49,000
    1976 4,535,000 1932 43,000
    1975 4,265,000 1931 40,000
    1974 4,000,000 1930 38,000
    1973 3,741,000 1929 35,000
    1972 3,478,000 1928 33,000
    1971 3,215,000 1927 30,000
    1970 2,952,000 1926 28,000
    1969 2,689,000 1925

    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
    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:

    Rolex MODELS
    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
    Explorer II 165
    Oyster Perpetual 10, 140, 142
    Airking 55 & 140
    Date 15 & 150
    OysterquartzDatejust 170
    Oysterquartz Day-Date 190
    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:

    material type
    Stainless 0
    Yellow Gold Filled 1
    White Gold Filled 2
    Stainless & Yellow Gold 3
    Stainless w/ 18k White Gold 4
    Gold Shell 5
    Platinum 6
    14k Yellow Gold 7
    18k Yellow Gold 8

    Step 3 the bezel type (if applicable):

    BEZEL type
    Polished 0
    Engine Turned 1
    Engine Turned 2
    Fluted 3
    Hand-Crafted 4
    Pyramid 5
    Rotating Bezel 6

    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.

    BRACELET CODE YEAR
    A or VA 1976
    B or VB 1977
    C or VC 1978
    D or VD 1979
    E or VE 1980
    F or VF 1981
    G 1982
    H 1983
    I 1984
    J 1985
    K 1986
    L 1987
    M 1988
    N 1989
    O 1990
    P 1991
    Q 1992
    R 1993
    S 1994
    T or W 1995
    V 1996
    Z 1997
    U 1998
    X 1999
    AB 2000
    DE 2001
    DT 2002
    AD 2003
    CL 2004
    MA 2005
    OP 2006
    EO 2007
    PJ 2008
    LT 2009
    RS 2010
    RANDOM 201+

    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.

    General Q&A

    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.

    Written by

    Kenny Vaes, watch enthusiast, co-owner of Relleb

    Last updated December 22, 2021

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