What are Rolex Serial Numbers?

Rolex has engraved their watches with unique serial numbers since the 1920s when they first started making watches. The serial number identifies the year of production, so it’s useful for dating vintage Rolex watches. However, many people believe that they can verify the authenticity of a Rolex watch based on the Rolex watch serial number check, but this isn’t exactly correct.

A Rolex serial number check can provide some peace of mind as most fake Rolexes don’t carry the correct serial number or an existing serial number. However, this is not always the case. To know if your Rolex watch is genuine, several checks made by a reputable vintage watch dealer should be carried out.

Knowing the Rolex serial number can not only identify the production age of your watch but it can also help to determine its market value, along with other factors such as condition and paperwork.

Can All Rolex Watches be Dated by Their Serial Numbers?

Before you start it’s important to know, it is only Rolex Oyster case vintage watches that can be reliably dated by their serial number, which is marked on the case. Some other Rolex watches such as vintage Rolex Precisions and ladies’ cocktail watches can often be dated by hallmarks if they are made of gold. These hallmarks are usually stamped on the inside of the case back and so the case back needs to be removed to reveal the hallmarks.

The U.K. is relatively fortunate in this regard because all watches made of gold or silver retailed in the UK must carry hallmarks. Hallmark tables can be confusing, but with a little time and patience, they can be used to date when a watch was hallmarked. These tables are available in hallmark reference books or to a greater or lesser extent online. Swiss hallmarks and those from other countries are more difficult to decipher and we recommend you search locally for those. Other countries such as the USA have not used hallmarks.

It is also worth noting that Rolex watches cannot be dated by their movement serial numbers. Rolex did not seem to apply any movement serial number conventions which can be reliably used to date its vintage watches. It has also never published any reference material for dating its watches based on either movement or case serial numbers.

Where are Rolex Serial Numbers Found on the Watch?

Rolex serial numbers have between 4 – 8 digits. Modern Rolex watches are machine engraved or stamped, making them very perfect and precise markings. However, between the 1920s and 1960s Rolex serial numbers were hand stamped and these markings do not always look 100% perfect and precise under magnification.

There are two places where a Rolex serial number can be found on an Oyster cased watch. All Rolex Oyster cased watches made prior to 2005 have the serial number located on the outside of the case between the 6 o’clock lugs. To find your serial number you will need to remove the strap or bracelet. This number is also often (but not always) stamped on the inside of the case back.

After 2005, Rolex began laser engraving their watches on the inner bezel, also known as the dial rehaut. As well as between the lugs at the 6 o’clock position. This may have been in response to the growing number of fake Rolexes on the market, as engraving on the inner bezel makes it more difficult for fraudsters to make a genuine-looking serial number. By 2008, Rolex stopped engraving the serial number on the case exterior and now only engraves it on the inner bezel.

Location of Rolex Serial Numbers:

  • Before 2005 – engraved on the exterior, between lugs at the 6 o’clock position
  • 2005 to 2008 – engraved between lugs and on the inner bezel (both 6 o’clock position)
  • 2008 onwards – etched on the inner bezel only (6 o’clock position)

It’s worth noting that it is possible that some older Rolex watches have their serial numbers worn away by bulky tight-fitting straps that continuously rub on the serial number. This is more likely to happen on gold Rolex watches as gold is a softer metal, but it is possible with steel Rolexes also.

When looking for your Rolex serial number, make sure you don’t get confused with the Rolex model reference number. Rolex model reference numbers are located between the watch lugs at the 12 o’clock position. It may be 4, 5 or 6 digits long, the unique sequence of numbers indicates the watches materials and parts used.

The first two to four digits of the model reference number describe the type of watch. If the model number of your watch is five or six digits long, the second to last number describes the bezel. The final number symbolises the type of metal the watch is made from.

For some watches, the model numbers will be slightly different in that they will have letters following the numerical digits, and these provide additional information about the watch.

Do Fake Rolexes Have Serial Numbers?

Generally speaking, if a Rolex watch doesn’t have a serial number, then it isn’t authentic. Except in the case detailed above where a thick strap has rubbed away the etchings over many years. So, if you have a vintage Rolex watch with no serial number visible don’t despair just yet – take it to a reputable vintage watch technician who can open the watch and is skilled and experienced enough to identify the watch using various methods and checks.

In the case of fake Rolexes, it is possible for them to have engraved serial numbers, but it is extremely difficult to do it well, especially on the inner bezel in the case of Rolexes made after 2005.

The lettering on the serial numbers should be sharp and precise, with fine detailed lines. Most counterfeiters use an acid-etching method which produces serial number markings with a noticeable “sandy” appearance when magnified. This is usually an indication that the serial number has been re-engraved or that the entire watch may be fake. However, in rare cases, some fakes are so well-made it takes an expert eye to tell them apart from the real thing.

But as with many things related to Rolex, there is an exception to the rule. Vintage Rolex watches were hand engraved between the 1920s and 1960s, so will not always look perfect and precise. If you’re not sure if your Rolex serial number is authentic, get in touch with us at Vintage Gold Watches and we will be happy to authenticate and date it for you.

If you are thinking about investing in a vintage Rolex watch and want to avoid the many pitfalls of purchasing a dud, then take a look at our article Vintage Rolex Watch Introductory Buying Guide.

Unofficial Rolex Serial Number Lists and Their Exceptions

It’s important to restate that Rolex has never published an official list of Rolex serial numbers like many other luxury watch brands do. The serial number lists and databases you find on the internet, including the one below, have been gathered from crowd-sourced data – i.e. Watch technicians, dealers, enthusiasts and collectors that have shared their knowledge amongst the watchmaking community over the years.

Bearing this in mind, you need to be aware that the information relating to Rolex serial numbers and the dates of manufacture should be taken as an estimate rather than absolutely factual.

For example, not every Rolex model follows the same serial number cut-off, or model changes. This really depends on what Rolex decides with each model regarding the production cut-off. Additionally, ageing your watch according to the Rolex serial number is not a good way to know when it was originally first sold.

It’s not unusual, especially for less popular or solid gold Rolex watch models, to sit in a store case at the authorised dealers for years after the manufacture date. Also, just because a case has a serial number dated from 1990 doesn’t mean the watch was fully assembled in 1990. For specific information about when your Rolex watch was first sold, you will need the original signed/dated warranty card or sales receipt.

There are a few other things to know about Rolex serial numbers before you start trawling the serial number list below. In autumn 2009, Rolex started using a random numbering system to generate its serial numbers. The only way to identify the exact date of a Rolex produced in late 2009 onwards is to take it to an official Rolex dealer.

When Rolex made their millionth watch, they confusingly restarted their serial numbers at 100,000 instead of carrying on with a seven-digit code. If your Rolex serial number falls between 100,000 and 999,999, you’ll need to take it to a vintage watch dealer who is experienced in Rolexes to have it accurately dated. We can take care of that for you at Vintage Gold Watches, get in touch with us to find out how.

List of Rolex serial numbers

2001 – 2010
2001 = YXXXXXX 2002 = KXXXXXX 2003/4 = FXXXXXX
2005 = DXXXXXX 2006/7 = ZXXXXXX 2008 = MXXXXXX
2009 = VXXXXXX 2010 = GXXXXXX 2011 = Random
1991 – 2000
1991 = XXXXXXX 1992 = NXXXXXX 1993 = CXXXXXX
1994 = SXXXXXX 1995 = WXXXXXX 1996 = TXXXXXX
1997 = UXXXXXX 1998 = AXXXXXX 2000 = PXXXXXX
1981 – 1990
1981 = 6900 – 7299XXX 1982 = 7300 – 7799XXX 1983 = 7800 – 8299XXX
1984 = 8300 – 8599XXX 1985 = 8600 – 9289XXX 1986 = 9290 – 9759XXX
1987 = 9760 – 9999XXX 1988 = RXXXXXX 1989 = LXXXXXX
1980 = EXXXXXX
1971 – 1980
1971 = 3210 – 3469XXX 1972 = 3470 – 3739XXX 1973 = 3740 – 3999XXX
1974 = 4000 – 4179XXX 1975 = 4280 – 4529XXX 1976 = 4530 – 4999XXX
1977 = 5000 – 5399XXX 1978 = 5400 – 5899XXX 1979 = 5900 – 6399XXX
1970 = 6400 – 6899XXX
1961 – 1970
1961 = 1480 – 1557XXX 1962 = 1558 – 1662XXX 1963 = 1663 – 1709XXX
1964 = 1710 – 1791XXX 1965 = 1792 – 1869XXX 1966 = 1870 – 2159XXX
1967 = 2160 – 2419XXX 1968 = 2420 – 2679XXX 1969 = 2680 – 2949XXX
1970 = 2950 – 3209XXX
1951 – 1960
1951 = 737 – 803XXX 1952 = 804 – 868XXX 1953 = 869 – 933XXX
1954 = 934 – 1104XXX 1955 = 1105 – 1080XXX 1956 = 1090 – 1160XXX
1957 = 1170 – 1230XXX 1958 = 1240 – 1310XXX 1959 = 1320 – 1390XXX
1960 = 1400 – 1480XXX
1941 – 1950
1941 = 194 – 222XXX 1942 = 223 – 252XXX 1943 = 253 – 282XXX
1944 = 283 – 347XXX 1945 = 348 – 412XXX 1946 = 413 – 489XXX
1947 = 490 – 549XXX 1948 = 550 – 607XXX 1949 = 608 – 672XXX
1950 = 673 – 736XXX
1931 – 1940
1931 = 40 – 41XXX 1932 = 42 – 44XXX 1933 = 45 – 48XXX
1934 = 49 – 62XXX 1935 = 63 – 80XXX 1936 = 81 – 98XXX
1937 = 99 – 116XXX 1938 = 117 – 134XXX 1939 = 135 – 163XXX
1940 = 164 – 183XXX
1925 – 1930
1925 = 25 – 27XXX 1926 = 28 – 29XXX 1937 = 30 – 32XXX
1928 = 33 – 34XXX 1929 = 35 – 37XXX 1930 = 38 – 39XXX

If you own a Rolex watch that you would like to be authenticated or valued, get in touch with us at Vintage Gold Watches and we will be happy to help you.

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Alan Wood
Alan Wood, founder of Vintage Gold Watches, is a trusted vintage watch dealer with 35+ years of experience. His passion and expertise have earned him a respected reputation in the industry. Vintage Gold Watches, established in 2011, is known for Alan's knowledge and skilled restoration team. With a love for vintage watches since his youth, Alan is thrilled to share the finest timepieces from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s with others, fueling his obsession.