Read your Rolex - what a Rolex reference number means

Numbers are big in time keeping. 


And they’re especially big in Rolexes. 


Rolexes are serial numbered with a 4- to 8-digit number. 


But they also have a reference number. 


As soon as you start looking at Rolexes you’ll see them referred to as “references”. 


These numbers, which are between 4 and 6 digits long (sometimes with added letters), describe the watch. 

Rolex warranty card with reference

The model number here is the "Reference" it tells you everything you need to know about the watch's reference. 

Knowing how they work is good Rolex knowledge. 


And it’ll help you quickly know what to expect from any watch for which you have the reference. 


Rolex reference numbers: the working parts 


Rolex references are somewhat idiosyncratic and have developed over time. The system hasn’t been universally applied in the same way to all references at all times. References can fall in and out of production and it’s not possible, for example to do a quick dating from a reference with 100% accuracy. 


However, it is a system. 


1 - the whole number 


The length of the number will help you know when the watch was made. 


Four digits - generally made before the late 1980s

Five digits - transition to five digits began in the late 1970s and was pretty much done by the late 80s

Six digits - Made from the 2000s onward 


2 - The watch family 


Rolex air king

The Air-King has been made since 1957 using various references.

The model of watch is described by the first digits in the reference:


1908: 


525


Air-King: 


43, 49, 55, 57, 65, 140, 114, 1169, 1269


Cellini:


41, 42, 51, 52, 53, 61, 66


Cosmograph Daytona:


62, 165, 1165, 1265


Date 34


15, 150, 115, 1152


Datejust 31: 


682, 782, 1782, 2782


Datejust 36: 


66, 16, 160, 162, 1162, 1262


Datejust 41: 


1263


Datejust II: 


1163


Day-Date 36: 


65, 18, 180, 182, 183, 1181, 1182, 1183, 1282, 1283


Day-Date 40: 


1182, 2282, 2283


Day-Date II: 


2182


Day-Date Masterpiece: 


189


Deepsea: 


1166, 1266


Explorer: 


1142, 1242, 2142


Explorer II: 


165, 2165, 2265


Rolex GMT-Master from 1960

This GMT-Master dates to 1960, early in the history of the "time zone" watch aimed at aircrew and nicknamed the Pepsi for its red/blue bezel.

GMT-Master: 


65, 16, 167


GMT-Master II: 


167, 1167, 1267


Lady-Date 26: 


69, 691, 791, 792, 1791, 1793


Lady-Datejust 26: 


690, 691, 791, 792, 1791, 1793


Lady-Datejust 28: 


2791, 2793


Lady-Yacht-Master: 


696, 1696


Milgauss: 


65, 10, 1164


Oyster Perpetual 24: 


760


Oyster Perpetual 26: 


1762


Oyster Perpetual 31: 


77, 1772, 2772


Oyster Perpetual 34:


102, 152, 1152, 1242


Oyster Perpetual 36: 


1160, 1260


Oyster Perpetual 39: 


1143


Oyster Perpetual 41: 


1243


Oysterquartz: 


170, 190, 191


Pearlmaster 29: 


802, 803, 803


Pearlmaster 34: 


812, 813


Pearlmaster 39: 


862

Rolex pearlmaster

It's very clear how pearlmasters were named. 

 

Sea-Dweller: 


166, 1166, 1266


Sky-Dweller: 


3261, 3269, 3362


Submariner: 


55, 140, 1140, 1240


Submariner Date:


16, 166, 168, 1166, 1266


Turn-O-Graph:


162, 1162


Yacht-Master 35: 


686, 1686


Yacht-Master 37: 


2686


Yacht-Master 40: 


166, 1166, 1266


Yacht-Master 42: 


2266


Yacht-Master II: 


1166


(The numbers in the names here are the size of the watch.)


3 - Bezel type


The bezel is the outer rim of the watch face that clamps the crystal glass in place. 


They can be just that, or they can move, in order to provide an extra function. Diver’s watches usually have a rotating bezel that allows a diver to mark a start time for example.  


Rolex bezels are described thus in the Rolex system. 


They are the fifth number in 6-digit reference numbers:


0 - Smooth


1 - Engine turned

 

2 - Engraved


3 - Fluted 


4 - Bark or hand crafted


6 - Rotatable


7 - Various/other 


Bezel tachymetre

Bezels are structural, but can bring extra information and fucntionality to a watch.

 

4 - Material 


In 6 digit reference numbers the 6th number tells you what material the watch is made of. For shorter reference numbers, it’s the last digit. 


0 - Stainless steel


1 - Everose Rolesor (Stainless Steel and Everose Gold)


2 - Rolesium (Stainless steel and Platinum)


3 - Yellow Rolesor (Stainless Steel and 18k Yellow gold)


4 - White Rolesor (Stainless Steel and 18k White gold)


5 - Everose


6 - Platinum


8 - 18k Yellow gold


9 - 18k White gold


After the numbers you may see letters. 


These describe the colour of the bezel or any gemstones used in its decoration (and in one case the crystal colour):


BLRO: Bleu/Rouge or blue and red


BLNR: Bleu/Noir or blue and black


CHNR: Chocolat/Noir or brown and black


GV: Glace Verte: the green crystal found on Milgauss 116400GV


LB: Lunette Bleu or blue


LN: Lunette Noir or black


LV: Lunette Verte or green 


Rolex Submariner hulk

LV for green in the legendary Submariner Hulk.

 

Some watches are set with gems, and these are recorded in these letter codes:


TBR: Tessellate Brillants or diamond set


TEM: Tessellate Emeraude or emerald set


SABLV: Saphirs Bleu Vert or blue and green sapphire set


SABR: Saphirs, Brillants or sapphire and diamond set


SACO: Saphirs Cognac or cognac sapphire set 


SAFUBL: Saphirs Fuchsia Bleu or fuchsia (pink) and blue sapphires


SAJOR: Saphirs Jaune Orange or yellow and orange sapphire set


SANR: Saphirs Noir or black sapphire set 


SARU: Saphirs, Rubis or sapphire and ruby set 


Rolex References examples


The Rolex "Hulk" Submariner is reference 116610LV


The 1166 gives us the Submariner family. 


The 1 gives us the engine turned bezel.


The 0 gives us stainless steel. 


And LV gives us the green bezel that gives it its name. 


Rolex Oyster Perpetual Celebration Dial is ref. 126000


1260 gives us the Oyster perpetual with 36 mm case. 


Then we have a 0 for a plain bezel, with another 0 telling us it’s stainless steel. 

Rolex Oyster perpetual celebration

The "celebration" is an Oyster Perpetual.

Buying pre-owned Rolexes today 


Knowing your subject is the best way to get good value, good quality pre-owned Rolex watches. 


We have some lovely luxury watches here. 


And we’re always looking for more. 


If you’d like to sell then drop us a line and perhaps we know a buyer for your piece. 


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