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:




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


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: 


Datejust II: 


Day-Date 36: 

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

Day-Date 40: 

1182, 2282, 2283

Day-Date II: 


Day-Date Masterpiece: 



1166, 1266


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.


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


696, 1696


65, 10, 1164

Oyster Perpetual 24: 


Oyster Perpetual 26: 


Oyster Perpetual 31: 

77, 1772, 2772

Oyster Perpetual 34:

102, 152, 1152, 1242

Oyster Perpetual 36: 

1160, 1260

Oyster Perpetual 39: 


Oyster Perpetual 41: 



170, 190, 191

Pearlmaster 29: 

802, 803, 803

Pearlmaster 34: 

812, 813

Pearlmaster 39: 


Rolex pearlmaster

It's very clear how pearlmasters were named. 



166, 1166, 1266


3261, 3269, 3362


55, 140, 1140, 1240

Submariner Date:

16, 166, 168, 1166, 1266


162, 1162

Yacht-Master 35: 

686, 1686

Yacht-Master 37: 


Yacht-Master 40: 

166, 1166, 1266

Yacht-Master 42: 


Yacht-Master II: 


(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. 

And, for more news like this, our latest new arrivals and much more just sign up for our newsletter here. All we need’s an email and you’ll never miss out again. 

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