One of the most important details for Rolex collectors is the age of a given watch. As a company, Rolex has been in business for over a century. During which time they have produced countless watches, with only subtle changes taking place between the different references over the years. This also includes the Rolex Serial Numbers which can get very confusing.
Rolex Red Submariner ref. 1680 with a line of red text.
Unique Identifier: How To Find Your Serial Number
Let’s look at this Rolex 1680 as an example. Every Rolex watch has a unique serial number engraved directly into the metal of its case. The engraving is located between the lugs on the 6 o’clock side, and can only be seen once that side of the bracelet has been removed from the case. On modern Rolex watches, the serial number engraving appears on the inner bezel, so that it can be viewed by simply looking through the crystal, rather than by removing the bracelet.
Rolex Serial Numbers
Although Rolex has never published an official resource regarding serial numbers and their corresponding years of production, generations of Rolex owners have amassed a collective knowledge base that is able to accurately identify the specific year a given Rolex was manufactured, based on its serial number engraving.
The Rolex serial number is engraved between the lugs at 6 o’clock
Serial Number History
The first Rolex serial numbers consisted of only numerical figures, containing a maximum of six digits. Around the mid 1950s, Rolex reached the limit of their six-digit, serial number system, and reset the count, starting the serial numbers over again. However in the mid 1960s, when they reached the end of their six-digit system once more, they added a seventh digit and continued to count upwards from there.
In 1987, Rolex reached the end of their seven-digit serial number system, and rather than adding yet another digit to the length of their serial numbers, they chose to turn the first digit into a letter. Each subsequent year of production was marked by a different letter at the beginning of the serial number (more or less), with the following six numerical digits serving as the identification number between the different watches that were manufactured within the same year.
A Vintage Rolex Submariner 5512 with a gilt dial.
Rolex continued with this practice until 2011, when they switched to a random serial number system that makes it virtually impossible to tell when exactly a watch left their factory. All watches manufactured between 2011 and the present will have a random serial number engraved into the bottom of the inner bezel, directly under the crystal.
After locating your serial number, visit our accurate Rolex Serial Numbers page, where you will find a manufacture date reference tool and accompanying chart. Simply enter your serial number and click the “submit” button. You will be redirected to a page that will clearly state the exact year that your watch was manufactured.
To view other years of production and their corresponding serial numbers, just reference the chart on our Rolex Serial Numbers page, where you will find a complete list dating all the way back to 1926, along with additional charts that outline the meaning behind Rolex reference numbers and bracelet codes.