Every Rolex Submariner has a 4 to 6 digit model number, which is often referred to as the watch’s reference number. This information can tell you several things about your Rolex, such as the model, metal used, and general time that the watch was produced. This guide will explain exactly where to find the model number and distinguish the series of your Rolex Submariner.
Table of Contents:
The Rolex Submariner
Submariner Fast Facts:
– First introduced in 1953
– The first watch to achieve 100 meters of water resistance
– Luminous hands and hour markers
– 60-minute rotating timing bezel
– Rolex Oyster Case w/ screw-down crown and case-back
– The original watch of James Bond
– Issued to branches of the Military
– Offered in both Date and No-Date formats
Where is My Rolex Submariner Model Number?
Do you still have the original papers that came with your Rolex? Great! The papers will include both the serial number and reference number that are associated with your watch. If you don’t have the papers, the model number is also located on the watch case, engraved between the lugs on the 12 o’clock side. With that in mind, the bracelet needs to be removed in order to view the reference number engraving.
Where is My Rolex Submariner Serial Number?
Also engraved on the case between the lugs at 6 o’clock is the serial number, which can also tell you a lot about your Submariner, such as the year produced and how much your watch is worth. In 2005, Rolex began engraving the serial number on both the rehaut (inner bezel between the crystal and the dial) and the side of the case.
Then, in 2008, the company transitioned to engraving the serial number on the rehaut only. If your Rolex Submariner was produced after 2005, you can view the serial number simply by looking at the rehaut through the crystal.
The Rolex Submariner Reference Number Decoded
If you aren’t already familiar with the Rolex brand, the model or reference number might not seem particularly important (or exciting for that matter). However, each digit within the reference number has a story to tell and follows a pattern that gives us clues about which series the Submariner belongs to and the watch’s most important features.
The first few digits of the reference number are unique to the model and tell us right away which Rolex collection your watch belongs to. In this case, we will focus on the Submariner. The reference number of any 4-digit Submariner will always begin with 62, 65, 55, or 16. 5-digit model numbers start with 140, 166, or 168. Lastly, 6-digit model numbers begin with 1166, 1140, 1266, or 1240. In 2020, Rolex introduced the first 41mm Submariner. Numbers beginning with 1266 or 1240 signify that the case is 41mm. The second to last digit of the reference number will tell you the bezel type of your watch, but since all Rolex Submariner models have rotating timing bezels, this isn’t all that useful in determining the specific series of your watch. Finally, the last digit of the reference number will tell you the type of metal used in its construction.
– Stainless Steel (Oystersteel): 0
– Steel and Yellow Gold (Yellow Rolesor): 3
– Yellow Gold: 8
– White Gold: 9
There are several other metal options available within the Rolex catalog but these are the only ones that pertain to the Rolex Submariner collection. Lastly, it is important to note that this system only applies to the 5-digit and 6-digit reference numbers. All of the 4-digit reference number Submariner watches were crafted from stainless steel with the one exception being the reference 1680. However, you will see the same “1680” engraving on these watches, regardless of whether they are made from stainless steel or 18k yellow gold (the reference 1680/8).
Reference Number and Bezel Color
The Rolex Submariner reference number might also have a qualifier at the end, which Rolex includes as a means to signify the bezel color. Lunette (L) stands for the bezel (in French), which is then followed by another letter to distinguish the bezel color:
– LV: Lunette Verte
– LN: Lunette Noir
– LB: Lunette Bleu
One exception is reference 14060M. The “M” stands for “Modified” and this was added after the watch received an upgraded movement – the Caliber 3130, which is the dateless equivalent of the famed Caliber 3135. These reference 14060M watches are from the later part of the 5-digit generation of the Submariner No-Date before Rolex discontinued it and replaced it with its 6-digit successor.
The Different Rolex Submariner Series
Rolex first introduced the Submariner in 1953. Over the past several decades, numerous upgrades have been made to the collection that can help determine which Rolex series your Submariner belongs to. For example, from 1953 until the late 1970s, the Submariner reference number was only 4 digits long. By simply looking at the number, you can determine that the watch is a vintage Rolex Submariner.
Popular models within this series include the ref. 5512 and ref. 5513. They are both nearly identical, with the main difference between the two watches being that reference 5512 was chronometer-rated and reference 5513 was not. Both enjoyed long production runs and are relatively easy to find on the secondary market, although the ref. 5512 is more expensive due to its more limited production numbers.
The 5-Digit Series and Transitional Submariner References
The transitional reference 1680x (where the x denotes metal type) hit the market during the late 1970s, marking the arrival of the 5-digit series. It replaced the acrylic crystal with sapphire, increased the watch’s depth rating to 300 meters, and featured a then-new high-beat movement. Additionally, the unidirectional bezel replaced the bidirectional rotating bezel at this point. The dial on the Submariner also received a facelift part of the way through the ref. 16800’s production run, switching from matte black with painted hour markers to gloss black with applied hour marks outlined in white gold.
The ref. 168000 is also considered a transitional model, and it is largely identical to the ref. 16800 with the only difference being the type of stainless steel that was used in its construction (904L vs. 316L). It was only produced for about a year between 1987 and 1988, and although its reference number includes six digits, this is not actually what people are talking about when they refer to the 6-digit reference number Submariner watches.
The second generation of the 5-digit series of Submariner watches followed shortly after in the late 1980s, with 1661x reference numbers. This era marked the turning point for the modern Submariner as we know it today, and the upgrades introduced on the previous transitional references became established features of the Rolex Submariner’s design. The Caliber 3135 movement also made its debut, where it remained the Submariner Date’s go-to movement until 2020 when it was replaced by the Caliber 3235.
Ceramic Bezel Submariner Series
That brings us to the 6-digit series of Rolex Submariner watches, which is distinguished by an extra “1” in front of the model number. Compared to any 5-digit Submariner, the 6-digit series is noticeably more contemporary in design. For starters, the “Super Case” features broader lugs and thicker crown guards. Despite keeping the same 40mm diameter, the case appears noticeably larger and more angular on the wrist.
The 6-digit series also features a “Maxi” dial with larger markers and hands (although you will also find a Maxi dial on the 50th-anniversary edition ref. 16610LV from the previous series). Watches produced after 2008 also feature blue luminous Chromalight on the dial. The bezel is still uni-directional – only now, the aluminum insert is gone and replaced by one made from a highly-resilient and proprietary “Cerachrom” ceramic material.
On September 1st, 2020, Rolex introduced a brand-new generation of 6-digit Submariner watches, complete with a larger 41mm case and the Caliber 3235 Perpetual movement. To differentiate this series from the original 6-digit Submariner, Rolex gave it a reference sequence beginning with “126” but the rest of the reference number
Rolex Submariner Reference Numbers:
Below is a complete list of all the different reference numbers that have been used for Rolex Submariner watches since the model was first introduced in 1953, and their respective series
4-digit Series (Vintage Submariner Watches)
– 6536, 6536/1
– 6538, A/6538
– 1680 (1680/8)
5-Digit Series and Transitional References
6-digit Series (Ceramic Bezels)