If you are a fairly new watch enthusiast you may not recognize how useful it is to understand a watch’s reference number. We are going to break down the meaning behind the reference numbers so that you can decode them for yourself. With Rolex, the reference numbers are actually fairly simple and intuitive.
Rolex watches began with four-digit reference numbers and over time have increased to 5 and now 6-digit strings. So right off the bat you can get an idea about what era a watch is from just by the length of the number.
In general, four-digit ref numbers were used prior to the late 1970’s. Five-digit reference numbers were used between the late 1970’s and the late 1990’s. Six digit models were produced from 2000 to the present. (The sixth-digit added was often a 1 appended to the beginning of the 5 digit ref. number.)
The first two to four digits refer to the model. Below is a small subset of models and associated reference numbers.
150 – Date
140 – Submariner (no date)
162 / 262 – Datejust
164 – Milgauss
165 – Explorer II
166 – Submariner Date, SeaDweller, Yachtmaster 40mm
167 / 267 – GMT Master II
1165 – Cosmograph Daytona
182 / 282 – Day-Date
266 – Yachtmaster and SeaDweller
In a five or 6 digit ref number the second to last number refers to the style of the bezel. Here are the most common bezel types:
0 – Smooth / Domed
1 – Engine Turned
2 – Engraved
3 – Fluted
6 – Rotatable (Turn-O-Graph)
Oyster Perpetual – ref. 116000
Day-Date – ref. 118238
The last digit refers to what the watch is made out of.
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
As you’ve probably noticed newer watches also have letters appended to the end of the ref#. These add additional details about the watche’s color, gems or other unique elements.
(B or BL) Bleu: Blue
(CH)Chocolat: Chocolate (or brown)
(G)Glace: Window (or crystal)
GMT-Master II Pepsi, BLRO is the abbreviation for Bleu Rouge (Blue and Red)
GMT Master II – ref. 126710BLRO
When buying a pre-owned Rolex, matching the reference number helps you verify that you’re going to get what you expected. Becoming familiar with these codes can also be a time saver especially when you’re browsing online or keeping an eye out for a certain watch model. Now when you see an article or listing for a Sea Dweller: ref. 116600 you will automatically know the era, material, and bezel of the watch without having to go look it up. Checkout our Rolex watches here and test your skills.
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