Rolex Reference Numbers Explained

To some people a watch’s reference number may just be a random set of letters and numbers. In the case of Rolex, however, there are many things a reference number can signify: a watch’s craftsmanship, authenticity, and even its cult status.

The Rolex reference number actually provides information not only about the watch’s model or which collection it belongs to, but about its material, appearance and production period. If you’re a Rolex fan or a budding collector, you’d undoubtedly want to know more about your timepieces – and decoding the reference number is one of them.

 

Here’s a simplified guide to understanding Rolex reference numbers.

 

THE HISTORY OF ROLEX REFERENCE NUMBERS

If you look back on the history of Rolex, you’d notice that their reference numbers have become longer over time. They began by using four-digit reference numbers, then transitioned to five-digit numbers in the mid-1970s. In the 2000s, these became the six-digit reference numbers that are being used today.

In recent years, Rolex also started using six-digit references to indicate that a watch is a newer reference. Typically, they would add the number 1 or 2 in front of an already existing reference number. Take the case of the Rolex Explorer II for example: the reference 16570 was replaced by the newer 216570.

 

Blue Rolex Watches: Rolex Sky-Dweller, Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, Rolex Datejust 41

 

DECODING ROLEX REFERENCE NUMBERS

So what exactly does a Rolex reference number tell us? Unlike other brands’ reference number systems, Rolex’s is actually surprisingly simple.

 

MODEL TYPE – The first two to four digits tells us what kind of model it is. By “model” we mean the collection or family of watches it belongs to, such as the Datejust, GMT-Master and the like. Each model type has a designated set of numbers. As this is a very vast list, we’re showing the most recent traditional model types below:

140 – Submariner (no date)
142 – Oyster Perpetual 34mm and Explorer
143 – Oyster Perpetual 39mm
152 – Oyster Perpetual Date 34mm
162 / 262 – Datejust
164 – Milgauss
165 – Explorer II
166 – Submariner, SeaDweller, Yachtmaster 40mm
167 / 267 – GMT Master II
169 – Air King
1165 – Cosmograph Daytona
182 / 282 – Day-Date
266 – Yachtmaster and Seadweller
269 – Sky-Dweller

Again, in the case of the Rolex Explorer II Orange Hand, the reference number is 216570165 stands for its model type (Explorer II), while 2 indicates that it is a newer model. What then do its last two numbers, 7 and 0, mean?

 


 

A bevy of Rolex Datejust 41 models with blue dials. Roman, Diamond and Baton hour markers; Smooth and Fluted Bezels; Oyster and Jubilee bracelets

 

 

BEZEL TYPE – If the reference number is five to six digits long, the second to the last number describes the bezel type. They are classified as follows.

0 – Smooth / Domed / Polished
1 – Engine Turned
2 – Engraved
3 – Fluted
4 – Bark / Hand-Crafted
6 – Rotatable
7 – Various (e.g. Explorer II)

 


 

Rolex President Datejust White Gold, Rolex President Myriad Diamond Yellow Gold

 

 

MATERIAL – The sixth digit in the reference number, meanwhile, tells you what type of metal the watch is made of. For watches with a reference number of less than 6 digits, the last digit in the reference number tells you what metal it is made 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

 


 

Rolex President Day-Date Watches with Anniversary Diamond Dials

 

LETTERS – Finally, as you might have observed, modern references also come with letters affixed to them. There’s the popular Rolex Kermit for example, with its famous suffix LV or the Rolex Pepsi with its suffix BLRO.

These letters are actually abbreviations for French colors, gems, and other watch elements. As a Geneva-based company, French is actually Rolex’s official language. Here are the most commonly used French terms in Rolex reference numbers:

Bleu: Blue
Brillants: Faceted diamonds
Chocolat: Chocolate (or brown)
Emeraude: Emerald
Glace: Window (or crystal)
Jaune: Yellow
Lunette: Bezel
Noir: Black
Rouge: Red
Rubis: Ruby
Saphirs: Sapphire
Vert: Green

In the case of the Rolex Kermit, LV stands for Lunette Vert (Green Bezel); while in the case of the Rolex Pepsi, BLRO stands for Bleu Rouge (Blue and Red). The Milgauss, famous for its green sapphire crystal has the suffix GV, for Glace Vert (Green Window).

 


 

With the simplified guide above, we hope that Rolex reference numbers make a little more sense to you. You’ll be reading them like a novel in no time!

 

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