Rolex : how to decipher the reference numbers
On this page you will learn the meaning of the numbers of the Rolex references. These numbers are codes allowing to verify that the watch is in its original condition. Discover all the necessary checks when acquiring a vintage Rolex watch.
Reference numbers: Rolex reference numbers range from four to six digits. The number is located at 12 o'clock between the lugs and under the strap. The first two or three digits describe the type of watch.
The meaning of Rolex reference numbers
All Rolex reference has a specific number made of 4, 5 or 6 digits.
4-digit Rolex references
If the watch has 4 digits, the last number corresponds to the bezel.
5-digit model numbers
For five-digit model numbers, the second to last digit defines the type of bezel (with a few exceptions) and the last digit indicates the metal of the watch case.
Watch with 6 digits : these digits can also give information on the period of production : around 2000, Rolex started to add a 1 in front of some model references. Example: the Daytona 16520 became 116520. The following list is not exhaustive and has no official value.
|OP Date – 15 & 150||OP – 10 & 140|
|OP Date (old) – 65 & 66||OP Chronomètre -142|
|OP Date Chronomètre – 15 & 150||OP Datejust – 16 & 160|
|Datejust Oyster quartz – 170||OP Date – 18, 180 , 182 et 183|
|Oyster Quartz Date – 190||Medium OP DJ – 682|
|Sea Dweller – 16 & 166||Lady Oyster Perpetual – 67 & 671|
|Submariner OP – 55 & 140 & 6538||Lady OP Datejust – 65 , 69 , 691, 692, 791, 792|
|Datejust Thunderbird – 16 & 162||LadyOP Date – 65 , 69 , 691 et 692|
|Submariner – 16 , 166 et 168||Airking – 55 & 140|
|Daytona (manuel) – 62||Yacht-Master – 166 , 686 et 696|
|Daytona cosmograph – 165||Explorer – 165|
|GMT Master – 167|
|OP = Oyster Perpetual – DJ = Datejust|
|0 – smooth||3 – fluted||6 – « Turn O Graph »
|1 – index
(numbers or "guillochés")
|4 – bark||7 – varied|
|2 – engraved||5 – with jewels|
|Metal type : last number|
|0 – steel||4 – steel / white gold 18k||7 – yellow gold 14K|
|3 – steel / yellow gold 18K||8 – yellow gold 18K||9 – white gold 18K|
How to understand Rolex reference numbers ?
Examples on a four-digit Rolex reference number
1601 Datejust is steel or steel and gold or gold .
All three are Datejust and have the same model number ( 1601 = (160 = Datejust) + (1 = smooth bezel))
Examples on a five-digit Rolex reference number
16200 steel, smooth bezel.
16220 steel, engraved bezel.
16234 steel/white gold, fluted bezel.
16203 steel/yellow gold, smooth bezel.
16233 steel/yellow gold, fluted bezel.
79258 Rolex Datejust Ladies diamond and yellow gold bezel.
79174 Rolex Datejust Ladies steel/white gold fluted bezel.
16610 Rolex Submariner, index bezel, steel.
Examples on a six-digit reference number
116610 Rolex Submariner, index bezel, steel.
116203 steel/yellow gold, smooth bezel.
116234 steel/white gold, fluted bezel.
Meaning of the steel reference number
What is the best steel type for a watch? While 95% of quality watches are made of 316L, is 904L steel from Rolex just for marketing purposes?
ROLEX 904L steel
Actually there are good reasons to use 904L on a dive watch.
The index of corrosion resistance of a metal is PRE for "Pitting Resistance Equivalent".
The level to be reached to receive the designation "salt water resistant" is 32 PRE (or +).
The 316L has a value of 24 PRE while the 904L reaches 35 PRE.
In 1987, Rolex began using 904L stainless steel on the Submariner Date 168000 model. Rolex previously used 316L steel. Rolex brand steel watches introduced after 2011 are composed solely of 904L stainless steel.