How to Identify a Vintage Rolex

Updated February 21, 2017

In 1910, the Rolex was the first wristwatch that the Official Watch Rating Centre bestowed with the Swiss Certificate of Precision. In the following years, Rolex would be synonymous with accuracy and prestige. A watch is considered antique when it reaches the age of 100 or greater. A vintage watch is not old enough to classify as an antique, but greater than 25 to 30 years of age. There are several ways to differentiate a vintage Rolex from contemporary models.

Remove the band, or bracelet, of the watch. Do not pry. Visit a reputable jeweller for assistance. Alternately, invest in a springbar tool intended for watch and jewellery applications. When the bracelet, or strap, is absent, various symbols are legible.

Verify authenticity. Turn the watch to the twelve o'clock position. On the edge of the case, the words "ORIG ROLEX DESIGN" appear over a model number, indicating an authentic Rolex.

Turn the watch to view the six o'clock edge of the watch case to read the serial number. Use a magnifying glass for clarity. The serial number will appear as numerals or, alternately, a combination of a letter and six numbers. If the serial number is solely numerals, cross-reference the number with the reference list. A rough time line of serial dates was researched and created by the Rolex Forum and German Rolex Forum. While the reference does not guarantee an exact date, it serves as a general time line.

Look for the letter. If the serial number appears as one letter followed by six digits, the watch was produced no earlier than 1987. Therefore, the absence of a letter indicates that the watch was produced between 1927 and 1986.

Research vintage advertisements. Visit the library and local archives for Rolex Company and local jeweller advertisements touting the latest styles. Magazines can also be sourced online. When the serial numbers reached one million, the older serial numbers were reused. In 1957, serial numbers were recycled. To establish whether a watch was produced in the first 30-year period of 1927 through 1957, or the second period of 1957 to 1987, knowledge of popular styles is important.

Things You'll Need

  • Springbar
  • Magnifying glass
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