Attributing an accurate year of manufacture to a Vintage Rolex watch is not an exact science for a variety of reasons.

 

  • Rolex does not publish dates of manufacture or provide archive extracts for watches.

  • Published charts, like the one on the right, are based on serial number ranges and are unofficial. They rely in part on anecdotal information. Also, depending on the source, charts may have inconsistent information.

  • Case back date codes may be helpful, but are not present in all models, more importantly they were not meant to denote the year of manufacture of a particular watch.


Collectors looking to date their Vintage Rolex watch precisely and unequivocally may be somewhat disappointed with the aforementioned ambiguity. However, it is possible to estimate the year of manufacture by polling several available sources to get a consensus of the approximate year of production.

  1. It is best to start by looking up the serial number on one or more of the published charts available in some of the books dedicated to Vintage Rolex, such as the two examples to the right. Additionally, there are similar charts on some websites, such as Bob's Watches.

  2. If the watch in question has a date code inside the case back, it can be helpful if it is corroborated by one
    or more of the reference charts. If the case back date is different, more research and analysis may be needed.
    A better understanding of case back date codes can be found on this website here.

  3. Auction houses such as Christies and Phillips Fine Watches maintain archives of past results that can be searched using the Submariner reference number. The search results will provide past auction sales with serial numbers and estimated production dates. These are not definitive either and should be used only for guidance.

  4. Experienced collectors and dealers who are knowledgeable in Small Crowns and are willing to share their passion can also be an invaluable resource in helping determine the production date as well as other invaluable information.
  5. In some rare instances, original receipts or other paperwork that accompanied the watch can shed the light on the production date.

Rolex Vintage Serial Numbers

The partial chart on the left is found in "Rolex Daytona, A Legend Is Born" by Carlo Pergola.

 

The partial chart on the left is found in "The Best of Time Rolex Wristwatches"
by James M. Dowling and Jeffrey P. Hess

 

Original papers such as a sales receipt or Chronometer Certificate can help narrow down the production year.

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