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A Comprehensive Guide to The Difference Between 4, 5 And 6 Digit Rolex Reference Numbers

October 4th, 2019
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The Rolex Reference number serves as a significant way to deciphering details about the age, model, material and bezel of a watch. Interestingly enough, the manufacturer, over the years, has employed different length of reference numbers. Why? If you are interested to know, read this comprehensive guide to the distinction between the Rolex reference numbers of 4, 5 and 6 digits.

Rolex Reference Numbers Based on Production Periods

The watches that are over 30years old are usually classified as vintage watches. The timepieces those are younger than three decades and not in production currently are often referred to as retro watches. However, they are also sometimes called discontinued watches. Finally, the references that are still in production are referred to as current-production timepieces. Now:

The number of digits present in a reference number of Rolex can designate the general production period of the watch. Rolex timepieces having four digits were produced typically prior to the late 1980s, eventually regarded as vintage watches. For example – the vintage Rolex Datejust 1601, the vintage Rolex Daytona 6263, the vintage Rolex GMT-Master 1675 and so on.

However, in the late 1970s, Rolex started making watches with five digits. By the late 1980s, the brand changed all its references to five-digit reference numbers. For instance, the Rolex GT-Master 16750, the Rolex Sea-Dweller 16660, the Rolex Day-Date 18238, the Rolex GMT-Master II 16710, and so on.

The brand soon transitioned the five-digit to six-digit reference number by adding ‘2’ or ‘1’ to the reference’s beginning. Eventually, the Rolex Explorer reference number changed to 114270 from 14270, the Rolex Submariner to 116610 from 16610, and the Rolex Datejust switched to 116200 from 16200 and the Daytona to 116520 from 16520.

However, Rolex started to discontinue six-digit references, ideally around 2015. It replaced the models with new versions, equipping updated design features and new movements yet retaining the format of six-digit. Thus, both current-production Rolex watches and discontinued ones feature six-digit reference numbers.

Rolex Reference Numbers Based on Luminescence, Bezels, And Crystals

Rolex watches typically come with specific design details that may help in differentiating between a Rolex reference number of 4, 5, and 6 digits. The manufacturer has developed the kind of luminous elements used on its models over the years. While Rolex utilised Radium until the early 1960s and Tritium till the late 1990s, luminescent material like LumiNova was used until 2000, Super-LumiNova till the late 2000s and finally, the Chromalight.

Thus, if Radium is used for luminescence in a Rolex watch, it is likely to have a four-digit reference number. One the other hand, the model using Chromalight or Super-LumiNova is expected to possess a six-digit reference number. However, the brand has also transitioned the crystal type used for protecting its watch dials.

While Rolex initially used acrylic crystals, it today makes use of sapphire crystals. Apart from the Rolex Datejust 1630, the Rolex Date 1530 and Rolex Quartz 5100, every Rolex watch with four-digit reference number were equipped originally with acrylic crystals. Alternatively, all six-digit Rolex reference number models feature sapphire crystals. However, five-digit Rolex iterations can have either sapphire or acrylic crystals based on the model.

While the brand has mostly utilised aluminium to create its bezel inserts, it launched the Cerachrom bezel in 2005. The Cerachrom ceramic bezel was fitted to the GMT-Master II collection, and subsequently, all aluminium bezels were replaced with Cerachrom bezel across the Rolex Daytona, Sea-Dweller and Submariner collections. Thus, if a Rolex watch flaunts a ceramic bezel insert, it is more likely to have a six-digit reference number.

In simple words, the Rolex reference numbers have evolved from four, five to six digits, and it simultaneously reflects the development of the timepieces themselves. However, if you want to know more about how to find the Rolex serial number, read A Comprehensive Guide to Rolex Serial Numbers. If you are looking to ‘sell Rolex’ or ‘sell my Rolex’ for cash, try to find out your watch’s serial number foremost. This will enable you to establish the price that you are likely to secure from professional and trustworthy watch buyers in London or anywhere in the UK.

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