The Ultimate Guide to Selling Pre-Owned Rolex Watches

. 10 min read

So you’re ready to sell your pre-owned Rolex. But where do you start? How do you get the best price and the best service? For the uninitiated, the secondary market of luxury watches, particularly secondhand Rolex watch niche, can be an overwhelming one. Rolex’s history is well over a century year old. And that longevity, coupled with the number of watches the Swiss watchmaking giant produces every year, makes for a wide assortment of different Rolex watches in circulation. Lucky for you, we are covering everything you need to know about selling used Rolex timepieces. Welcome to our ultimate guide to selling pre-owned Rolex watches.

Step 1 – Find Out the Reference Number of your Pre-Owned Rolex Watch

First things first, you need to figure out what type of pre-owned Rolex watch you have to sell. Note that the terms reference number, model number, and style number are interchangeable—they all mean the same thing.

These strings of digits are the key to understanding the Rolex model you have. For instance, a Rolex model can be a Datejust, a Day-Date, a Milgauss, a Submariner, a GMT-Master, and so on.

Rolex Reference/Model/Style Numbers

Rolex Model Rolex Reference Digits
Air-King 10xx, 43xx, 49xx, 55xx, 57xx, 65xx, 140xx, 114xxx, 116xxx
Date 15xx, 16xx, 50xx, 60xx, 63xx, 65xx, 66xx, 150xx, 152xx, 155xx, 1152xx
Datejust 16xx, 160xx, 162xx, 1162xx
Datejust II 1163xx
Datejust 41 1263xx
Datejust - Ladies 65xx, 69xx, 69xxx, 79xxx, 179xxx, 279xxx
Datejust - Midsize 68xx, 68xxx, 78xxx, 178xxx
Day-Date (President) 65xx, 66xx, 18xx, 180xx, 182xx, 183xx, 189xx, 118xxx
Day-Date Masterpiece 80xxx
Day-Date II 218xxx
Day-Date 40 228xxx
Daytona 62xx, 165xx, 1165xx
Explorer 10xx, 55xx, 6xxx, 142xx, 1142xx, 2142xx
Explorer II 16xx, 165xxx, 167xx, 216xxx
GMT-Master 65xx, 167x, 167xx,
GMT-Master II 1676x, 1671x, 1167xx, 1267xx
Milgauss 65xx, 10xx, 1164xx,
Oyster Perpetual 10xx, 15xx, 6xxx, 142xx, 142xxx, 114xxx, 116xxx
Oyster Perpetual – Ladies 67xx, 67xxx, 76xxx, 176xxx, 177xxx
Oyster Perpetual – Midsize  
Oysterquartz Datejust 170xx
Oysterquartz Day-Date 190xx
Pearlmaster 80xxx, 812xx, 862xx
Sea-Dweller 16xx, 166xx, 1666x, 1166xx, 1266xx
Sea-Dweller Deepsea 1166xx, 1266xx
Submariner 62xx, 65xx, 55xx, 140xx, 11440xx
Submariner Date 168x, 1661x, 1680x, 168xxx, 1166xx
Yacht-Master 166xx, 1166xx
Yacht-Master – Ladies & Midsize 686xx, 696xx, 168xxx, 169xxx, 268xxx
Yacht-Master II 1166xx
Sky-Dweller 326xxx

Sometimes, the Rolex reference numbers are followed by a string of letters. These letters are codes for a particular bezel style or sapphire crystal color.

Rolex Reference Letters

Rolex Reference Letters Code Meaning (French to English Translation)
BLRO (GMT-Master II) Bleu/Rouge – Blue and Red Bezel
BLNR (GMT-Master II) Bleu/Noir – Blue and Black Bezel
CHNR (GMT-Master II) Chocolat/Noir – Brown and Black Bezel
LN (GMT-Master, Submariner, Daytona) Lunette Noir – Black Bezel
LV (Submariner) Lunette Verte – Green Bezel
LB (Submariner) Lunette Bleu – Blue Bezel
GV (Milgauss) Glace Verte – Green Sapphire Crystal
RNBW (Daytona, Yacht-Master) Rainbow – Multicolored Sapphire-Set Bezel
SA Saphir – Sapphires
SANR Saphir Noir – Black Sapphires
SARU Saphir/Rubi – Sapphires and Rubies
TBR Diamonds
TEM Emeralds

Another thing that your Rolex reference number can tell you is what metal it is made out of by looking at the last digit. However, keep in mind this does not apply to Rolex Professional (aka sports models) watches made prior to the 1980s.

Rolex Reference Number Last Digit Metal of Rolex Watch
0 Stainless Steel
2 Stainless Steel & Platinum
3 Stainless Steel & Yellow Gold
4 Stainless Steel & White Gold
5 Pink Gold
6 Platinum
7 14k Yellow Gold
8 18k Yellow Gold
9 18k White Gold

So how do you find out the reference number of your pre-owned Rolex watch? There are two main ways to determine this. If you have the accompanying paperwork of the watch, such as the warranty card, receipt, or service records, then it is written on there. Simple enough.

If you do not have any paperwork for your secondhand Rolex, then you’ll have to look at the watch itself. However, the reference number of a Rolex is typically hidden from plain sight (the exception to this are the Oysterquartz models, which have the reference number engraved on the back). The reference number of a Rolex is engraved on the 12 o’clock side of the watch case—it is in between the watch lugs hidden behind where the bracelet meets the case.

Therefore, you will have to remove the bracelet (again, on the 12 o’clock side) to see the reference number engraved in the case. If you are comfortable doing this on your own, there are plenty of YouTube videos to show you how to safely remove a Rolex bracelet. Alternatively, you can bring your watch to a jeweler/watchmaker, who will have the proper tools and experience to do this for you.

photo by @ryuu_ji, CC

Step 2 – Find Out the Serial Number of your Pre-Owned Rolex Watch

Once you know the reference number of your Rolex watch is, then you need to figure out its serial number. A Rolex serial number is unique to each watch. As a result, a serial number can determine the approximate production date of your secondhand Rolex. However, there are a couple of important exceptions to using Rolex serial numbers to date your watch.

First, in 1954, Rolex reset their serial numbers after they reached #999,999. Therefore, a vintage Rolex watch from the 1960s can have an identical serial number to one from the 1950s. One way around this is to open up the caseback of the watch (with the help of a watchmaker) and you will see a date code on the interior of the caseback to indicate whether the watch was made prior to the mid-1950s or after the mid-1950s.

Another exception is towards the end of 2010, Rolex began using random serial numbers instead of chronological ones. Subsequently, if your used Rolex has a random serial number, it is impossible to date it except to know that it was made after 2010.

Below is a table of Rolex serial numbers and the corresponding production year. However, since Rolex never divulges any information pertaining to serial numbers and manufacturing dates, these are all approximations made possible by Rolex watch enthusiasts compiling data over the years.

Rolex Serial Numbers and Approximate Production Year

Prod. Year/s Rolex Serial Prod. Year Rolex Serial Prod. Year Rolex Serial
2010 - Present Random 1989 L,980,000 1966 1,275,000 – 1,485,000
2010 G 1988 R,598,200 1965 1,105,000 – 1,275,000
2009 V 1987 R,000,001 1964 1,000,000 – 1,105,000
2008 M OR V 1987 9,860,000 – 9,900,000 1963 865,000 – 1,000,000
2007 M OR Z 1986 9,155,000 – 9,860,000 1962 755,000 – 865,000
2006 D OR Z 1985 8,785,000 – 9,155,000 1961 650,000 – 755,000
2005 D 1984 8,375,000 – 8,785,000 1960 550,000 – 650,000
2005 F 1983 7,600,000 – 8,375,000 1959 450,000 – 550,000
2004 F 1982 7,130,000 – 7,600,000 1958 350,000 – 450,000
2003 F 1981 6,560,000 – 7,130,000 1957 250,000 – 350,000
2002 Y 1980 6,205,000 – 6,560,000 1956 150,000 – 250,000
2001 K OR Y 1979 5,865,000 – 6,205,000 1955 50,000 – 150,000
2000 K,000,001 1978 5,430,000 – 5,865,000 1954 0 – 50,000
2000 P,000,001 1977 5,085,000 – 5,430,000 RESET  RESET
1999 A,000,001 1976 5,000,000 – 5,085,000 1953 880,000 – 999,000
1998 U,932,144 1976 4,115,000 – 4,260,000 1952 725,000 – 880,000
1997 U,000,001 1975 3,865,000 – 4,115,000 1951 700,000 – 725,000
1996 T,000,001 1974 3,570,000 – 3,865,000 1948-1950 620,000 – 700,000
1995 W,000,001 1973 3,200,000 – 3,570,000 1947 -1948 500,000 – 620,000
1994 S,860,880 1972 2,890,000 – 3,200,000 1945 -1946 300,000 – 500,000
1993 S,000,001 1971 2,590,000 – 2,890,000 1941 -1944 200,000 – 300,000
1992 C,000,001 1970 2,240,000 – 2,590,000 1938 -1942 40,000 – 200,000
1991 N,000,001 1969 1,945,000 – 2,240,000 1927 -1937 20,000 – 40,000
1991 X,000,001 1968 1,710,000 – 1,945,000 1926 0 – 20,000
1990 E,000,001 1967 1,485,000 – 1,710,000    

Rolex Model Debut Years

Rolex Model Approximate Debut Year
Oyster Perpetual 1931
Air-King 1945
Datejust 1945
Date 1950
Explorer 1953
Submariner 1953
GMT-Master 1955
Day-Date 1956
Milgauss 1956
Lady-Datejust 1957
Cosmograph Daytona 1963
Sea-Dweller 1967
Explorer II 1971
Oysterquartz 1977
Pearlmaster 1992
Yacht-Master 1992
Yacht-Master II 2007
Deepsea 2008
Sky-Dweller 2012

So where do you locate your Rolex watch’s unique serial number? Again, there are a couple of options for this, beginning with the official paperwork. The warranty card, receipt, and or service records will have the Rolex’s serial number on there.

But, if you do not have these papers, then you will have to turn to the watch again. The Rolex serial number is located on the opposite side of where the reference number is on the watch case. You will have to again remove the bracelet from the watch case, but this time from the 6 o’clock side and you will see the serial number engraved in the case.

However, yet again, there are a couple of exceptions to keep in mind. In the mid-2000s, Rolex began engraving the serial number on the rehaut (the space between the dial and the crystal) of the watch on the 6 o’clock side. For a few years, Rolex watches had the serial number engraved on both the watch case and on the rehaut. But sometime in 2008, they stopped engraving it on the watch case altogether. So if you have a relatively new watch, post-2006 let’s say, you can spot the reference number right there on the bottom portion of your watch face without having to remove the bracelet.

Step 3 – Research Approximate Market Value for Your Pre-Owned Rolex

Now that you are armed with your pre-owned Rolex’s reference number and serial number, it is time to do some research. Start out with Googling your specific Rolex reference number and see what kind of search results you get back—you will inevitably see similar pre-owned Rolex watches for sale. This will give you a ballpark figure of how much your watch is worth in the market. But remember, this is an approximation—there are plenty of factors that will determine how much someone is willing to pay for your Rolex. Ask yourself these questions:

Do I have all the paperwork and packaging of my pre-owned Rolex?

Naturally, full sets—those pre-owned watches that come with boxes, papers, warranties, receipts, brochures, and service records—will fetch higher prices than just the watch. In some cases, having all the accompanying papers and boxes can add anywhere between 10% – 20% value to the watch in the secondary market. Also, if you have any extra bracelet links, add those to the set too.

Not only does the full set give more value to the end buyer, but it also helps to guarantee the authenticity of the secondhand Rolex watch—something buyers are always wary of. Of course, you can always sell a used Rolex without the box and papers, but understand that it will not sell for as much as a full set.

What is the condition of my pre-owned Rolex?

The condition of your used Rolex will be a big determining factor on the final sale value. Is your watch in working condition? Is the case and/or crystal scratched up, cracked, or dented? Does the bracelet have stretch? Is the dial damaged? These are all things to think about when comparing with other similar Rolex models for sale.

Furthermore, do you know if your Rolex has replacement or customized parts? In general, Rolex buyers like watches to be as close to its original form as possible without too many modifications and/or replacement components. It may come as a surprise to some, but pre-owned Rolex watches that show signs of wear and tear but have been left untouched are more prized in the vintage market over pre-owned watches that look new thanks to service dials, replacement components, and newer bracelets.

Step 4 – Decide On The Best Selling Method For You

Now that you have all the information you need about your Rolex, it is time to decide on how to sell it. And there are so many ways to sell a pre-owned Rolex watch.

Do you want to do it “offline” and in person at a jewelry/watch store, pawn shop, auction house, or direct to an end-buyer via a classified ad? Or do you prefer to do it online by requesting quotes from websites that specialize in buying and selling pre-owned Rolex watches? Or sell it yourself online through auction sites, pre-owned luxury goods selling apps, or pre-owned watch marketplaces?

Another thing to consider is if you want to sell, consign, or trade in your pre-owned Rolex. Selling it outright will be the quickest option but it will typically yield the lowest amount of money. Consigning will oftentimes get you more money but it can take longer. And trading in your watch will generally get you the highest value, but in credit towards your next purchase.

Regardless of which method you choose to sell your pre-owned Rolex, we always recommend to “buy the seller” and go with the option that has the best reviews, reputation, and resources.

Featured photo by @guysie, CC