The Difference in a 4, 5, and 6-Digit Rolex Reference Number

Insight into a Rolex Reference Number

For die-hard Rolex fans, the appeal of a certain model isn’t just about the dial color or type of strap. The reference number can signify the authenticity and cult status of a specific Rolex watch. In fact, the reference number indicates the defining characteristics of the timepiece. It may seem like a random string of letters and numbers at first glance. However, each digit of the reference number represents an important feature of that particular watch. Every Rolex timepiece has the reference number. You can find it engraved between the lugs on the twelve-o’clock side of the dial. Additionally, this reference number can consist of four, five, or six digits.

Comparing Four and Five-Digit Reference Numbers

The reference number describes the materials and configuration of that specific timepiece in a specific order. The first two or three digits indicate the type of model. The model of a watch directly correlates to the size and type of movement found in that particular watch. The next few digits, however, and the information they provide are where things start to vary.

reference number

Rolex describes the size and type of movement of some models in two digits. In this case, the watch will have a four-digit reference number. Rolex typically made models with four-digit reference numbers before the 1980s. On the other hand, some models have three digits to describe the size and type of movement. In this instance, it will have a five-digit reference number. Rolex released these five-digit reference numbers between the 1980s and the new millennium. In either case, the third or fourth digit signifies the style of the bezel. Then, the fourth or fifth digit describes the materials used.

Introducing Six-Digit Reference Numbers

In recent years, Rolex has started using six-digit reference numbers to designate the watches as new references. They typically do this by adding the number one or two in front of a pre-existing reference number. Take the stainless steel Explorer II for example. Its reference number has changed from 16570 to 216570.

reference number


At first, you may think some of these characteristics indicated by the reference number seem obvious. When looking at a particular watch, it’s often easy to determine the style of bezel or type of material used. Yet, sometimes it’s challenging to identify certain materials so quickly and easily. For example, take the Datejust reference 116200 compared to the reference 116234. These two models appear identical. However, the bezel of the 116200 is made of stainless steel and the 116234 is white gold.

Understanding More about Your Watch

It’s also particularly useful to understand reference numbers and their meaning when buying in the pre-owned market. It allows you to confirm the original configuration of the watch. This way, you know exactly what parts Rolex fitted it with when it left the factory. Then, you can cross-reference it with its present configuration to see if there have been any aftermarket additions or modifications.

reference number

We hope these details about the difference between four, five, and six-digit reference numbers have been helpful. It’s always exciting and beneficial to learn more about your timepiece. As a quick reference guide, we’ve provided a key with Rolex material and bezel codes.


0          Stainless Steel

1          Yellow Gold Filled

2          White Gold Filled

3          Stainless Steel and 18-Karat Yellow Gold

4          Stainless Steel and 18-Karat White Gold

5          Gold Shell

6          Platinum

7          14-Karat Yellow Gold

8          18-Karat Yellow Gold

9          18-Karat White Gold

Bezel Numbers:

0          Polished

1          Engine Turned

2          Engraved

3          Fluted

4          Hand-Crafted

5          Pyramid

6          Rotating

7          Various

8          Special

9          Open

Bezel Letters:

BLRO   Blue and Red

BLNR   Blue and Black

LN        Black

LV        Green

LB        Blue

GV      Green Sapphire Cystal

RNBW Multicolored

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Caitlyn is the founder of Grey Ghost, a New York City-based boutique content marketing agency with a passion for artists, entrepreneurs, small businesses, and startups. She believes in quality over quantity, creative thinking, and, above all, using language as powerful tool to build lasting connections.

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