Authenticating a Rolex watch includes a cumulative process as opposed to looking at one specific indicator. It is about taking in the whole, the model number, serial number, movement number, sound of the movement, weight of the watch, and details of the way the watch looks and feels all at once. Extras, like having a Rolex box and Rolex papers may help with the authentication process, but these documents are neither here nor there since it is the watch which needs authentication, not just the paperwork that comes with it. A Rolex box or even Rolex papers can be bought, stolen, or fraudulent.
The best way to authenticate a Rolex watch is to bring it to a qualified watchmaker, someone who is experienced with Rolex watches, and someone who can be trusted. That person will be able to open the watch and take a look at all the pertinent numbers to see if they match up with one another, as well as with each detail of the watch. Rolex continuously makes slight changes to their watches throughout the years, and only someone experienced, or someone willing to go through the process of learning each change and when the changes occurred will be able to authenticate a Rolex watch properly. It is important, however, to know how to check the model and serial number of a Rolex watch yourself, either for a watch you already own, or one you are looking to purchase. In the video attached see how to check for these two numbers on two different kinds of Rolex watch cases -- holes and no-holes cases.
The Model number of a Rolex watch is located between the two lugs by the 12 o’clock marker on the Rolex case. This number is much like a code which Rolex has created. The numbers describe different attributes of the watch, for example, Rolex model 16233 can be broken down to mean: Rolex 36mm Steel and Gold Datejust watch with yellow gold fluted bezel -- the model number does not specify the dial, which can be a variation of colors and numerals, nor does it specify the bracelet, which, in this case will be either a Rolex jubilee bracelet or a Rolex oyster bracelet. Additionally, we know that it is definitely a quickset movement with a sapphire crystal from at least the 90’s or early 2000’s. All that information is in the number alone -- 16233.
Let’s do another example for fun: Rolex model 18238 -- these numbers indicate that it is a 18k yellow gold Rolex Day-Date watch with a Presidential bracelet and yellow gold fluted bezel. We also know it is a double quick-set model. The only thing we do not know here is the specific dial, which can be a variation of over a dozen options.
The Serial number of a Rolex watch is located between the two lugs by the 6 o’clock marker on the Rolex case, on most watches that were manufactured before 2007. After 2007, and even starting in 2003 for the Daytona model, Rolex made a change in the design of their watches and started placing the serial numbers on the wall of the bezel under the crystal. This new style of placing the serial number on the inner bezel is called an inner bezel engraving or Rehaut engraved bezel. This makes it easier to locate and know what the serial number is on a Rolex watch.