James Dowling’s Book Update
and Rolex Serial Number Dating
Last updated 18th September, 1997
111 Paragraph 2, line 21; the number of shares allocated to Herr Aegler should read 6,960 NOT 6,090
114 Line 2: the word “name” should be “marketing”
153 Last paragraph, line 2; St. Imer should be St. Imier.
177 This watch is stamped on the outside only, although other Scientifics have been seen marked both inside and out.
191 The final paragraph on this page is truncated and another paragraph >from Page 192 is printed in its place.
The correct text should continue:
many of them in steel, an unheard of move for a flagship watch. Rolex never reduced the price of the watch but they did not increase its price in line with other models, this meant that in its last year on the price lists, 1955, the watch was listed at 5% cheaper than an 18k
Datejust $525.00 versus $550.00. The final failure of the watch can be put down to a number of factors but mainly to the fact that the Datejust was a more usable watch, it was easier to see the date through a window which was always in the same place rather than at the end of a moving arrow, the watch was intrinsically less waterproof than a Datejust due to the adjustment pushers which went through the case and there was also the fact that the watch looked very similar to triple calendar models produced by a wide variety of other companies; and of course, in the end people buy watches to perform functions they need and who really needs to know the phases of the moon?
195 Note 34. The Convair 440 was a Turbo Prop; not a Turbo Jet.
216 Column 2, 1st paragraph, line 6: should read “allegedly wore one in the movie “Winning”…….”Le Mans” starred Steve McQueen, please accept our apologies for confusing these two screen icons.
331 The A. T. Oliver case making workshop was moved to Liverpool Museum, not the Prescot Museum
381 Appendix 3
Updated, enlarged and revised list follows:
There has never been full agreement about the case numbers on early Rolex Oysters. The company have refused to release details from their archives and the market has been left to flounder around with insufficient data to establish a correct dating/serial number sequence.
However; help is at hand due to the fact that most of the early Oysters were sold in the UK they bear British hallmarks because it was a legal prerequisite for all precious metal items sold in Britain to be hallmarked by a government department.
Hallmarking began in Britain around the late 12th. Century (eight hundred years ago) making the hallmarking regulations most certainly the oldest piece of consumer legislation still in effect.
The hallmark on each watch case comprised three parts; a standard mark, giving the purity of the metal (silver, 9/14/18/22 carat gold), the assay office mark (where it was hallmarked) and the date letter (the year it was assayed). Using the date letter, which gives us the year in which the watch was sent to the assay office (because the watches could not be sold without a hallmark, the empty cases were sent for hallmarking and then returned to Switzerland to have the movements fitted and then returned to the UK for sale; so the hallmark date would be close to the date at which the completed watches would leave the factory). When we then compare this to the case number, it is possible to draw up a table of dates and case numbers. However due to the intervention of WW II in 1939, the numbers cease at this point; being able to date the watches produced between 1926 and 1939 is a considerable improvement on the previous situation we all faced. The next problem arose in the 1950s; whilst it took Rolex almost 30 years (from 1926 to 1953) to use all the numbers between 20,001 and 999,999; at this point the obvious thing to do would have been to add a seventh digit to their case numbering machine(s) and continue into the millions. Rolex, as any student of the company will tell you, was never a company to follow the obvious path and so they chose to re- use previously issued numbers on the new cases. They, once again, chose not to follow the most logical path and begin at 0001; rather they began at 100,001 once again, a number previously used in the midst of WW II. Fortunately when they began to reuse these numbers it was during the period when they were also stamping the date of construction inside the case back; this code consisted of a roman numeral I, II, III or IV representing the four quarters of the year and the last two digits of the year (for example II 54, representing the period April to June 1954). Using these date codes it is now possible to give definite dates to the previously uncertain period in the mid 50s. It was not until the late 50’s that Rolex began to use the seventh digit and from this point the numbering sequence became logical and able to be followed with any hope of accuracy. The period in which logic was any use lasted shorter than anyone could have hoped; after Rolex reaches 9,999,999 they chose to initiate a new sequence based on the letters RLEX, the letter “O” was left out because of its resemblance to the number “0”. The new sequence began in 1987 and ran through to November 1991. Then a completely new system of case numbering was brought in and is as follows:
S serial numbers were introduced in 1993 and W ones first came in in 1994 and T serial numbers were first introduced in May 1996 BUT All these are still current; with this new numbering system numbers are generated almost randomly. The reasons for this were not disclosed to me, despite asking the question. I was met with the telephonic equivalent of an “enigmatic smile”. If you think things are now really
confused…it gets worse!! The letter U was introduced in August 1997; and will run concurrently with ST&W.
929426 IV 53
930879 I 1953
937170 I 54
941699 I 1953
952892 1 1954
955466 IV 1953
964789 IV 1953
973697 1V 1953
973930 III 1953
116578 IV 1953
132562 III 1953
139477 I 1956
282632 III 1955
383893 I 1958
385893 II 1958
412128 IV 1958
1259699 II 1965
N000001 Nov 1991
S000001 Introduced 1993 Still in use as of today
W000001 Introduced 1994 Still in use as of today
T000001 Introduced May 1996 Still in use as of today
Introduced August 1997 Still in use as of today
This information may be reproduced only if it carries the following credits in their
entirety; “Copyright 1996 James M. Dowling & Jeffrey P Hess, from The Best of Times Rolex Wristwatches, published by Schiffer Publishing Limited” We will pursue breaches of our copyright with extreme diligence.