Modern watches are made with such elegance. Vibrant dials, skeleton dials, see-through casebacks, and perfectly engineered movements. But why engrave series of numbers on the watch? The answer is two-fold, and some aspects are not as you would expect.
Yes, watches have serial numbers. The serial numbers are used to trace authenticity and can be found on the case of the watch. The most common place to find the serial number is on the watch’s underside. However, some brands place the serial number between the lugs.
Serial numbers is a good branding of watches so the manufacturers and stores can track the watch, e.g., with service history. Omega and Rolex are brands that keep a register of the service history, which helps identify returning problems or indicate items that need replacement based on age.
Now, where is the serial number found?
How to Find a Serial Number on a Watch
Before using the serial number for anything, you first have to identify it. The serial number is something every watch (from brands considered reputable) produced is equipped with. The serial numbers is used for several things.
The serial number can be used for looking up the authenticity, service history, and whether it’s reported stolen.
Looking for the serial number on a watch is straightforward. However, depending on the brand, it can difficult to find or identify. E.g., Rolex has its serial numbers hidden between the lugs, whereas Certina has theirs on the caseback.
The serial number is commonly engraved on the caseback of a watch. Alternatively, the serial number can be located between the lugs or engraved on the lugs.
On reputable brands such as Rolex, Omega, Certina, Hamilton, Zenith, etc. the serial number is engraved somewhere on the watch. Even on watches considered sh*t and cheap like Daniel Wellington, Tommy Hilfiger, Armani, etc. serial numbers are engraved.
However, if the serial number can’t be found or you have to remove a strap and don’t want to bother, you can look at your papers, which came with the watch.
Besides the watch’s case, reputable watches come with papers of authenticity, where the serial number should be written. However, if your watch is bought second hand and doesn’t have papers, you will need to look at the case to find the serial number.
The serial number is also a way for the brands to track the watches from when they leave the production. Commonly, the brands will use this information if there was to be any recalls or problems with a produced product.
Tudor is a good example. Tudor has produced a GMT model where the date wheel has an issue of advancing between 0.5-1.5 days. Although the sold watches haven’t been recalled, Tudor can track the watches that come in to be serviced on the guarantee to see which period of production the problem has started/ended and use that information to improve.
Why Blur Serial Number on Watches
Have you been browsing the internet looking for watches? I know the feeling. I do this A LOT as well. But have you noticed that it’s very few that actually reveal the serial number in the listing? Although you might think it’s because they are hiding from something, it’s actually quite the opposite.
Serial numbers are blurred on watches to protect the watch from being used in counterfeited watches. The blurring of serial numbers is found all over the internet on the grey market.
The way serial numbers can be abused by counterfeiters is actually also very straightforward. In the production of the fake watches, the counterfeiter has found some authentic serial numbers, which they engrave into some of their counterfeit watches. This makes fake watches appear genuine.
You then find the fake watch online (without knowing it’s fake) and want to buy it. Maybe the price is good, or the sellers is local. Something grabbed you. To check the authenticity, you ask the seller to provide a serial number. Omega is a brand that will help you if you have any doubts. There is the possibility to contact an authorized dealer, a service center, or an extraction from the archives to check the serial number’s authenticity.
However, you know now that the serial number is authentic, and therefore thinks the watch is authentic. Sadly, this is not the case for fake watches just because they have been fitted with authentic serial numbers. Keep in mind that such watches are only found in extremely rare cases, and the fake watches is considered very high quality despite being fake.
Therefore, people blur their serial numbers to make it more difficult for their own watches to be targeted in fraudulent watches and limit the counterfeiters’ possibilities.
Consequences of Showing a Watch’s Serial Number Online
Now, I just went on a pessimistic rant about stolen watches. However, there is something even worse than sitting with an original watch and having your serial number on counterfeit watches (because you at least have the authentic watch).
What’s worse is that if someone reports your watch stolen with the serial number you displayed online will have your watch appear as stolen, even though your watch is fully authentic.
There is 2 bad things associated with reporting someone else’s watch stolen:
- Insurance fraud
- The authentic reported watch can get seized when sent to service
The first scenario is a classic criminal act. This is just people interested in cheating the system to get some easy money. While it’s a crime, it won’t hurt you if your watch is reported when you own the authentic.
However, the side effect is that if the fraudster manages to convince their insurance company that they own(ed) the watch (even though you actually do), it will officially be reported as stolen.
This could have a huge impact on you. The service center must seize the watch from your possession if they notice that the serial number has been reported stolen.
This means that when you eventually send the watch for a service, the service center will take the watch from you and report it to the local authorities.
While this is a one-in-a-million scenario, you will face a lot of trouble to prove you’re the rightful owner of the watch. This means you most likely need the original receipt, papers, etc. to justify you’re the rightful owner.
This can be a problem if you have inherited a watch or have bought a watch without papers. It can be complicated to prove that you are the rightful owner of something you have zero documentation off.
Do Rolex Watches Have Serial Numbers?
Rolex is very unlike other watch brands when it comes to serial numbers and model numbers. Rolex likes to have their watches very clean, even the parts that can’t be seen. Rolex is one of the watch brands that is known to have a “hidden” serial number.
Yes, all Rolex watches have their unique serial number engraved between the lugs at 6 o’clock. The watch’s model number is found between the lugs at 12 o’clock. Every Rolex watch produced post-1987 has the model number and serial number engraved in said positions.
To find the serial number of your Rolex watch, you would have to remove the bracelet at the lugs. If you’re just after finding the serial number, you can get away by removing the bracelet at 6 o’clock.
However, if you want to find the model number as well, you’ll have to remove the bracelet at 12 o’clock as well.
There are also plenty of resources to help you identify which Rolex model you have if you have any doubt.
How Do I Find the Model of My Watch?
Identifying your model on a watch is quite simple. It’s just like finding the serial number. The model is very important when selling a watch. If you’re not quite sure what watch you have, the caseback can usually reveal the model.
The model number is most commonly engraved on the caseback of the watch. If the model number can’t be found on the caseback, there is a possibility to look between the lugs. Using the model number, it’s possible to search online databases to ensure your watch’s model.
There are generally 2 reasons for needing to know the model number:
- You need to sell the watch and list the model number
- You need to find the service interval or instruction manual
If you are doing, either having your watch’s model is important to ensure that you are either listing the correct watch or figuring out something technical about the watch.
Stolen Watches and Serial Numbers
Identifying a stolen watch by yourself is very difficult. You will need to involve third-party interests in the identification and search for stolen watches. However, the effort required to check watches is very minimal.
To ensure a watch isn’t stolen, you can check the serial number by 4 different independent parties:
- Authorized watch stores
- Local authorities
- Databases of stolen watches
- The specific watch brand
The idea here is that all 4 parties have some information about the watches if reported stolen. However, it varies who has the information. Therefore, it’s better to contact all to make sure the serial number is legit.
Contact Authorized Watch Store
Authorized watch stores/dealers will be able to verify whether the serial number you have is authentic or not. However, the specific watch stores don’t always have information about stolen watches.
Nonetheless, the dealers could be in contact with the local authorities in finding stolen watches. This could be when a stolen watch is turned in for a service.
Contact Local Authorities (Police)
The local authorities will, in most cases, be your best go-to for watches you are purchasing locally. Any theft goes through the police. Therefore, if the police have done their job properly, they will also have registered the stolen watch’s serial number.
However, the local authorities are not very effective if you are looking at watches online for watches overseas. Your local authorities can’t simply have any information about worldwide stolen watches.
Report to Database of Stolen Watches
Your best option, regardless, is the public online watch registers. The online databases do cost a few dollars to browse. However, you will have a good indication of whether you are buying a fake watch or not.
The two common databases for stolen watches are:
Going to either and searching will provide you with an answer to whether the serial number you are checking is fake or not. The databases is a very helpful tool for buying watches online.
Talk to the Watch Brand
There is the possibility of contacting the watch brand. However, Rolex will most likely not be cooperating with you in this matter. They stopped their lost and stolen register a long time ago and currently have no interest in restarting its operation.
It’s unfortunate to see with the premium paid on Rolex watches. Nonetheless, that is the current situation. And suppose the serial number you need to check is anything but a Rolex. In that case, you can give a try and hopefully get a positive response from any other watch brand.
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