Thanks to a booming secondary market for luxury watches, the practicality of e-commerce, and the rise of dealers specialized in buying used timepieces, it’s never been easier for regular folks to sell their unwanted pre-owned watches. However, despite the favorable market conditions and infrastructures, many still have questions about the best way to go about it. One question we get asked a lot is: “do I need to know the model number before selling my watch?” The short answer is while it is not crucial, it is best if you do know the model number.
Why Do I Need To Know My Watch’s Model Number?
First things first, we have to define what a watch model number is. The watch’s model number is also known as the watch’s reference number. It is usually a string of digits or an alphanumerical code that a watch brand assigns to a specific watch. For example, reference 116610LN tells us that the watch is a Rolex Submariner because of the alphanumerical coding system Rolex uses to identify its watches.
A model/reference number can reveal plenty of specifics regarding the watch, such as type, material, design, and movement. What’s more, when cross-referenced with different databases and charts, a watch’s reference number can also help determine when the watch was made, how much it’s worth, and even help verify its authenticity. Continuing on our Rolex example, the reference number 116610LN tells us that the Submariner is made from stainless steel, that it has a black ceramic bezel, and that it was made from 2010 onwards.
When selling a pre-owned luxury watch, having the reference number ready makes it easier for the buyer to understand what is for sale.
Where Can I Find My Watch’s Model Numbers?
Now that we’ve established that knowing the reference number before selling a used watch is important, let’s discuss how to find it.
If you happen to have the official paperwork of the watch, then you’re in luck. The watch’s reference/model number is typically printed on papers such as the guarantee card, warranty paper, receipt, and/or service records.
However, if you do not have any official paperwork, then you can oftentimes find the reference number on the watch itself. With some brands, finding the model number on the watch is relatively straightforward, such as looking at the caseback. But with other brands, it can be a little more involved since the reference number is hidden behind components such as the bracelet or caseback.
General guide to finding model numbers on some popular watches
Note that this is a general guide to popular watch brands, but there are exceptions, particularly with older/vintage timepieces.
Audemars Piguet: Audemars Piguet watches have a unique number engraved on the movement mainplate which means the caseback has to be removed to see it. However, the reference number is located on the paperwork.
Breitling: The alphanumeric reference number on a Breitling watch is engraved on the exterior of the caseback.
Cartier: Cartier watches typically have a four-digit code engraved on the caseback, which tells you what collection the watch belongs to but the full “W” reference number is located on the paperwork.
Chopard: Chopard watches typically have a four-digit code engraved on the caseback, which tells you what collection the watch belongs to but the full reference number is located on the paperwork.
Omega: Omega watches typically have the model number engraved on the inside of the caseback, which means the caseback of the watch has to be removed to see it.
Panerai: While Panerai watches have case style codes engraved on them, they do not display the PAM reference codes—these are found on the paperwork.
Patek Philippe: Patek Philippe watches typically have the model number engraved on the inside of the caseback, which means the caseback of the watch has to be removed to see it.
Rolex: Rolex watches have the reference number engraved on the case, in between the lugs on the 12 o’clock side of the watch. This means you will have to have the bracelet removed to see it. An exception to this is with the Oysterquartz models, which have the reference number engraved on the back of the case.
TAG Heuer: TAG Heuer alphanumeric reference codes are typically engraved on the outside of the caseback.
If you cannot locate a reference number on the watch and you do not have the paperwork, another way to pinpoint it is to do some online searching. Type out a detailed description of the watch into Google and then search the images. Although this may not give you the exact reference number (as they change over the years when a newer model is introduced), it will point you in the general direction.