How can you find out which watch you own?

Pascal Gehrlein
Feb 14, 2018


It’s not uncommon for someone to suddenly and unexpectedly become the owner of a watch. The watch may have been inherited, a gift, or found in the attic. If you don’t know which watch model you have, it makes the decision whether to keep it or sell it even more difficult, and you won’t be able to find out any more details about it.

Imagine you have inherited a watch but its dial has been so worn down over time that it bears no clues as to what model it is. Or perhaps the watch is in good condition, but you want to know what year it was manufactured. In this article, we are going to describe some of the ways you can find out which watch you own.


The Dial is the First Clue

Rolex Datejust with Jubilee Bracelet, Image: Bert Buijsrogge
Rolex Datejust with Jubilee Bracelet, Image: Bert Buijsrogge


The dial will normally tell you the watch’s brand and sometimes even its model name. The manufacturer’s name can usually be found beneath the hour marker at 12 o’clock. With any luck, there will also be a clue as to the model above 6 o’clock. This will come in the form of either the model name or the movement (e.g., “Automatic”). What’s more, this is also where you will often find its water resistance (e.g., “200m”) or other special features (e.g., Omega’s “Co-Axial” escapement).

If you’re lucky, you will now have a few names and terms you can use to determine the exact model. But there’s a catch: Some models come in countless variants and designs. An example of this is the popular Rolex Datejust. You will always find the same model name on its dial: “Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust”. If this is the case and you still want to know exactly which edition you have so you can determine its value or age, there are a few more steps you will have to take.


Use Obvious Details

Breitling Top Time Chronograph, Image: Christopher Beccan
Breitling Top Time Chronograph, Image: Christopher Beccan


If the model name on the dial is ambiguous or has become unrecognizable with age, make note of the watch’s features and details. A combination of the brand name and the watch’s details will likely lead you to your goal. Record every feature, even if they may seem trivial at first.

What material is your watch made of? Gold? Stainless steel? A mix of the two? What color is the dial? Does the watch have a date display, a chronograph, or other functions? Is the bezel rotatable or studded with diamonds? Take a close look at your watch. This is when people often find features for the first time.


Take Advantage of the Internet

Here’s to the internet! Social media and Google image search may be the solution to your problem. Using the inscription on the dial (brand, model) or the features, you can search on Google or Instagram for matching pictures to help narrow down your search for the exact edition of your watch. If you find your watch in a picture, pay attention to the image’s description and origin. This will often tell you which watch you are dealing with. Of course, this also requires the source’s description to be accurate. It’s advisable to have more than one match so that you don’t go looking in the wrong direction in the next steps.


Find Success Using a Filter Search on Chrono24


Image searches usually provide quick results. Sadly, these results are not 100% accurate or exact. Use the filters on Chrono24 to find out exactly which version you have in your possession. Start by following the same steps you used for your Google search. Enter the brand and model – if available – into the search bar.

Now the details come into play. You can narrow down the search results using filters like case material, dial, functions, bracelet material, etc. This will make it easier for you to find the correct watch. Scroll through the results. Is your watch there? If so, click on the offer and look at the basic details and the watch description. This is where you will find the name, the reference number, and other information about your watch. At the same time, you will also get an idea of its current market value.


Search your watch on Chrono24 now:

Chrono24 – The World’s Watch Market


Reference and Serial Numbers

Rolex Reference Number
Rolex Reference Number, Image: Bert Buijsrogge


The various numbers on your watch generally serve to date it and to prove its authenticity. While the reference or model number stands for the whole watch, components like the case and movement also have numbers. They tend to be used to determine if a particular component is an original part of the watch. This is especially important for fans of vintage watches with original parts.

The reference number is the model number. It identifies the watch model as a whole. Using the reference number, you can usually learn information such as the watch type, material, dial, and the movement. Since there is no standard rule as to what information has to be included in a reference number, you may find watches with identical reference numbers that are actually different versions of the same model. This can sometimes be the case with Rolex watches.

As mentioned above, you can find the Datejust with the reference number 16013 with different bezel designs in white gold, gold, or stainless steel. This is particularly important for assessing your watch’s value. In some cases, the reference number is engraved on the case. For example, reference numbers for Rolexes sit between the lugs at 12 o’clock. To see it, you have to remove the band. Other manufacturers may place it on the case back or, in rare cases, on the dial itself.

The serial number is engraved on the case back of almost every watch. Older Rolex models have it between the lugs at 6 o’clock while newer models have it on the inner bezel. This number is unique to every watch and can tell you when it was produced. This is especially useful in Google and filter searches.

Once you have successfully identified your watch, you can learn its market value on Chrono24 with just one click.


Find out the value of your watch here:

Chrono24’s New Appraisal Tool

Pascal Gehrlein
By Pascal Gehrlein
Feb 14, 2018
View all articles


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