The Mass Production of Rolex Watches: Think that Rolex on your wrist is rare? Think again.

It might surprise the watch buying public to learn that Rolex watches are mass produced.

In fact, millions of Rolex watches have been manufactured since 1929 when Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis established the Wisdorf and Davis company in London, England in 1905.  The name Rolex was registered in 1908 the company changed its name to the Rolex Watch Co. Ltd. in 1915.  They moved the company to Switzerland in 1920 and registered the company as Montres Rolex SA.  In 1944, Hans Wilsdorf established the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation and funded it with his company shares.  Upon his death in 1960, the shadowy foundation took over the operation of the Rolex company and continues to manage it till this day.  The Foundation is secretive and dodgy when it comes to its finances, i.e., how much money the family retains, how much money the directors are paid, and how much money the tax man is paid if any, and how much is distributed through charitable acts.  One thing is for sure, the foundation is worth billions of dollars based on watch production figures currently estimated to run upwards of a million plus watches per year.  As of 2020 estimated combined Rolex and Tudor Retail Sales exceeded $8 billion dollars.

Rolex Serial Numbers and Estimated Production Numbers: *Keep in mind that various models and reference numbers of Rolex watches are not produced in each and every year.  This data is pulled from various watch blogs around the internet. 

Do the math.  From 1905 through 1954, bases on serial numbers, there were 1,000,000 Rolex watches produced.   The numbers were reset in 1954 to start at 100,000.  When production reached 999,999 again in 1963, they continued on with 7 digit numbers.  From the 1950s through 1960s two digit Roman numbers reflected the year of production.

  • 1927 – 20,000
  • 1928 – 22,500
  • 1929 – 25,000
  • 1930 – 26,500
  • 1931 – 28,000
  • 1932 – 28,500
  • 1933 – 29,000
  • 1934 – 32,000
  • 1935 – 35,000
  • 1936 – 37,000
  • 1937 – 40,000
  • 1938 – 55,000
  • 1939 – 71,000
  • 1940 – 90,000
  • 1941 – 106,000
  • 1942 – 150,000
  • 1943 – 230,000
  • 1944 – 270,000
  • 1945 – 302,000
  • 1946 – 400,000
  • 1947 – 529,000
  • 1948 – 570,000
  • 1949 – 600,000
  • 1950 – 650,000
  • 1951 – 700,000
  • 1952 – 800.000
  • 1953 – 1957 – 10,000 to 300,000
  • 1958 – 350,000
  • 1959 – 400,000
  • 1960 – 550,00
  • 1961 – 700,000
  • 1962 – 800,000
  • 1963 – 900,000
  • 1964 – 1,000,000 – Beginning of 7 digit serial numbers.
  • 1965 – 1,200,000
  • 1966 – 1,400,000
  • 1967 – 1,600,000
  • 1968 – 1,850,000
  • 1969 – 2,300,000
  • 1970 – 2,500,000
  • 1971 – 2,900,000
  • 1972 – 3,300,000
  • 1973 – 3,750,000
  • 1974 – 3,900,000
  • 1975 – 4,250,000
  • 1976 – 4,500,000
  • 1977 – 5,000,000
  • 1978 – 5,400,000
  • 1979 – 5,950,000
  • 1980  – 6,400,000
  • 1981 – 7,000,000
  • 1982 – 7,350,000
  • 1983 – 7,750,000
  • 1984 – 8,100,000
  • 1985 – 8,600,000
  • 1986 – 9,000,000
  • 1987 – 9,500,000
  • 1987 – R000001
  • 1988
  • 1989 – L000001
  • 1990 – E000001
  • 1991 – X000001
  • 1992 – C000001
  • 1993 – S000001
  • 1994 – W000001
  • 1995
  • 1996 – T000001
  • 1997 – U000001
  • 1998 – A000001
  • 1999
  • 2000 – P000001
  • 2001 – K000001
  • 2002 – Y000001
  • 2003 – F000001
  • 2004
  • 2005 – D000001
  • 2006 – Z000001
  • 2007 – M000001
  • 2008 – V000001
  • 2009  – From the year 2000 to 2009 Rolex was issued 7,080,518 chronometer certificates from COSC in Switzerland. Thus we have an idea of watch production for those years.  How many of those were for Tudor watches is unknown and the COSC no longer makes these numbers public. (Historical note. Not all Rolex watches were Chronometers, thus judging the production figures during this time period by number of certificates does not indeed give the complete production data.  Bob’s Watches blog has an excellent article to this regard.)
  • Through mid-2010 – G000001
  • From mid-2010 – Present – Rolex now use Random 8-digit numbers.  Once again, we will now estimate based on the previous ten years production.
  • 2011 – Production: 850,000 + (751,000 COSC Certs.) *See Beckertime Blog
  • 2012 – Production: 850,000 + (799,000 COSC Certs.)
  • 2013 – Production: 875,000 +
  • 2014 – Production: 875,000 +
  • 2015 – Production: 900,000 +
  • 2016 – Production: 900,000 +
  • 2017 – Production: 925,000 +
  • 2018 – Production: 925,000 +
  • 2019 – Production: 950,000 +
  • 2020 – Production: 1. Rolex – 810,000(Implied retail price $9822 per watch or $7.9Billion in Sales  2. Tudor – 230,000(Implied retail price $2754 per watch 0r $633Million in Sales)* Estimates from LuxeConsult, Morgan Stanley Research (Watchpro.com)
  • 2021
  • 2022

Based on available data, we may thus conclude that are likely well over 20,000,000 Rolex watches in existence today and the number could well be much higher.

The Hans Wilsdorf foundation also owns Tudor SA which has been manufacturing Tudor watches since 1946.  The Tudor trademark was registered in 1926 by Swiss watchmaking company “Veuve de Philippe Hüther” on behalf of Hans Wilsdorf, the founder of Rolex watches. In 1936, Wilsdorf took it over himself and went on to found the company Montres TUDOR SA in 1946. Thus, Tudor watches have been in production practically since the beginning of Rolex with the first watches being produced in 1920s. This adds millions more high end watches to the existing known production of the combined companies.

 

 

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