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Dating Vintage Watches

 
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The information below was gathered and amalgamated from various sources on the Internet.  Sadly, I didn't keep a record of where it all came from, but none of it is my own work.  I can at least say thanks to Agent Orange, JoT, "mach 0.0013137", Mel and K.I.T.T. from The Watch Forum for some of the latest information added to this page.  I can't vouch for the accuracy of any of this information, but I've found it useful as a first step in estimating dates of manufacture for some of the watches in my collection.  Serial numbers may be found on movements, case backs or dials depending on the make, model and age of the watch in question.   It's not unusual to find movements that are one or two years older than the cases containing them.  So, how old is your watch?  Read on!


BULOVA:

Bulova used a two character identification system. The first character is a letter defining the decade of manufacture:

A=1940's, L=1950s, M=1960s, N=1970s, P=1980's, T=1990's

The second character is a number representing the year of manufacture. So "M6", for example, is 1966.

Prior to 1949 Bulova used a symbol dating system as shown in the following picture.  I'm no graphics wizard so please treat the symbols as approximations only:

Bulova date symbols 1924-1948

 

BREITLING:

From the 1940's to the 1970's, Breitlings may be dated by their movement serial numbers as per the following chart sourced from http://www.clubbreitlingisrael.co.il:

Serial No.
Chronographs
Serial No.
Non-Chronographs
Year
563659-568959 298262-313351 1944
568971-636507 313352-354254 1945
636508-692266 354255-406688 1946
703562-717737 406689-417234 1947
717784-728688 417235-448093 1948
728724-740210 448094-467655 1949
740405-769843 467656-498512 1950
769844-808456 498513-592542 1951
808457-817915 592543-646974 1952
817916-832126 646975-660248 1953
832127-844123 660249-690037 1954
844124-868778 690038-740339 1955
868779-889562 740340-861841 1956
889563-898029 861842-881067 1957
898830-910504 881068-890396 1958
910505-922163 890397-903387 1959
922164-933063 903388-917613 1960
933064-947803 917614-971814 1961
947804-963553 971815-995108 1962
963554-975997 995109-996458 1963
975998-1002734 996459-998198 1964
1002735-1060398 998199-1000198 1965
1060399-1122809 1000199-1002543 1966
1122810-1204581 1002544-1002743 1967
1204582-1262904 1002744-1002943 1968
1262905-1337825   1969
1337826-1356899 1002944-1003103 1970
1356900-1382203 1003104-1003153 1971
1382204-1406566 1003154-1003213 1972
1406567-1426969   1973
1426970-1433372   1974
1433373-1439417 1003214-1003713 1975
1439418-1442922 1003714-1004083 1976
1442923-1448464 1004084-1004183 1977
1448465-1448473   1978

Newer Breitling models (circa 2001 and beyond) may be dated via a number stamped on the case between the lower lugs. Perhaps less reliably, stamps on bracelets (circa 1995 and beyond) provide a manufacturing date in the same way. For example, a case stamped with the number "2106" would indicate that the watch was made in the 21st. week of 2006. Likewise, a bracelet stamped with the number "4807" indicates that the bracelet was manufactured in the 48th. week of 2007.

Source: http://www.breitlingsource.com

 

CITIZEN:

It is believed (although no one seems to be completely sure) that Citizen used a similar serial number dating system to that employed by Seiko (see below).  The first character of the serial number represents the year of manufacture within a particular decade whilst the second two characters represent the month (01-09 for January to September and 10-12 for October to December). If the serial number was 60498135 for example and you knew from the style of the watch that it was produced during the 1970's, you would be able to tell that it was made in April 1976. So, you need prior knowledge of the decade in which the watch was manufactured before you can date it accurately with the serial number.

 

ELGIN:

Serial No. Year Serial No. Year Serial No. Year Serial No. Year
101 1867 4,000,000 1890 17,500,000 1913 36,000,000 1936
30,000 1868 4,440,000 1891 18,000,000 1914 37,000,000 1937
70,000 1869 4,880,000 1892 18,500,000 1915 37,500,000 1938
100,000 1870 5,000,000 1893 19,000,000 1916 38,000,000 1939
125,000 1871 5,500,000 1894 20,000,000 1917 39,000,000 1940
150,000 1872 6,000,000 1895 21,000,000 1918 40,000,000 1941
175,000 1873 6,500,000 1896 22,000,000 1919 41,000,000 1942
200,000 1874 7,000,000 1897 23,000,000 1920 42,000,000 1943
300,000 1875 7,500,000 1898 24,000,000 1921 42,500,000 1944
400,000 1876 8,000,000 1899 25,000,000 1922 43,000,000 1945
500,000 1877 9,000,000 1900 26,000,000 1923 44,000,000 1946
550,000 1878 9,300,000 1901 27,000,000 1924 45,000,000 1947
600,000 1879 9,750,000 1902 28,000,000 1925 46,000,000 1948
700,000 1880 10,000,000 1903 29,000,000 1926 47,000,000 1949
800,000 1881 11,000,000 1904 30,000,000 1927 48,000,000 1950
1,000,000 1882 12,000,000 1905 32,000,000 1928 49,000,000 1951
1,400,000 1883 12,500,000 1906 33,000,000 1929 50,000,000 1951
1,600,000 1884 13,000,000 1907 33,300,000 1930 51,000,000 1951
1,800,000 1885 13,500,000 1908 33,500,000 1931 52,000,000 1952
2,000,000 1886 14,000,000 1909 33,700,000 1932 53,500,000 1953
2,500,000 1887 15,000,000 1910 34,000,000 1933 54,000,000 1954
3,000,000 1888 16,000,000 1911 35,000,000 1934 54,500,000 1955

 

GLYCINE AIRMAN:

A very approximate date of manufacture for vintage Glycine Airman watches can be derived by examining the type of movement the watch contains:

Airman 1 with Felsa 692 "Bidynator" 23-jewel: 1953-1960
Airman 1 with A.Schild 1701 25-jewel and Airman 1 Special with A.Schild 1701 17-jewel: 1960-1967
Airman 1 and SST with A.Schild 1903 25-jewel: 1967-1971
Airman 1 and SST with A.Schild 2063 25-jewel: 1971-1974
Airman 1 and SST with A.Schild 2163 25-jewel: 1974-1978

 

HAMILTON:

Serial No. Year Serial No. Year Serial No. Year Serial No. Year
1-2,000 1893 590,000 1906 1,700,000 1919 2,500,000 1932
5,000 1894 756,000 1907 1,790,000 1920 2,600,000 1933
10,000 1895 921,000 1908 1,860,000 1921 2,700,000 1934
14.000 1896 1,087,000 1909 1,900,000 1922 2,800,000 1935
20,000 1897 1,050,500 1910 1,950,000 1923 2,900,000 1936
30,000 1898 1,290,500 1911 2,000,000 1924 3,000,000 1937
40,000 1899 1,331,000 1912 2,100,000 1925 3,200,000 1938
50,000 1900 1,370,000 1913 2,200,000 1926 3,400,000 1939
90,000 1901 1,410,500 1914 2,250,000 1927 3,600,000 1940
150,000 1902 1,450,500 1915 2,300,000 1928 3,800,000 1941
260,000 1903 1,517,000 1916 2,350,000 1929 4,025,000 1942
340,000 1904 1,580,000 1917 2,400,000 1930    
425,000 1905 1,650,000 1918 2,450,000 1931    

Grade Serial No. Year
979 2900001-2931900 1934-1951
986 2100001-2191300 1922-1926
401 H50001-H57500 1930-1933
987 001-0486300 1937-1948
987E 4025301-4523000 1928-1937
987S SS001-SS87400 1940-1948
980 G101-G669400 1934-1951
980B A001-A8900 1937-1946
H980 HW001-HW1075 1942-1949
980I W001-W1050 1942-1948
982 J1001-J670600 1935-1951
982M M001-M201900 1941-1951
747 Y001-Y453800 1947-1954
748 CY001-CY232000 1948-1954
750 001A-914000A 1949-1954
752 001E-48000E 1951-1954
753 001F-103400F 1951-1954
754 001H-43900H 1952-1954

 

ILLINOIS WATCH CO.:

Serial No. Year Serial No. Year Serial No. Year Serial No. Year
5000 1872 1,000,001 1890 2,100,001 1908 4,800,001 1926
20000 1873 1,040,001 1891 2,150,001 1909 5,000,001 1927
50000 1874 1,080,001 1892 2,200,001 1910 5,100,001 1928
75000 1875 1,120,001 1893 2,300,001 1911 5,200,001 1929
100001 1876 1,160,001 1894 2,400,001 1912 5,400,001 1931
145001 1877 1,220,001 1895 2,500,001 1913 5,500,001 1938
210001 1878 1,250,001 1896 2,600,001 1914 5,600,000 1948
250001 1879 1,290,001 1897 2,700,001 1915    
300001 1880 1,330,001 1898 2,800,001 1916    
350001 1881 1,370,001 1899 3,000,001 1917    
400001 1882 1,410,001 1900 3,200,001 1918    
450001 1883 1,450,001 1901 3,400,001 1919    
500001 1884 1,500,001 1902 3,600,001 1920    
550001 1885 1,650,001 1903 3,700,001 1921    
600001 1886 1,700,001 1904 3,900,001 1922    
700001 1887 1,800,001 1905 4,000,001 1923    
800001 1888 1,840,001 1906 4,500,001 1924    
900001 1889 1,900,001 1907 4,700,001 1925    

 

IWC:

Cases
Serial No. Year Serial No. Year
0-10,000 1880-1886 600,001-800,000 1913-1924
10,001-50,000 1886-1890 800,001-900,000 1924-1929
100,000-200,000 1890-1899 900,001-1,000,000 1929-1938
200,001-300,000 1899-1903 1,000,001-1,100,000 1938-1945
300,001-400,000 1903-1907 1,100,001-1,500,000 1945-1960
400,001-600,000 1907-1913 1,500,001-2,000,000 1960-1972

Movements
Serial No. Year Serial No. Year
28,251-49,300 1887-1890 919,601-940,000 1930-1935
49,301-117,300 1890-1895 940,001-1,013,200 1935-1940
117,301-211,200 1895-1900 1,013,201-1,092,400 1940-1945
211,201-321,300 1900-1905 1,092,401-1,200,400 1945-1950
321,301-463,600 1905-1910 1,200,401-1,335,400 1950-1955
463,601-620,800 1910-1915 1,335,401-1,513,000 1955-1960
620,801-742,300 1915-1920 1,513,001-1,778,800 1960-1965
742,301-807,400 1920-1925 1,778,801-1,970,200 1965-1970
807,401-919,600 1925-1930 1,970,201-2,265,400 1970-1975

 

LONGINES:

Serial No. Year Serial No. Year Serial No. Year Serial No. Year
1 1867 1,750,000 1905 4,000,000 1922 6,500,000 1946
20,000 1870 2,000,000 1907 4,250,000 1925 7,000,000 1947
100,000 1875 2,250,000 1909 4,500,000 1926 8,250,000 1952
250,000 1882 2,500,000 1911 4,750,000 1928 9,000,000 1953
500,000 1888 2,750,000 1912 5,000,000 1929 10,000,000 1956
750,000 1893 3,000,000 1913 5,250,000 1934 11,000,000 1959
1,000,000 1899 3,250,000 1915 5,500,000 1937 12,000,000 1962
1,250,000 1901 3,500,000 1917 5,750,000 1938 13,000,000 1966
1,500,000 1904 3,750,000 1919 6,000,000 1940 14,000,000 1967

 

OMEGA:

Movements
Serial No. Year Serial No. Year Serial No. Year Serial No. Year
1,000,000 1894 15,000,000 1956 29,000,000 1969 43,000,000 1979
2,000,000 1902 16,000,000 1958 30,000,000 1969 44,000,000 1980
3,000,000 1906 17,000,000 1959 31,000,000 1969 45,000,000 1982
4,000,000 1910 18,000,000 1961 32,000,000 1970 46,000,000 1984
5,000,000 1915 19,000,000 1962 33,000,000 1971 47,000,000 1984
6,000,000 1923 20,000,000 1963 34,000,000 1972 48,000,000 1985
7,000,000 1920 21,000,000 1964 35,000,000 1972 49,000,000 1986
8,000,000 1934 22,000,000 1965 36,000,000 1973 50,000,000 1986
9,000,000 1926 23,000,000 1966 37,000,000 1973 51,000,000 1989
10,000,000 1944 24,000,000 1966 38,000,000 1974 52,000,000 -
11,000,000 1947 25,000,000 1967 39,000,000 1975 53,000,000 1991
12,000,000 1950 26,000,000 1968 40,000,000 1977 54,000,000 1993
13,000,000 1952 27,000,000 1968 41,000,000 1978 55,000,000 1995
14,000,000 1954 28,000,000 1969 42,000,000 1979 56,000,000 1998

Cases - Earliest year of production
Serial No. Year Serial No. Year Serial No. Year Serial No. Year
1,000,000 1894 4,000,000 1907 7,000,000 1925 10,000,000 1943
2,000,000 - 5,000,000 1913 8,000,000 1929    
3,000,000 1902 6,000,000 1918 9,000,000 1935    

 

PATEK PHILIPPE:

Serial No. Year Serial No. Year
1-1,120 1839-1845 72,641-85,364 1885-1890
1,121-3739 1845-1850 85,365-101,231 1890-1895
3,740-7,825 1850-1855 101,232-111,800 1895-1900
7,826-14,499 1855-1860 111,801-124,475 1900-1905
14,500-22,798 1860-1865 124,476-153,938 1905-1910
22,799-36,130 1865-1870 153,939-174,240 1910-1915
36,131-47,611 1870-1875 174,241-193,780 1915-1920
47,612-55,769 1875-1880 193,781-202,195 1920-1925
55,770-72,640 1880-1885    
 
Serial Nos. after 200,000 are not in chronological order
Serial No. Year Serial No. Year
200000-200731 1921-1937 201164-201499 1923-1928
201500-202195 1921-1925    
 
New Serial No. series from 1920
Serial No. Year Serial No. Year
802196-804121 1920-1925 1960-1965 880000-889999
804122-820750 1925-1930 1960-1965 1100000-1129999
820751-824822 1930-1935 1965-1970 89000-984999
824823-826999 1935-1940 1965-1970 1130000-1249999
865000-865892 1939-1945 1970-1975 985000-1349999
861500-863488 1940-1945 1975-1980 1350000-1449999
863489-864997 1945-1950 1980-1985 1450000-1599999
865893-866208 1945-1950 1985-1990 1600000-1849999
860000-869999 1950-1955 1990... 1850000...
870000-879999 1955-1960    
 
Watches with repetition striking mechanisms
Serial No. Year Serial No. Year
870000-870596 1937-1940 881855-882334 1945-1950
870597-871384 1940-1945 882335-882552 1950-1955
871385-871499 1945-1950 882553-882620 1955-1960
871500-871646 1948-1955 882621-882723 1960-1965
871647-871726 1955-1960 891623-892126 1950-1955
871727-872850 1960-1966 892127-892567 1955-1960
880000-880957 1937-1940 866504-866520 1958-1965
880958-881854 1940-1945 892568-893310 1960-1969

 

ROLEX OYSTER:

Serial No. Year Serial No. Year Serial No. Year Serial No. Year
23969 1928 840396 1952 1182076 III 1964 8338000 1984
24747 1928 929426 IV 1953 1259699 II 1965 8614000 1985
28290 1930 930879 I 1953 1871000 1966 9290000 1986
29312 1932 937170 I 1954 1994956 III 1966 9766000 1987
29933 1933 941699 I 1953 2163900 1967 9999999 1987
30823 1934 952892 I 1954 2426800 1968 R0000 1987
35365 1935 955466 IV 1953 2689700 1969 R99999 1988
37596 1936 964789 IV1953 2952600 1970 L000000 1988
40920 1937 973697 IV 1953 3215500 1971 L999999 1990
43739 1938 973930 III 1953 3478400 1972 E000000 1990
71224 1939 116578 IV 1953 3741300 1973 E999999 1991
99775 1940 132562 III 1953 4004200 1974 X000001 1991
106047 1941 139400 I 1956 4267100 1975 N000001 Nov-91
143509 1942 139477 I 1956 4538000 1976 C000001 1992
230878 1943 282632 III 1955 5008000 1977 S000001 1993
269561 1944 321884 IV 1957 5482000 1978 W000001 1994/5
302459 1945 360171 I 1958 5958000 1979 T000001 1996
387216 1946 383893 I 1958 6434000 1980 U000001 Aug-97
529163 1947 385893 II 1958 6910000 1981 A000001 Nov/Dec-98
628840 1948 412128 IV 1958 7386000 1982 P000001 Jan-00
710776 1951 764754 I 1962 7862000 1983    

 

SEIKO:

The first character of the serial number represents the year of manufacture within a particular decade whilst the second character represents the month (1-9 for January to September and O,N and D for October, November and December). If the serial number was 649813 for example and you knew from the style of the watch that it was produced during the 1970's, you would be able to tell that it was made in April 1976. So, you need prior knowledge of the decade in which the watch was manufactured before you can date it accurately with the serial number.

 

SERVICES:

An approximate date of manufacture for Services watches may be determined by examining the dial logo:

Services logos and dates

 

TIMEX:

The last two digits of the serial number (shown at the bottom of the dial) on watches manufactured from around 1963 to 1993 indicate the year of manufacture.  On watches manufactured at the Dundee, UK, factory, there may be an inked stamp inside the caseback consisting of one letter and one number.  The meaning of the letter is not known, but the number indicates the year of manufacture as follows:

8=1959, 7=1960, 6=1961, 5=1962, 4=1963, 3=1964, 2=1965, 1=1966, 9=1967

 

TISSOT:

Serial No. Year Serial No. Year Serial No. Year
1-3056 1853-1856 1052801-1128616 1940 4868000-5197999 1961
3057-119904 18571870 1128617-1188976 1941 5198000-5932999 1962
19905-36187 1871-1875 1188977-1324418 1942 5933000-6498999 1963
36188-51101 1876-1880 1324419-1450276 1943 6499000-7039999 1964
51102-79299 1881-1885 1450277-1549720 1944 7040000-8280999 1965
79300-96836 1886-1890 1549721-1675720 1945 8281000-8864999 1966
96837-100200 1891-1896 1675721-1746530 1946 8865000-9910999 1967
10960-51325 1897-1906 1746531-1940110 1947 9911000-10492999 1968
51326-58206 1907-1910 1940111-2140000 1948 10493000-11594999 1969
58207-83778 1911-1912 2140001-2293210 1949 11595000-13046119 1970
83779-112866 1913-1916 2293211-2432999 1950 13046120-13996999 1971
112867-139446 1917-1918 2433000-2621999 1951 13997000-16173999 1972
139447-201644 1919-1920 2622000-2810999 1952 16174000-16811999 1973
201645-250622 1921-1922 2811000-3118999 1953 16812000-18902999 1974
250623-290984 1923-1924 3119000-328999 1954 18903000-19397999 1975
290985-365000 1925-1926 3290000-3476999 1955 19398000-20030999 1976
365001-434500 1927-1928 3477000-3713999 1956 20031-21093 1977
434501-465400 1929-1930 3714000-3999999 1957 21094-21515 1978
465401-511700 1931-1933 4000000-4334999 1958 21516-22097 1979
511701-727500 1934-1936 4335000-4559999 1959 22098-22857 1980
727501-1052800 1937-1939 4560000-4867999 1960 22858-23238 1981
        23239-23596 1982
        23597-23905 1983

 

TUDOR:

Serial No. Year Serial No. Year
270000 1959 990000 1984
280000 1960 140000 1985
340000 1961-1962 170000 1986
390000 1963 190000 1987
430000 1964-1965 210000 1988
560000 1966 260000 1989
590000 1967 B330000 1990
620000 1968 B360000 1991
680000 1969 B390000 1992
740000 1970 B500000 1993
750000 1971 B560000 1994
770000 1972 B590000 1995
790000 1973 B790000 1996
810000 1974 B850000 1997
830000 1975 B990000 1998
840000 1976 H130000 1999
860000 1977 H170000 2000
880000 1978 H240000 2001
900000 1979 H300000 2002
930000 1980    
950000 1981    
970000 1982    
980000 1983    

 

UNIVERSAL GENEVE:

Serial No. Year
500000-600000 1930-1936
600000-700000 1936-1938
700000-800000 1938-1941
800000-900000 1941-1942
900000-1000000 1942-1943
1000000-1100000 1943-1945
1100000-1200000 1945
1200000-1300000 1945-1946
1300000-1400000 1946-1949
1400000-1500000 1949-1951
1500000-1600000 1951-1952
1600000-1700000 1952-1955
1700000-1800000 1955-1956
1800000-1900000 1956-1957
1900000-2000000 1957-1959
2000000-2100000 1959-1960
2100000-2200000 1960-1961
2200000-2234000 1961-1962
2234000-2300000 1962-1963
2300000-2400000 1963-1965
2400000-2487072 1965-1966
2487073-2574942 1966-1967

 

WALTHAM:

Serial No. Year Serial No. Year Serial No. Year Serial No. Year
1000 1857 1837000 1882 15000000 1907 27600000 1932
14000 1858 2000000 1883 17000000 1908 27800000 1933
17000 1859 2356000 1884 17500000 1909 28000000 1934
20000 1860 2650000 1885 18000000 1910 28500000 1935
23000 1861 3000000 1886 18030000 1911 29000000 1936
34000 1862 3300000 1887 18060000 1912 29300000 1937
46000 1863 3700000 1888 19000000 1913 29700000 1938
118000 1864 4000000 1889 20000000 1914 30000000 1939
190000 1865 4882000 1890 20300000 1915 30300300 1940
262000 1866 5000000 1891 20700000 1916 30700000 1941
335000 1877 6000000 1892 21000000 1917 31000000 1942
410000 1868 6400000 1893 22000000 1918 31370000 1943
470000 1869 6650000 1894 23000000 1919 31650000 1944
500000 1870 7000000 1895 23500000 1920 32000000 1945
550000 1871 7500000 1896 24000000 1921 32300000 1946
600000 1872 8000000 1897 24200000 1922 32700000 1947
691000 1873 8500000 1898 24400000 1923 33000000 1948
720000 1874 9000000 1899 24600000 1924 33449000 1949
800000 1875 9500000 1900 24800000 1925 33558000 1950
900000 1876 10000000 1901 25000000 1926 33600000 1951
1000000 1877 11000000 1902 26000000 1927 33700000 1952
1160000 1878 12000000 1903 26500000 1928 33830000 1953
1351000 1879 13000000 1904 27000000 1929    
1499000 1880 14000000 1905 27200000 1930    
1675000 1881 14500000 1906 27400000 1931    

 


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