On modern Oyster cases (excluding the Oyster Quartz),these numbers are engraved between the lugs,hidden behind the end pieces (as shown in the images below).New for 2005, Rolex has started engraving the Case's Serial Number into theinside edge of the case (at the 6 o'clock position, under the crystal and below the bezel), asshown in these images, which were taken at BASELWORLD 2005, in Switzerland in early April.A close-up view of the same watch, you can clearly see the Serial Number"F982176", engraved into the case at the 6 o'clock position, with "ROLEX" engravedrepetitiously around the dial in a circular fashion.
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Rolex watches feature two sets of identification numbers:a Serial Number and a Case Reference Number.
This numbering system was originally believed to have started at 20,000, however earlier numbers have surfaced shooting holes in this theory.
Around 1953, the numbers reached the 999,999 mark, at which time Rolex decided against adding a 7th digit, thus continuing into the "millions"--Instead, they started the sequence over.
While it was originally believed that this resequence started over at 100,000, or even 20,000, but evidence suggests that it actually restarted at 10,000 or possibly lower.
Around this same time, Rolex had initiated another dating system--They stamped the inside of the case back with a code consisting of a Roman numeral and two numbers.
The Roman numerals were I, II, III, IV, which represented which quarter of the year the watch was produced.