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The Secrets of Vintage Rolex Hallmarks

Vintage Rolex Hallmarks

Hallmarks can be complicated and intimidating, but for antique and vintage Rolex we’re really only concerned with 6 different hallmarks and fewer if you exclude silver-cased antiques. After 1995 things get even more straightforward.

If you’re in the market for a Rolex in precious metal, hallmarks matter. If a watch is offered and priced as 18K gold, the hallmarks are your best way to validate the claim and ensure the entire watch, case, case back, bracelet and clasp are all 18K.

Hallmarks should be present on all Rolex made of precious metals. They appear on mid-cases (underside of lugs), case backs, bracelets, and clasp blades. The absence of hallmarks indicates gold cap, gold fill or gold plate. Mismatched hallmarks suggest a Franken watch assembled from various parts.

Hallmarks are defined by an official Swiss government assay office and applied under license by the manufacturer (Rolex). There are seven assay offices in Switzerland and Rolex uses the Geneva office exclusively. The symbol for the Geneva Assay Office is a capital “G,” which will form part of a larger hallmark.

Antique and vintage Rolex watches (pre-1995) have a hallmark symbol for each different purity of gold and platinum (9K, 14K, 18K). However, there is no distinction between different colors of gold (white, rose, yellow).

A Swiss government hallmark is exceptionally detailed, which makes it very difficult to copy. It must be consistent and flawless with each stamping. The assay office controls the quality and if not perfect, the item will be scrapped and can not be sold. The crispness and detail of a hallmark are essential in establishing authenticity.

Fig. Early Antique Rolex hallmarks 1880 to 1933
Solid 18K (750) gold watches will have the Helvetia Bust (ladies head) with a capital “G” below her neck. 14K (583) Gold will have the squirrel with a capital “G” at the top. Platinum would have the Ibex with the G between the antlers.
Fig. Antique and Vintage Rolex hallmarks 1933 to 1995
Hallmark symbol styles evolved and in 1933 and a “morning star” (Morgenstern) was introduced for 9K (375) gold watches.
Fig. Vintage ref. 9708 Case Back in 18K gold with Helvetia hallmark
Current law (post-1995) has reduced the number of hallmarks to a single mark, the head of a St. Bernard dog. This official hallmark is used for all precious metals in all qualities. The Office of Precious Metal Control refers to this St. Bernard dog as “Barry.” It appears near the Maker’s Responsibility Mark and their indication of purity.

Fig. Modern Classic Rolex hallmark from 1995 “Barry” the St. Bernard Fig. “Barry” (top) and the Makers Responsibility mark (bottom) on the underside of the lugs on an 18K gold Submariner.

“Barry” the St. Bernard Hallmark has an “X” marking the position of the capital “G” for the Geneva assay office.

Barry was of a breed (Bernhard) which was later called the St. Bernard. He worked as a mountain rescue dog in Switzerland and Italy for the Great St Bernard Hospice. He has been described as the most famous St. Bernard and credited with saving more than 40 lives during his lifetime. His German name is Menschenretter, meaning “people rescuer.”
Rolex watches imported into other countries are subject to local assay office inspection and may carry additional hallmarks to the Swiss ones. For example, watches imported for sale in France and England would have additional, but different hallmarks. National hallmarks are numerous and out of the scope of this guide.

More detailed content with supporting datasets can be found in The Vintage Rolex Field Guide.