Skip to main content

Vintage Rolex Transitional Models, A Collectors Favorite Anomaly

Swiss watchmakers, in general, have a frugal and cost-conscious culture. Parts and components were often designed to be shared and reused across model lines and references.

The introduction of a new reference often involves using up surplus inventory and many watch manufacturers engage in this practice.

These curious watches with their anomalous configurations are known as Transitionals. Transitionals are those models that include features and parts of previous or future references. Collectors are divided over whether they are more or less desirable or collectible.

While they are made in relatively small volumes and are often rare, they don’t command any price premium over non- transitional models.


It is common to see a caseback with a reference number crossed out, and a new later one applied. This correction is of no concern if the serial number dates the watch to a known transitional time frame. 

You can also expect to see old dials and movements paired with newer cases (e.g. Submariner ref. 168000), or new movements deployed into outgoing references (e.g. GMT-Master ref. 16710 with cal. 3135).

Inexperienced collectors will often brush these off as fake, or Franken watches assembled by nefarious watchmakers and dealers from surplus or leftover parts. Informed collectors will recognize them as an opportunity.

rolex submariner 168000

All mature Rolex product lines have acknowledged transitional examples, but few have distinct reference numbers like the Submariner ref.168000.

They are not always easy to identify, and legitimate transitional models can be challenging to assess for originality. While they are made in relatively small volumes and are often rare, they don’t command any price premium over non- transitional models.

However, you will find data in later chapters of the book, that will help evaluate the authenticity and correctness of transitional references.


If you'd like to know more about these and other curiously collectible old Rolex watches, get The Vintage Rolex Field Guide or join our mailing list.


Comments