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Very few things in life are Random

by Jordan Ficklin

That’s right, very few things in life are truly random. Random means “lacking any definite plan, order, or purpose.” Even if you go to random.org and generate a random number it won’t truly be random. It may appear random but it is derived using a formula and is in fact quite calculated, but for most of us seeking an unbiased choice it is good enough.

The buzz on the Internet is that some Rolex models now have an 8 digit “Serial Number” which is a mix of letters and numbers without any apparent order. I suspect and hope that there is in fact an order to these numbers. If in fact they are random, we won’t be able to call them serial numbers any more because they wont be in series, we’ll have to call them “Random Unique Identifiers.” Unfortunately, without having a database of every Rolex generated RUI it will be impossible to estimate the production date of Rolex models identified with this new system.

As I was saying, I believe that Rolex is in fact using a system to generate these numbers. I would like to prove it and be able to provide a reference to watch enthusiasts in the future. In order to “break the code” I need the help of the entire Internet Watch Loving Community. If you have a Rolex with an apparently random serial number please register it at The Rolex Registry. You can also access the registry by clicking on the Rolex tab at the top of any page on this blog. If you participate in watchmaking forums on the Internet in any language please help to spread the word. The more serial numbers I get registered the sooner we can break the code.

Since I work with Rolexes all the time whenever I encounter a Random Unique Identifier I will register it in the database as well. If you work with watches I ask you to do the same. Nobody will see the see these serial numbers except for myself and a dedicated team of mathematicians which I may employ to help me break the code.

3 Comments

  1. Pete
    Posted August 28, 2010 at 6:45 am | Permalink

    I sell Rolex and work very closely with the company themselves. when they first sent me a piece with an “RUI” (i like the term!) I immediately called NY and inquired on the new system. They told me that it was something they are just trying and not even decided on the system. so two pieces that are produced the same day will not, necessarily, have this new RUI number. The individual that I talked to said that the only reason he was told that they were changing the system that they have had in place for years, was so that people would stop believing that you could tell when a timepiece was made just by reading the serial number. Rolex insists that the serial numbers did not define the date of manufacture. I have received many new Rolex since they starting using the RUI and only a few have had the number, most still have the classic lettered serial.

  2. J.Peter
    Posted August 28, 2010 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    I suppose this is a good place to clarify that serial numbers can only be a rough guide to date your Rolex watch because the numbers are assigned at the time of case production, not at the time of watch assembly. They will generally make a production run of enough cases for several years worth of sales. I find that especially with “special” pieces and solid gold pieces the serial numbers are rougher guides. For example we recently took delivery from Rolex of a Z series watch but it was a diamond pave gold case. All we know is that the case was made back in approximately 2005 but the movement was probably recently added to the case. And the watch was made for 2010 release. With popular models like Submariners for example the serial number will get you within a year or two.

  3. JT
    Posted November 22, 2011 at 1:34 am | Permalink

    Actually, random.org numbers are not calculated by formula, they are generated by listening to background radio white noise from multiple secret locations around the globe. His numbers are repeatedly tested to be shown truly random according to all major statistical tests for randomness and are used for state lotteries and by casinos. All of this is verifiable on his informational pages. As a computer security professional I occasionally use his generator in my work. I am as sure of the randomness of his numbers as I am sure of the accuracy of the time I receive from nuclear clocks.

    It is actually quite interesting that you bring it up. Your craft demands that you achieve the highest level of order in every detail to achieve an accurate time piece, his discipline demands extreme orderliness and attention to detail so that he has no orderliness at all in his final product. Both of you must use highly specialized tools and sophisticated techniques to achieve your goals by filtering out any undesired influence. In short, you both have to use extreme attention to detail, understanding of mathematics, and in depth technical knowledge to arrive at exactly opposite results!

    Yes, I am completely and utterly a geek. :-)

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