Recently in the Everest Journal, we’ve taken a deep dive into the swag, accoutrements, certifications and guarantees you might get when you purchase a Rolex. We’ve explored why we love the three little words “box and papers,” and we’ve reviewed what a complete set of authentication papers looks like in 2021. We’ve also given some tips for authenticating a vintage purchase, if you’re waded into the world of secondhand luxury Swiss watches. Yet there’s one Rolex authenticating item we haven’t discussed: the wax seals, sometimes called "Rolex tags" or "hang tags" and caseback stickers that come with each purchase.
There have been changes to the hang tags in recent years that have been a little confusing. So, if you found yourself googling “Differences between Rolex green seal and Rolex red seal” after a recent purchase, you’re not alone. Fear not, we’re here to clear up all the confusion that exists here.
If you’ve purchased a Rolex watch that was made before 2015, it may come with what looks like a red wax seal hanging from a green and gold-colored thread. One one side, the seal has a hologram with several Rolex crown logos overlapping. This is an earlier Rolex warranty seal that indicates certification by the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres. (In English, the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute.) COSC is the governing body that determines official watch accuracy. You can see the literal seal of their approval in the official Rolex seals.
Watches with a red Rolex seal are certified accurate to -4/+6 seconds per day. So, if you send a watch with a red seal in for factory service, this is the horological standard that it will be corrected to. The red seal has a second meaning aside from guaranteeing the movement’s accuracy. It also indicates a two-year factory warranty for the watch, However, since red seals were last used in 2015, these guarantees have all expired at this point.
If you’ve bought a Rolex in the past 5 years, you may have noticed the transition from the red certification seal to the Rolex green COSC certification seal. In 2015, Rolex required all ADs to begin including green Superlative Chronometer tags with new customer purchases, rather than the red seal. This switch was due to the fact that Rolex had reached a new level of innovation in movements technology.
As the new Parachrom hairspring became standard in many Rolex calibers, accuracy was increased to +2/-2. This increase in accuracy led to an even higher COSC certification. The green seal also indicated a change in Rolex’s guarantee length, which was increased from 2 years to 5 years. This switch was partially due to the durability of the advanced movement technology. However, some collectors speculated that the change was also partially due to industry pressure, as competitors such as Omega had offered five year guarantees for many years.
This is a great question. Throughout most of the 2000s, Rolex used green holographic caseback stickers to confirm authenticity. However, these caseback stickers were fairly easy to counterfeit, making it a less certain way of certifying authentic Rolexes. In time, Rolex moved away from the holographic caseback sticker and created a transparent caseback sticker with a small green half-moon shape running across it. The angle and specificity of this type of caseback sticker was a little harder to imitate.
Green half moon caseback sticker found on the back of the 2020 Oyster Perpetual 41.
If you buy a new Rolex today, this is the caseback sticker you should expect to see. The only exception to this is if you’re looking at a Rolex that recently received a factory servicing. These Rolexes will have a transparent caseback sticker with a single red line on that back. After the movement is checked and repaired, the “red stripe” caseback sticker indicates that the movement was closed back up in the factory after its service.
Although they don’t have a practical purpose, many Rolex buyers retain the hang tag seals that come with their Rolex for a few reasons. If you bought the watch as an investment piece, it never hurts to keep the original tags that the watch came with to provide additional reassurance about its authenticity.
If you don’t intend to re-sell the watch, you can still display the seals in an Everest Bands leather watch roll. The old-school sealing wax look lends an air of sophistication to your display. Whatever you end up doing with your COSC-certification Rolex seals, we hope you understand a bit more about their purpose and meaning.
By Meghan Clark
cover image: @drairwatch14