OBJECTIVE:To assess the clinical utility of two staging models for bipolar disorder by examining distribution, correlation, and the relationship to external criteria. These are primarily defined by the recurrence of mood episodes (model A), or by intra-episodic functioning (model B). METHODS:In the Dutch Bipolar Cohort, stages according to models A and B were assigned to all patients with bipolar-I-disorder (BD-I; N = 1396). The dispersion of subjects over the stages was assessed and the association between the two models calculated. For both models, change in several clinical markers were concordant with the stage was investigated. RESULTS:Staging was possible in 87% of subjects for model A and 75% for model B. For model A, 1079 participants (93%) were assigned to stage 3c (recurrent episodes). Subdividing stage 3c with cut-offs at 5 and 10 episodes resulted in subgroups containing 242, 510, and 327 subjects. For model B, most participants were assigned to stage II (intra-episodic symptoms, N = 431 (41%)) or stage III (inability to work, N = 451 (43%)). A low association between models was found. For both models, the clinical markers "age at onset," "treatment resistance," and "episode acceleration" changed concordant with the stages. CONCLUSION:The majority of patients with BD-I clustered in recurrent stage 3 of Model A. Model B showed a larger dispersion. The stepwise change in several clinical markers supports the construct validity of both models. Combining the two staging models and sub-differentiating the recurrent stage into categories with cut-offs at 5 and 10 lifetime episodes improves the clinical utility of staging for individual patients.