Quantitative structure–retention relationships (QSRRs) were derived for logarithms of retention factors normalised to a hypothetical zero percent organic modifier eluent, log kw, determined on 18 reversed-phase high-performance liquid chromatography (RP-HPLC) columns for 25 carefully designed, structurally diverse test analytes. The study was aimed at elucidating molecular mechanism of retention and at finding an objective manner of quantitative comparison of retention properties and classification of modern stationary phases for RP-HPLC. Three QSRR approaches were employed: (i) relating log kw to logarithms of octanol–water partition coefficient (log P); (ii) describing log kw in terms of linear solvation-energy relationship-based parameters of Abraham; (iii) regressing log kw against simple structural descriptors acquired by calculation chemistry. All the approaches produced statistically significant and physically interpretable QSRRs. By means of QSRRs the stationary phase materials were classified according to the prevailing intermolecular interactions in the separation process. Hydrophobic properties of the columns tested were parametrized. Abilities of individual phases to provide contributions to the overall retention due to non-polar London-type intermolecular interactions were quantified. Measures of hydrogen-bond donor activity and dipolarity of stationary phases are proposed along with two other phase polarity parameters. The parameters proposed quantitatively characterize the RP-HPLC stationary phases and provide a rational explanation for the differences in retention patterns of individual columns observed when applying the conventional empirical testing methods.