A Guide to Watch Bezels: 11 Types and How to Use Them
Watches have been around for centuries, evolving from simple timekeeping devices into fashion statements and symbols of craftsmanship. While the watch face makes the biggest impression, the bezel—the ring surrounding the crystal over the watch face—is a key design element, adding visual interest and functionality.
Watch bezels serve both practical and decorative functions. From rotating bezels for calculations to engraved bezels for aesthetics, the bezel type enhances a watch’s utility and beauty. In this blog, we’ll delve into 10 popular bezel types, how they add value, and how each is used. Whether you’re a collector, wearer, or just watch-curious, this post will provide a comprehensive overview of various bezels available.
But first, some basics for those new to watch collecting.
- What is a watch bezel?
- 11 Types of Watch Bezels
- Some Styles Of Watch Bezels
What is a watch bezel?
A watch bezel is a ring that surrounds the face of a watch and holds the crystal (the transparent cover protecting the watch face). Usually, the bezel is made up of two parts: an inner ring (bezel insert) and an outer ring (bezel ring).
A bezel insert is part of the bezel that sits on top of the outer ring and has specific markings. It is usually made up of stainless steel, aluminum, sapphire crystal or ceramic.
A bezel ring, on the other hand, is the outer part of the bezel that sits on top of the crystal and holds the insert in place. The bezel ring is typically made of the same material as the rest of the watch case.
Functions of the watch bezel
Bezels can serve a variety of functions, both practical and decorative.
– Protect the watch crystal/face – The bezel creates a raised barrier around the edge of the watch crystal to protect it from bumps, scratches, and impacts.
– Provide gripping surface – Fluted, knurled, or textured bezels give the fingers something to grip while operating the watch and rotating a movable bezel.
– Enhance aesthetics – Bezels come in different colors, materials, finishes, and designs to complement the watch case and become part of its visual appeal.
– Functional features – Rotating, slide rule, tachymeter, and diver’s bezels allow users to track time, calculate speed/distance, and more. Markings and scales on the bezel provide information.
After knowing the basics of watch bezels let’s take a closer look at the various watch bezel types available on the market.
11 Types of Watch Bezels
1. Uni-directional Bezels
This type of bezel is commonly found on dive watches and has markings for minutes. It is designed to be rotated in only one direction (usually counterclockwise), which allows the wearer to keep track of how much time has elapsed underwater. The uni-directional feature is important because it prevents the bezel from being accidentally moved in the opposite direction, which could lead to the wearer miscalculating the time they have been underwater.
To use a uni-directional bezel, the wearer simply rotates the bezel to align the zero mark with the minute hand of the watch. This sets the bezel to zero, indicating the start time. The wearer can then keep track of the elapsed time by observing the position of the minute hand relative to the markings on the bezel.
For example, let’s say a diver starts their dive at 10:00 AM and wants to keep track of how long they have been underwater. They would rotate the uni-directional bezel until the zero mark is aligned with the minute hand, which is currently pointing at the 12 o’clock position. As the minutes’ tick by, the minute hand will move around the dial and the diver can keep track of the elapsed time by observing the position of the minute hand relative to the markings on the bezel. The uni-directional bezel can be useful in daily life outside of diving.
2. Bi-directional bezel
A bi-directional bezel can be rotated in either direction and is often used for tracking elapsed time in general, rather than specifically for diving. Some bi-directional bezels have markings for minutes or seconds, while others have markings for the hours.
3. Tachymeter Bezel
A tachymeter bezel is used to measure speed over a known distance. It is marked with numbers that correspond to units of distance (usually kilometers or miles), and the wearer can use it to calculate their speed by timing how long it takes them to cover that distance.
Here’s an example of how to use a tachymeter bezel & how it works: let’s say you want to know your average speed over a mile. You would start the stopwatch function on your watch as you begin your mile, and stop it when you finish. The number on the tachymeter bezel where the second hand is pointing is your average speed in miles per hour.
To give you a more concrete example, let’s say it takes you 45 seconds to cover a mile. If you look at the tachymeter bezel, you will see that the number “80” is direct across from the “45” second mark. This means that your average speed was 80 miles per hour.
4. Dual Time Bezel
A dual time bezel with 12-hour markings (without an extra hand) allows the wearer to keep track of the time in two different time zones.
To use this bezel, set the hour and minute hands to local time and the bezel markings to another time zone that you want to monitor. You could now read another time zone directly from the bezel.
Let’s understand with an example: let’s say you are traveling from New York to Paris, and you want to keep track of the time in both cities. You would set the main hour and minute hands to the local time in New York (for example, 3 o’clock). And then sets the bezel markings according to the Paris time which would be 9 o’clock because we know Paris time is 6 hours ahead of the New York time. As the hours pass, the hour and minute hands will move around the dial, and the dial markings indicate the New York time, while bezel markings indicate the Paris time.
5. GMT Bezel
A GMT bezel (Greenwich Mean Time bezel) allows the wearer to keep track of the time in two different time zones, similar to a dual time bezel. However, a GMT bezel is specifically designed to track the time in a time zone that is offset by a whole number of hours from the local time. The most common example of this is the time in Greenwich, England, which is used as a reference time for the entire world.
To use a GMT bezel, the wearer sets the main hour and minute hands to the local time, and the GMT hand (which is a separate hand from the main hour and minute hands) to the time in the other time zone. The GMT hand will then rotate around the bezel, indicating the time in the other time zone.
Let’s understand with an example: let’s say you are traveling from New York to London, and you want to keep track of the time in both cities. You would set the main hour and minute hands to the local time in New York (for example, 3:00 PM), and the GMT hand to the time in London (which is five hours ahead of New York, so the GMT hand would be set to 8:00 of bezel markings). As the hours pass, the main hour and minute hands will move around the dial to indicate the local time, while the GMT hand will rotate around the bezel to indicate the time in London.
6. Compass Bezel
The Compass Bezel is marked with directions (north, east, south, west) and degrees of rotation (usually 0° to 360°). The bezel can be rotated to set a heading or bearing or to measure an angle or distance.
How to Use Compass Bezel?
Understanding the use of a compass bezel can be a little tricky, so I’ve embedded a YouTube video below. It’s often easier to understand something like this through a visual demonstration rather than just reading in written words.
It’s also important to note that a compass bezel should not be relied upon for precise navigation, as it is not as accurate as a dedicated compass. However, it can be a useful tool in a pinch if you need to get your bearings and don’t have a proper compass on hand.
7. Slide Rule bezel
The slide rule bezel, also known as an aviation or pilot’s bezel, is a rotating outer ring on a watch featuring logarithmic scales for calculations. Originally for pilots and navigators, slide rule bezels enable quick computations for multiplication, division, square roots, and more.
- Logarithmic Scales – Scales for multiplying, dividing, finding square roots, etc. allow for various calculations.
- Bidirectional Rotation – Slide rule bezels rotate both clockwise and counter-clockwise, enabling flexible calculations.
- Index Marker – An arrow or marking acts as a reference point when aligning numbers on the scales.
The bidirectional slide rule bezel allows pilots, navigators, engineers, and others to quickly perform a wide range of analog calculations with a simple rotation of the wrist. Before the digital age, It was an essential tool for them.
Note: Using the slide rule bezel can be a bit complicated depending on the specific watch model and what features it has. The calculations enabled by the bezel depend on the exact scales and logarithms included. So it’s always best to consult the instruction manual from the manufacturer to understand the full functionality of the slide rule bezel on your watch.
Some Styles Of Watch Bezels
Watch Bezels are available in a variety of styles, the most popular of which are:
1. Coin-edge Bezel (8)
This is a classic bezel style that features a series of small ridges or ridges that resemble the edge of a coin. This type of bezel is often found on dress watches and gives a watch a sophisticated look.
2. Fluted Bezel (9)
A fluted bezel features a series of small, vertical grooves that run around the circumference of the bezel. This style of bezel is also often found on dress watches and adds a touch of elegance to the overall design.
3. Pave Bezel (10)
Pave bezels are set with small, glittering stones, such as diamonds or crystals, giving the watch a luxurious and sparkly look. It is mostly found on women’s watches.
4. Luminous Bezel (11)
The luminous bezel is designed to be easily readable in low-light conditions. This is achieved by filling the bezel with a material that glows in the dark, such as luminescent paint or Super-LumiNova. This type of bezel allows the wearer to read the time even in poor lighting environments, and can be especially useful for divers, pilots, or anyone else who may need to read their watch in dim conditions.
In summary, the bezel of a watch serves many purposes, both practical and decorative. From tracking elapsed time underwater with a uni-directional bezel to calculating speed with a tachymeter bezel, to simply adding a touch of glamour with a gem-set bezel, there is a bezel for every need and style. Whether you are a diver, a runner, a traveler, or just appreciate the aesthetics of a well-designed timepiece, there is a bezel that can enhance your watch-wearing experience.
We hope this article has helped you learn more about the various types of watch bezels and their unique features. If you have any questions or suggestions, leave them in the comment section below. We will get back to you as soon as possible.