Let’s talk about watch bezels!
What is Watch Bezel?
The watch bezel is a ring that surrounds and secures the watch crystal. Bezels may be used for a variety of sports, including diving and race timing. They may also be strictly decorative, adding a touch of texture or flair to your watch. Once you know how to use it, the bezel is a very easy tool.
Bezels come in various shapes and sizes and are often combined with specific complications and functions. They’re seldom decorative, though, and each is made for a particular purpose.
A Little History of The Watch Bezel?
Watchmakers determined in the 1950s that the bezel was the ideal location for adding functions without complicating the watch movement.
Since the 1930s, watches have had technical bezels. The Zero-graph, a very unusual timepiece, was given a revolving bezel by Rolex. The revolving bezel has since become a standard feature on all dive watches. It was also incorporated into ISO 6425, the international standard that governs what qualifies as a dive watch.
Longines is another company that chose a bezel with a scale as their dial. Charles Lindbergh made the first nonstop transatlantic flight, and his Longines watch served as a navigational aid. The dial was aligned to the signals using an internally rotating bezel that could be adjusted and kept accurate when listening to beeps over the radio. The Longines Legend Diver pays homage to the iconic 1960s dive watch with an internal rotating bezel, similar to the Lindbergh.
World War II influenced the nature and technicality of bezels. Military watches with luminous dials and aviation timepieces with slide rule bezels and a GMT feature became popular during this era.
This comprehensive guide will teach you what are and how to use the most popular styles of watch bezels.
1. Plain Bezel
Plain bezels are bezels that have no purpose and are attached to the watch case. This isn’t to say that a plain bezel is completely uninteresting. Simple bezels may have engravings, designs, jewels, and other embellishments to enhance the watch’s aesthetics, even though they have no purpose.
2. Count-up Bezel
A count-up bezel is also known as a diving bezel. It is used to keep track of how much time has passed. A count-up bezel, unlike a countdown bezel, has a scale that goes from zero to sixty. The count-up bezel is also unidirectional, unlike the countdown bezel. This style of the bezel is most commonly used on sport and dive watches, as the name implies. In reality, the majority of count-up bezels meet ISO dive watch requirements.
A certified dive watch must have a unidirectional bezel with a 60-minute scale, according to this criterion. It must also have markers every five minutes, as well as a zero marker to indicate a precise minute reading. The reading is commonly in the form of a triangle. Many dive watch bezels go above and beyond the ISO requirements, with one-minute markings ranging from zero to fifteen minutes.
This has become a trend among popular dive watch models, such as the Rolex Submariner, over time. The procedure for using a count-up bezel is similar to that of using a countdown bezel. Begin by rotating the bezel until the zero markers and the minute hand is in line. You will read the elapsed time as the minute hand progresses.
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3. Countdown Bezel
Countdown bezels are almost identical to the above-mentioned count-up bezel, as the name suggests. The only difference is that it counts from 60 to 0 in the same way that a stopwatch does. Runners, cyclists, and other forms of racers commonly use countdown bezels as a result.
The countdown bezel differs from the count-up bezel in that it can be rotated both clockwise and counterclockwise. Simply turn the countdown bezel until the 0 marker aligns with your target/desired time limit to use it.
4. GMT Bezel
GMT bezels aren’t something you see every day because they’re only used on GMT timepieces. And only the major brands make them, so they’re pretty rare. A GMT bezel is used to say the time in several time zones and vary in appearance depending on the manufacturer. Some GMT watch bezels feature famous city names and indications of how far ahead or behind GMT they are.
To use this sort of GMT bezel, line up your hometown with the GMT side, then look at the city you’re interested in to see the time difference.
The Rolex GMT bezel is the other kind of GMT bezel we see. It has hour markings (0-24) that work in tandem with the GMT hand to enable you to say time in two time zones simultaneously. It’s easier to use than the previous style of GMT bezel, but it has fewer features.
Another common form of the bezel is the tachymeter. It helps you calculate your speed based on the amount of time it takes to travel a certain distance. In a nutshell, it aids in calculating speed over a set distance or in units per hour. A tachymeter is fixed, unlike some of the other bezels we’ve mentioned. It’s used in combination with a chronograph, much like a pulsometer. For events lasting up to 60 seconds, this helps you to convert elapsed time in seconds to speed.
This is an illustration of how to use a tachymeter. Assume you’re testing a car’s speed in a one-kilometer sprint. If the car has crossed the starting line, start the chronograph. Then, when the car has completed the one-kilometer lap, turn off the chronograph. Finally, to determine the car’s pace, read the mark on the bezel that corresponds to the chronograph second’s side. The Omega Speed master was the first watch to have a tachymeter scale on the bezel rather than the dial.
6. Decimal Bezel
The Decimeter or Decimal bezel is a much rarer scale that was offered as a custom alternative to tachymeters on Speed masters. Decimeters, not to be confused with the same-named unit of length, enable the wearer to convert time into decimal values.
The distinctive 100 scale, mainly used for science and industrial measurements, makes it easily identifiable. Time measurement can be conveniently converted to a decimal or percentage for use in longer measurements when used in conjunction with the chronograph.
The 6 o’clock spot, for example, reads 50, which can be interpreted as 50 percent or 0.5 of a minute. While some rounder time stamps are simple to convert to decimals proportionately, this tool makes the process for more complicated time readings relatively simple.
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The pulsometer is one of the more uncommon watch scales. This is usually seen on a medically designed watch that doctors wear.
This form of the bezel was first used in the 1920s by physicians who wanted to reliably calculate a patient’s pulse. The pulsometer, like the tachymeter scale that measures units per hour, measures heart rate in minutes. The scales on the bezel are calibrated from 15 to 30 pulses per revolution around the dial, beginning at 200 seconds.
Doctors would start the chronograph, count the beats up to the number of beats their watches were valued for, and then stop it. They’d be able to read the heart rate in beats per minute depending on where the seconds hand lined up on the pulsation scale as they came to a halt.
8. Slide Rule Bezel
The slide rule bezel is, without a doubt, the most frightening of all the bezels. An inner and outer bezel make up this complicated method. You can use it to calculate speed, distance, and flight time, among other things. The Breitling Navi timer was one of the first watches to have a slide rule.
Early slide rule bezels were designed with pilots in mind and included three main units: KM (kilometers), NAUT (nautical miles), and STAT (status) (standard mileage). The slide rule bezel is becoming increasingly obsolete as new flight instruments replace it.
9. Telemeter Bezel
A telemeter bezel resembles a tachymeter bezel. It does not, however, calculate speed; instead, it calculates the distance. This form of the bezel was designed to aid soldiers in calculating the range of enemy fire. It’s now used for more mundane purposes, such as calculating the distance of a lightning strike. A telemeter bezel, like many other bezels we’ve covered, works in tandem with a chronograph.
In the case of a thunderstorm, you’d trigger the chronograph feature as soon as you see a lightning strike. You’d then come to a halt when you heard the thunder that followed. You may use the telemeter scale to measure distance dependent on time.
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10. Yacht-Timer Bezel
In regatta racing or yachting, a yacht-timer is primarily used. A timer ranging from 10 to 1 is usually found along the bezel’s outer edge, covering the top 2/3 of the bezel. Different brands, on the other hand, build timers in various types.
A horn signals the start of the countdown to race time in boat racing. The crew aims to avoid crossing the starting line before the second signal, which begins the race. Typically, the timers will show the amount of time before the race begins.
11. Compass Bezel
Some watches have a compass bezel that shows the four corners of the globe. These bezels are bidirectional, so even if you don’t have a compass, you can easily check the direction you’re heading in.
Watches with compass bezels are popular among hikers, sailors, and other people who spend a lot of time outdoors. They’re supposed to support you if you get lost, but you’ll need to know how to use the hour hand and the compass bezel to find out which way you’re facing. That’s an old boy scout trick, and I’ll leave a link to a video that describes it way better than I could ever describe it – it starts about the six-minute mark.
12. Internal Revolving Bezel
An internal revolving bezel is used in a large number of watches. It may be a countdown bezel, a tachymeter, a compass bezel, or almost every other form of a watch bezel.
These bezel buttons near the crown can be rotated, giving you the same features like an external bezel. However, they are not recommended for diving watches because the extra buttons near the crown mean that there are additional holes through which water will enter and completely ruin the watch. So, for divers, stick with external bezels, but for anything else, go for a watch with an internal rotating bezel.