7 Types of Watch Bezels (And What They Are Used for)

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The bezel is the part of the watch that fits around the crystal, or the glass top. Bezels are round and look like rings, and some are fixed while others are made to be turned. There are so many types of bezels that once you start looking at them, you’ll start to notice how each one is a little different.

In the beginning, watches with bezels were used frequently by divers to determine how deep they were in the water, but nowadays they can be used to do much more than that. Below are 7 types of watch bezels and why they are so popular with certain people.

1. Plain Bezel

A plain bezel is just that – plain. It is fixed on the watch so it doesn’t move, and it is there mostly for aesthetic purposes. Plain bezels can be any color or size, and they are sometimes so subtle that you’ll barely notice they’re there. While they do not have a specific function and can’t be turned or moved, they often have patterns or markings on them to add to their aesthetic value.

Some even have jewels on them to match the rest of the watch, but the one thing they all have in common is their fixed nature and the fact that they do not have a specific function as many other bezels do.

2. Dive (Count-up) Bezel

Count-up bezels are used by divers and can be set to track the elapsed time from a certain point. It has numbers from one to sixty all around it. To get it to start, all you have to do is align the zero to your minute hand.

While it only measures up to one hour of elapsed time, it is still able to provide you with accurate elapsed time for numerous events. Just rotate the bezel counterclockwise to get the timer going. Simple to use and with clear-cut numbers all around it, this type of bezel is good for divers and so many others.

3. Tachymeter Bezel

If you love motor sports or you’re a car racer, you could definitely use a tachymeter bezel. Although it is a fixed bezel, it allows you to measure speed as it’s relative to distance and time. It is easy to set and use; all that you have to do is reset the stopwatch to zero, then stop and start the stopwatch as you normally would.

Once you do this, go ahead and read the tachymeter scale to get the information you need. For example, if you time a car on a one-mile stretch of road and it took them about 30 seconds to do this, this means that the car is going at around 120 miles per hour.

4. GMT Time Zone Bezel

This is a straightforward bezel that allows you to use the correct time zone while you’re traveling, wherever you end up. You just set the bezel so that the zero mark lines up with 12 p.m., then set the secondary hour watch hand to the current GMT time (GMT +0). Lastly, rotate the GMT bezel to the time zone you need to use.

Usually, the number of times you’ll have to rotate the bezel (counterclockwise) is the same as the number after the GMT symbol. For instance, if the time zone you need is GMT +8, you’ll be rotating the bezel eight times.

5. Compass Bezel

Compass bezels are found in analog watches and are used for navigation purposes. They are used just like compasses and are extremely popular with hikers and backpackers. North, south, east, and west markers are on the watch, but the bezel needs the sun in order to work.

Since the bezel is neither magnetic nor electronic, it is not as accurate as an actual compass. In fact, you’ll likely have to check the bezel for accuracy every 30 minutes or so. This is especially important because as the sun moves, the directions on the bezel will change. Still, it’s a good bezel to have when you need at least an estimated location point.

6. Pulsometer Bezel

These bezels were used in the early 1920s by medical professionals to take a patient’s pulse and sometimes even their respiratory rate. Today, these bezels are rare and if found, are very expensive.

Today, the same thing can be accomplished with cheaper electronic versions, but all of these bezels involve a timer that allows you to time the heart rate for, say, 30 seconds so that you can get an estimate of that number. In the original bezels, you would read the outer scale to find out the true number, but today’s watches are a little easier to use and more accurate.

7. Telemeter Bezel

These are rare classics that soldiers used to use to determine the distance between themselves and enemy fire. They can also be used to measure the distance for other events, such as lightning strikes. They are essentially there to determine the distance between a person and an inanimate object, and the bezel itself works similar to a timing device.

A chronograph is also part of the setup. Telemeter bezels were once used far more often than they are now and are being replaced by other features found within some of the more-modern watches of today.

Other bezel functions include countdown, decimal, yacht-timer, and slide rule bezels. And bezels can also be made out of various materials, including:

  • Aluminum
  • Ceramic
  • Steel

With most watches, the bezel can be changed quickly and easily, so if you decide you want to start using a different one, it’s normally not a problem to do so. Most bezels snap into the watch and are therefore easy to change.

The only thing that you’ll have to keep in mind is to make sure the size of your current bezel matches the size of the new one. Bezels are not just there to make the watch look good, but also to provide you with a few extra features you didn’t know you had. Finding the right one is just a matter of deciding which feature is important to you, because you can always find a bezel you love.