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10 Famous Watch Bezels and How to Use Them

Posted on April 30 2021

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Learn About Watch Bezels

Watches are made up of different elements, each with a function.

The movement keeps the time, the case holds the movement and the dial displays the time. The crown sets the time and the glass protects the dial and so on.

But what does a bezel do?

In its most simple form, it holds the crystal in the watch.

But from there, things get more complicated.

The bezel can be decorative and used to add flair to the watches design. Or it could be functional, adding another feature to your watch. It could even be the major reason for owning a specific watch.

The bezel can be a big deal.

But do you know what all of these different bezels actually do?

If not, I'll walk you through each of them.

Ten Common Bezels and What They Do

1. Plain Bezel

Let's start at the beginning, with the plain bezel.

The most basic bezel is a plain piece of stainless steel. But don't underestimate this style. One of my favourite watches has a plain bezel - it's a distinguishing feature of the Rolex Explorer I.

I've actually modified a few of my Vostok Amphibia's to remove the original bezel and replaced it with a plain version. It's a simple and uncomplicated look that works great on tool watches.

Vostok Amphibia Watch

And not all plain bezels are plain.

One of Rolex's other watches, the Datejust, features a fluted bezel. It's still plain in the sense that it doesn't perform an extra function, but it's decorative too.

2. Count-Up/Dive Bezel

This is the functional bezel you'll be most familiar with. If we stick with the Rolex theme, this is the bezel that you'll find on the Submariner.

It's the most popular dive watch bezel.

Rolex Submariner Hulk Alternatives

It allows you to measure elapsed time and has a scale from zero to sixty. Typically a count-up bezel is unidirectional.

This is important and any dive watch that wants to follow ISO standards must have this style of bezel. It must be unidirectional and feature a sixty-minute scale.

It should also have markings at least every five minutes and a zero marker. On the Rolex Submariner, this is a triangle that also has the lume pip.

The count down bezel looks straightforward and is easy to use. Simply align the zero marker - the triangle - with your minute hand. You can then tell how many minutes have passed from that new point zero.

3. Countdown Bezel

If you understood how the Count Up bezel works then you'll have already figured out what a Countdown bezel does.

This type of bezel features a sixty-minute scale that reads counterclockwise. So you can countdown from sixty to zero.

It's a handy feature that allows you to track how much time is left. You'll see this type of bezel featured more on military and aviation watches.

Want to drop a bomb on your target in ten minutes?

Turn the bezel so that the time remaining until the drop aligns with the minute hand. Once the minute hand reaches zero, bombs away!

4. Tachymeter Bezel

Now things get more complicated.

A tachymeter allows you to measure the speed based on the amount of time taken over a given distance.

Putting that another way, you can calculate speed over a fixed distance or units per hour.

Unlike the count up and count down bezels, the Tachymeter bezel is fixed. It doesn't rotate and is used along with the chronograph function.

I know, you want the Rolex example again.

Rolex Daytona Alternatives

The Rolex Daytona uses a Tachymeter bezel. And since it's a motorsport watch, let's use motor-racing to explain how you'd use the bezel to measure a car's speed in a race.

To measure how fast the car covered a mile, start the chronograph as the car crosses the start line. Stop the chronograph when the driver completes the mile.

Now note the mark on the bezel that lines up with the chronograph seconds hand. This tells you the car’s speed.

5. Telemeter Bezel

If your brain isn't hurting, let's look at a telemeter bezel. They're similar to a tachymeter, but instead of calculating speed, they calculate distance.

This is another bezel that is popular on military watches. They were created to help soldiers calculate the distance of enemy fire.

If you don't have an enemy firing at you, you can use this type of bezel to help with more mundane tasks. Like measuring the distance of a lightning strike.

Again, you're going to need a watch with a chronograph for this one.

So you want to know how near the lightning is to you?

Start the chronograph when you see the lightning strike. And stop it when you hear the thunder. Then use the telemeter scale to calculate the distance based on the time.

6. Decimal Bezel

There's no enemy fire or lightning here.

A decimal bezel is usually used in industrial and scientific settings.

Again, it's a bezel used to track the time. The name gives it away - it uses a scale that is divided into one hundred parts. That allows for the decimal conversion of time.

And also again, this is used with a watches chronograph complication.

7. GMT/World Time Bezel

I'll get the Rolex bit out of the way first. This is the bezel you'll see on the Rolex Batman and Root Beer. The Rolex GMT-Master II.

Rolex Root Beer Alternatives

This is the feature Fidel Castro didn't use. When he wanted to know the time in a second timezone he wore two Rolex's.

Don't be Castro. Wear one watch with a GMT bezel and hand.

This style of bezel features a twenty-four-hour track and a zero marker. Again, this is usually a triangle. A GMT watch will also have a fourth hand. This covers 24hrs in one rotation.

So if you're sitting in Cuba, set the local time on your watch as normal. But you also need to know the time in Russia?

Use the GMT hand to set the time in Russia to match the bezel.

8. Compass Bezel

Compass bezels aren't very common.

It's a little-used feature that is theoretically useful for hikers and the like. This type of bezel features the typical compass layout and allows you to use the sun to navigate.
The Best Traser Watches

Trust me, I've never met a watch geek that has ever used this function.

9. Pulsometer Bezel

We're getting more obscure now. You won't see many modern watches with a Pulsometer function.

A Pulsometer is like a tachymeter but it helps you measure a patients heart rate. It uses a scale that is calibrated from fifteen to thirty pulses. This is again used with a chronograph.
Stuhrling Chronopulse

In the unlikely event that you need to check someone's heart rate and you haven't been given the appropriate tools - start the chronograph function.

Next, count the beats that correspond to the calibrated pulses and note the position of the second hand on the outer scale. You should be able to state the heart rate in beats per minute.

10. Slide Rule Bezel

A Slide Rule bezel is a complicated feature that you'll have seen on Breitling's Navitimer watch.

Breitling Navitimer Watch
It's a detailed tool that utilizes an inner and outer bezel.

Not content to do one job, the slide rule means you can calculate speed, distance, and flight time

Slide rule bezels were originally designed for pilots. They had three important units - kilometres, nautical miles and standard mileage.

Like most of the bezels that I've highlighted, there isn't much need in the modern world for its features.

Still, it's fun, looks great and is distinctive. But whether you'll actually use it is another matter.


Let's not kid ourselves.

For the most part, you're never going to use a bezels functions.

But that doesn't mean that they aren’t appealing. Like decent water resistance, it's good to know it's there should you ever need it.

But there is more than that.

Many of us like the workmanship and the history behind our watches. It's why you're passionate about analogue watches. It's why you would prefer a mechanical watch to a quartz model.

Who cares if you don't need to use your watch bezel to work out the time elapsed? Yes, your phone can do that job for you. But where is the fun in that?

So follow some of these links and enjoy your watches. Use the bezel to calculate whatever it is that you'd like to calculate.

Unless it's a patients blood pressure.

Then you're best using the latest technology.

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