Let’s talk about the different types of bezels. But just before we proceed to that, let us first clarify what a bezel is. The watch bezel is simply the rim of the watch cover. Many bezels are stainless steel, but they can be ceramic for reinforced durability or aluminum for budget watches. While some watchmakers add a bezel for aesthetic reasons, a bezel is primarily designed for function.
The most recognizable type of watch bezel is the traditional dive bezel with its rotational dial with clear minute markings. However, several other types have specialized functionality, including compass, slide rule, tachymeter, or tracking multiple time zones. We’ll cover all of these below.
Watch bezels may also be plain, decorated, or numbered; some are stationary, while others may rotate depending on their functions. To better understand these differences, here are the different types of the bezel.
Please note: in this guide, we are referring to different bezel functions. If you are wondering about popular color schemes or styles of bezels, we’ve covered those in separate articles including Coke, Pepsi, Root Beer, Batman and Hulk to name a few.
Types Of Watch Bezels
We start the list with the simplest one – the plain bezel. Plain bezels do not have any function, so they are fixed on the watch cover. However, this doesn’t mean that plain bezels are just “plain“. Despite not having a function, plain bezels may have engravings, patterns, jewels, etc. to improve the watch’s aesthetics.
Count-Up bezels also called Dive bezels because they are used primarily on dive or sports watches. Count-up bezels have a scale of 0 to 60 aligned with the minutes. Its primary function is to count the elapsed time from the point you set it. To do this, you only need to rotate the count-up bezel counterclockwise until the 0 is aligned with the minute hand. Then you can already track the time since you set it. However, it should be noted that it can only track up to one hour.
It’s pretty evident from the name itself that countdown bezels are almost similar to the above count-up bezel. The primary difference is that it counts from 60 to 0, pretty much like a stopwatch. As such, countdown bezels are usually used by runners, cyclists, and other types of racers. Another difference from the count-up bezel is that you may rotate the countdown bezel both clockwise and counterclockwise. To use the countdown bezel, turn it until the 0 markers are aligned with your target/desired time limit.
The most common watch bezel you would see on motorsports or racing-inspired watches is the tachymeter. A fixed bezel is particularly useful in measuring speed with consideration to time and distance traveled. To use the tachymeter, ensure that the stopwatch has been reset to 0. Start and stop the stopwatch accordingly, then read the tachymeter scale. Read more about Racing Watches here.
The telemeter bezel is quite less common, especially if compared to the bezels mentioned above. It is a scale that you may use to measure the distance between a person and a remote object or events, along with a chronograph. For example, a soldier may use a telemeter bezel to determine his distance from the enemy fire. Scientists may also use it to measure the distance of a lightning strike from its position.
Another type of bezel to measure or track time is the decimal bezel. It has a scale divided into 100 parts to aid its wearer in the decimal conversion of time, specifically for industrial and scientific timing operations. Decimal bezels usually come with a chronograph function to accurately measure and translate time.
GMT/World Time Bezel
This one may be familiar to you for those who love to travel to different countries with your watches.
The GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) or World Time bezel has a 24-hour marking, and watches with the GMT bezel also has a GMT hand. These two, the GMT bezel and hand, are used to indicate your home time and the primary 12-hour watch dial set to the local time of the country/city you’re currently on. Don’t worry about confusing the GMT hand with the other hands on the dial, as it is usually in a different shape or color that makes it easily recognizable.
Compass bezels are easily recognizable since they are marked with letters indicating directions instead of numbers. Watches with this type of bezel are particularly useful for hikers, trekkers, and the like. However, since the bezel is not magnetic nor electronic, it is only useful under the sun.
From the name itself, the yacht-timer bezel is mainly used for yachting or regatta racing. It is typically marked with a scale of 10 to 1 across the 2/3 of the bezel; although it may differ depending on the brand’s design. The yacht-timer bezel is used to determine the time remaining from the actual start of the race to avoid going over the starting line before the beginning of the race.
Pulsometer bezels were introduced in the early 1920s but are less common now. This type of bezel was particularly designed for medical doctors and nurses and was used to determine the rate of a patient’s heartbeat. Others can also determine the respiratory rate. Pulsometer bezels are characterized by markers on a scale of 40 to 200. They are pretty expensive, so we would often see cheaper electronic versions of this device instead.
The slide rule bezel is perhaps the most complicated as it is also multi-functional. With a slide rule, you may do various calculations and determine speed, distance, flight time, exponents, logarithms, fuel consumption, etc. The slide rule bezel comes with a rotating and a fixed scale for all these calculations that you have to do.
If you’ve noticed markers or numbers on your watch cover, now you know that they’re not just for additional design or detail. Most bezels can help you a lot, especially if your watch has the bezel that best suits your profession or even hobby. As a recap, we presented 11 types of bezel: (1) plain, (2) count-up/dive, (3) countdown, (4) tachymeter, (5) telemeter, (6) decimal, (7) GMT/world time, (8) compass, (9) yacht-timer, (10) pulsometer, and (11) slide rule. A plain bezel is already enough if you wear a watch primarily for fashion and timekeeping only. But, if you are into races or you need to measure or track elapsed time constantly, you may choose among the count-up, countdown, tachymeter, telemeter, and decimal bezels. For frequent travelers, watches with GMT are pretty helpful.
For hikers, those with compass bezels, and the yacht-timer for regatta racers. For health care professionals, of course, the pulsometer (if you’re still lucky to find one). If you are a pilot or need to use your watch to do more advanced calculations, the slide rule bezel is for you.