After the clock face there’s no more noticeable part of a watch than the bezel. The look and design can easily make or break a watch. Bezels are more than just for show though. They have practical purposes, evident from the array of numerical patterns commonly seen surrounding a wrist watch face. With that said, nine times out of ten a given watch is chosen for its style, not the need for its bezel function. It’s still good to know the difference between watch bezel types, even if you’re only going to demonstrate the utility for friends.
Watch bezels with Greenwich Mean Time markings are meant to allow the wearer to keep track of time in two time zones. A little archaic these days, the GMT bezel (also known as the traveler bezel) still has its uses in the 21st century. Wearers flying across multiple time zones might need to keep constant track of a home time for family and business purposes. Yeah, phones do it too, but what about when you’re on an airplane?
The complexity of a pilot’s watch bezel isn’t just for show. There’s loads of data to gain from it – if you’re able to do the additional math required. Easier said than done, but you’ll know the pilots in a crowd by the faces staring at the distinct look of an aviator’s watch on your wrist. Maybe they’ll be able to clue you in on how to successfully use it to calculate fuel economy, speed, and rate of descent.
This common watch bezel choice is pretty self-explanatory. Using it is a little less intuitive. How to align north depends on which hemisphere the wearer is in, interestingly enough. Once the outer dial is appropriately turned the user can then point the 24-hour hand to the direction of the sun to get a rough idea of where the cardinal points are. Watchmakers will be the first to tell you though, a compass watch should never be used when directional accuracy is critically important.
Photo: Tag Heuer
Another self-explanatory watch bezel. The golfer’s watch bezel is easier to master than most others, but mostly because it has limited use. Move the ring marker to your tee time and the bezel helps to keep the player on target for a roughly four hour game.
Photo: Jacques Etoile
Also known as a pulsometer, the medical bezel helps doctors and other healthcare workers determine heart rate. Most watches with a pulsometer bezel also feature an asthmometer on the face to keep track of breathing.
Similar to the pilot watch, tachymeter bezels are used mainly to clock distance. Fortunately figuring this one out is slightly easier. Most commonly used by motorsport enthusiasts to time miles per hour, the tachymeter bezel can also be used to calculate the speed of just about any moving object.
The most famous of all bezels, the markings on a diver’s watch are there for matters of life and death. Specifically, for keeping track of available air and also timing ascents to avoid the bends. Most wearers of diver watches will never need to rely on the function, but it’s a nifty thing to have just in case.
Watch bezels can tend to all look the same – a series of numbers and meters with no seemingly intuitive way to put it to use. Each one has its uses, however, some more popular than others. Watches do more than tell the time, wearers just have to know how to read what they say.