Common types of watch bezels and how to read them

Every part of a watch fulfils the function that makes them valuable in the grander scheme of things. Watchmakers attach parts that a specific watch model or type needs to be complete. Among all of them, one of the most prominent is the bezel.


The watch bezel is the ring surrounding a watch that frames the crystal and secures it to the case. It can be made from different materials depending on the watch it’ll be put on. Its scales help perform various tasks and differentiate each type from another.

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To use a watch bezel, you need to know how to read them. There are many types, but you can start with the common ones to better understand how to do it. Here are the common watch bezel types and how to read them.

Countdown bezel

Dive watches have bezels because wearers use them as timers when they dive underwater. The more traditional dive watch bezel is the one with the countdown scale, which you can find in premiere dive watch brands like Seiko. You can modify them with a ceramic bezel insert for Seiko.

To use a countdown bezel, you need to match the number you want to count down from the bezel to the current time. If you’re using a rotating type, you need to rotate the bezel so the time remaining is opposite the minute hand. Besides diving, countdown bezels are also good for runners and bikers who want to time their workout.

Elapsed time bezel

An elapsed time bezel is also another type commonly found on dive watches. It helps you count seconds or minutes passed without doing arithmetic in your head. It provides help for divers who need exact timekeeping to see how much oxygen they have left.

All you do is set the zero marker opposite the minute hand to use it. Then, you can read off the elapsed time on the bezel when you need to track it. Moreover, this bezel can track up to an hour, as it has a scale of 0-60 minutes.

Compass bezel

Some watch bezels come with a compass on them. They function exactly as a compass would. They have indicators of directions (North, South, East, and West) and often have markings in between them for measurement precision. Watches with this bezel are popular with hikers because they help navigate terrains.

You need to orient yourself correctly to use them, and the best way to do so is by using the sun. If you’re in the northern hemisphere, rotate the compass bezel until the south mark is halfway between the hour hand and 12 o’clock. Don’t forget to subtract an hour if you’re on daylight saving time.

Then, point the hour hand at the sun and use the bezel orientation to determine the direction. Reset the bezel once an hour to get the precise direction where you need to go.

GMT bezel

GMT stands for Greenwich Mean Time, and the GMT bezel allows a watch wearer to keep time from two different time zones at once. It does this with an engraved 24-hour timescale to add to the typical 12-hour scale on a watch’s dial. You can tell the time in a different location through the 24-hour markings on a GMT bezel.

To use it, you need to set the hour marker on the bezel opposite the 24-hour hand for the timezone you want to track. Keep in mind that the 24-hour hand only goes around once a day. In addition, you can find them on GMT watches, which are perfect for people who constantly travel to different time zones.

Tachymeter bezel

You can find tachymeter bezels on chronographs. Their function is converting distance into speed and vice-versa. It lets you find the unknown distance or speed and combine it with the elapsed time.

To calculate speed with a tachymeter bezel, you simply set it to 0 beforehand. Besides vehicle speed, it can also be used to calculate an average rate of a repeating event.

Final word

Watch bezels are made for different purposes, and knowing how to read their common types will help you find a watch with a bezel that you can maximize. Think about what you need a bezel for, and you’ll get the most out of the next timepiece you purchase.

William Ross
William Ross

William Ross is often described as a jack of all trades. He loves to explore new things and cultivate his knowledge everywhere he goes. These days, he spends most of his free time writing about watches and watch accessories, as he is a collector himself.

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