Bezel: Offering protection and other useful functions

Apr 22, 2013
Bezel: Offering protection and other useful functions
Bezel: Offering protection and other useful functions

A watch bezel refers to the ring that encompasses the face of the watch and holds the crystal or glass on the face of the watch in place. The bezel was originally designed to protect the surface of the watch face from external wear and tear. By securing the glass or crystal on the face of the watch, the bezel also protects the inner mechanisms of the watch from external elements. Sport or utilitarian watches may contain watch bezels that serve a secondary functional purpose in addition to their primary function of protecting the watch mechanisms. A bezel can also have decorative purposes.

A bezel is the ring that surrounds the dial of a watch. Bezels are commonly constructed of gold, gold plate or stainless steel. Gem-set bezels are also seen on jewellery watches. On sports watches, it often has calibrated markings and the ability to rotate in either one or two directions. Although rotating watch bezels perform timekeeping functions, the primary purpose of the bezel is to hold the crystal covering the face of the watch in place.

Functional Bezels: Some sport or diving watches contain rotating dials that can help tell time or gauge underwater pressure more accurately. These types of watches usually require the wearer to rotate the bezel manually. Some bezels can be turned in only one direction - unidirectional bezels. Other can be turned either way - bi-directional bezel; and yet others are fixed and cannot be turned. Each has specific uses. The purpose of rotating watch bezels, which are often associated with scuba diving, is to keep track of elapsed time, or to make other measurements, such as average speed or distance travelled. Fixed bezel usually features a scale of sorts such as the Tachymeter scale.

Unidirectional Bezel: As the name indicates, a unidirectional bezel is one that rotates in only one direction - counterclockwise. This type of rotating bezel is often used for scuba diving. Prior to submerging, a scuba diver with 45 minutes of air in his tank could turn the bezel so either the zero mark or the 45 mark is showing, depending if it is a count-up or countdown gauge. That lets the diver know how much air is left with a quick glance at the watch, rather than subtracting the starting time from the current time to determine how many minutes have elapsed or how many minutes of air are left. The bezel on a diver’s watch is often ratcheted to prevent it from accidentally being knocked out of its original position, which could be disastrous for the wearer.

Bidirectional Bezel: This type of bezel moves both clockwise and counterclockwise, enabling it to be used either for mathematical calculations or for measuring how much time has elapsed or how much time is remaining. Allowing the bezel to be rotated either way gives maximum flexibility to beginning the timing.

Elapsed Time Rotating Bezel: It is a graduated rotating bezel that is used to keep track of periods of time. The bezel can be rotated so the wearer can align the zero of the bezel with the watch’s minutes or seconds’ hand. The elapsed time can then be read off the bezel, rather than the wearer having to perform a subtraction necessary if he used the watch’s regular dial.

Tachymeter Scale aka Tachometer: It is a common feature in chronograph watches and measures the speed over a predefined distance. The wearer starts the chronograph when passing the starting point and stops it when passing the finish. The wearer can read the speed in units per hour off the tachymeter scale. The scale is generally engraved on the bezel or printed on the outer diameter of the dial.

Slide Rule: A slide rule bezel features logarithmic or other scales on the watch face’s outer edge, enabling the wearers to perform mathematical calculations. The rotating bezel is marked with one scale and is slid around the stationary scale to make calculations of various types, which depend on the watch. Some models are designed for calculating how much fuel an airplane has used or the fuel weight.

Decorative Bezels: The watch bezel can vary in terms of appearance and material. On a basic watch, the watch bezel may consist of a simple ring made out of metals such as gold, stainless steel or even titanium. On more fashionable watches, the watch bezel may contain diamonds, diamond substitutes such as cubic zirconia, or other precious stones. These highly embellished bezels are found more commonly on ladies’ watches.

Interchangeable Bezels: Some watch bezels are interchangeable, usually for fashionable purposes. These types of watches allow the wearer to change the bezel to alternate colours or styles. If the bezel is not designed to be removed, removing it from a watch can cause significant damage to the watch face.