How To Read A Watch Bezel

how to read a watch bezel

Whether you’re a diver tracking your underwater time, a pilot monitoring different time zones, or an auto-racer measuring your speed, understanding how to read and use a watch bezel can unlock these valuable features. Let’s dive deeper into the intricacies of watch bezels.

What Is A Watch Bezel?

A watch bezel is the top ring on the watch that surrounds the crystal or face. Although some bezels are fixed and purely aesthetic, many can rotate or include specific markings, enabling additional functions beyond just telling the time.

Different types of bezels

There are several types of bezels, each designed for a different purpose:

  1. Diver’s Bezel: This is the most common type. It rotates only counterclockwise and helps divers monitor their air supply by tracking elapsed time.
  2. GMT Bezel: Named after Greenwich Mean Time, these bezels can display a second timezone, useful for travellers and pilots.
  3. Tachymeter Bezel: Common on chronograph watches, a tachymeter scale can measure speed based on time, or measure distance based on speed.

Understanding Bezel Markings

On a standard rotating bezel, you’ll typically find markings from 0 to 60, corresponding to the 60 minutes in an hour. The “0” or “60” marker, often represented by a distinct symbol or colour, aligns with the minute hand when timing begins.

  • Diver’s bezel: also carries minute markings from 0 to 60, but can only rotate counterclockwise to prevent accidental overestimation of the remaining time.
  • GMT bezel: usually features a 24-hour scale to track a second time zone.
  • Tachymeter bezel: has a different scale entirely. It is graduated to show units per hour (e.g., miles per hour or kilometres per hour) to measure speed or distance.

How To Use A Diver’s Bezel

  1. Before you start your dive, rotate the bezel so that the “0” marker aligns with the minute hand.
  2. As time passes, the minute hand will point to the elapsed time on the bezel.
  3. When you ascend, the position of the minute hand relative to the bezel will indicate the total duration of your dive.

Safety aspects and limitations

It’s important to remember that a diver’s bezel is not a substitute for a professional dive computer. It can’t account for different ascent rates or decompression stops. Also, make sure your watch is water-resistant to the appropriate depth.

How To Use A GMT Bezel

If you’re frequently travelling across time zones, a GMT bezel can help you keep track of home time while your watch displays the local time. It’s also helpful for business people who work with teams in different time zones.

To read and adjust a GMT bezel for tracking multiple time zones, you:

  1. Set the local time on the watch as you normally would.
  2. Rotate the GMT bezel so that the current hour in the second time zone aligns with the 24-hour hand on the dial.

How To Use A Tachymeter Bezel

A tachymeter can be useful for measuring the average speed of a car on a track, determining the speed of a pitched baseball, or even calculating the flow rate of a stream.

  1. Start the chronograph or stopwatch function when the object you’re timing begins moving.
  2. Stop the chronograph when the object has travelled a known distance (like a mile or kilometre).
  3. The position of the chronograph second-hand on the tachymeter scale shows the average speed of the object.

Care & Maintenance For Your Bezel

  1. Regular Cleaning: Dust, grime, and sweat can build up in the grooves and markings of your bezel, especially if it’s a rotating type. To prevent this buildup, clean your bezel regularly. Use a soft, lint-free cloth to gently wipe off any visible dirt.
  2. Mild Soapy Water: For a deeper clean, mildly soapy water can be helpful. Create a solution with lukewarm water and a few drops of mild dish soap. Dip a soft toothbrush or cloth in the solution and gently scrub the bezel. This method can remove stubborn dirt or body oils that accumulate over time. Remember, always check your watch’s water resistance rating before doing this.
  3. Thorough Rinsing: After using soapy water, ensure you rinse the watch thoroughly with clean water to remove all soap residues. These residues can leave spots or degrade the material over time if not fully removed.
  4. Proper Drying: After rinsing, dry the watch thoroughly using a clean, dry cloth. If your bezel is movable, rotate it during the drying process to remove any water that might be trapped underneath. It is also recommended to air dry the watch in a ventilated space to ensure all moisture is removed. Never use a hair dryer or heater, as intense heat can damage the watch.
  5. Regular Check-ups: Regular check-ups with a professional watchmaker can help maintain the functionality of your bezel. They can identify any potential issues early, such as a bezel that’s too loose or tight. 

⌚️ You might like: The Importance Of Servicing Your Rolex Watch.

  1. Avoid Harsh Environments: Whenever possible, avoid exposing your watch to harsh environments. Extreme temperatures, saltwater, chemicals, and abrasive materials can all harm your bezel over time. 
  2. Use as Intended: Using the bezel as it was intended can also keep it functional. For example, don’t force a unidirectional bezel to rotate in the opposite direction, as this can damage the mechanism.

By following these steps, you can help keep your bezel clean, clear, and fully functional, prolonging the life and performance of your treasured timepiece.

What To Do If The Bezel Is Damaged Or Malfunctioning

It is advisable to consult a professional watchmaker to repair your bezel if it is not rotating smoothly or if it has sustained damage. Attempting to fix it on your own may lead to further harm.

Understanding how to read and use your watch bezel can enhance your appreciation of your timepiece and provide handy tools for timing tasks, tracking secondary time zones, or even measuring speed or distance.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a diver’s bezel rotate clockwise?

Typically, no. A diver’s bezel is designed to rotate only counterclockwise to prevent divers from overestimating their remaining air supply if the bezel is accidentally moved.

Can I use a tachymeter for long distances?

Theoretically, yes, but it’s more practical for short distances where the time travelled is less than a minute to an hour.

My bezel isn’t turning. What should I do?

Don’t force it. If your bezel isn’t turning, it might be damaged or dirty. Take it to a professional watchmaker for inspection and repair. 

Can I use my watch in the water if it has a bezel?

Only if the watch is water-resistant. Check the manufacturer’s specifications before using your watch in the water, as not all are suitable for this.

Sell your watch in four simple steps

Sell your watch hassle-free. Fill out our form to sell and get a quick valuation. We offer same-day payments for sellers ensuring a smooth, transparent transaction with no surprises.