Bezels not only look chic on watches, but they also have very special functions. In the case of the diver’s watch, the bezel used to be of vital importance! This article is about what a bezel is and what functions and special features the bezels of the different watch types have.

What is the bezel on a watch?

The bezel is the part of the watch case that surrounds the watch glass. This outer ring is either permanently installed or rotatable. The bezel can either be a bit wider and have different markings, or it can be narrow and unadorned.

The word bezel comes from the French lunette, which means glasses or binoculars. Sometimes imprints on the dial are incorrectly referred to as the inner bezel.

Circula SuperSport with narrow bezel and internal divers’ bezel, starting at 699 USD

The function of the bezel – more diverse than expected

Depending on the type of watch, the bezels differ and have different functions. What they all have in common is that certain markings or scales on the bezel in combination with the minute and hour hands and/or imprints on the dial make the watch a practical helper. For example, watches can be used to calculate speeds, show cardinal points, mark diving times, navigate aircrafts or stop or count down the time (countdown). Multiplication, division and the conversion of units is also possible using special bezels.

The bezel of a diving watch

Automatic diving watch from Circula from the 70s and Circula AquaSport II, starting at 599€

Nowadays, dive computers are mostly used for diving. When the technology was not yet so advanced, diving watches or the bezel of the diving watch had the task of marking the dive time. Shortly before diving, divers marked the current position of the minute hand with the luminous triangle on the rotating bezel so that they knew exactly for the next 60 minutes how long they had been diving and how long the breathing gas from the bottle would last. Depending on the model, diving bezels have 60 or 120 clicks, so that the immersion time can be set to either the minute or half a minute.

The bezels of diving watches are unidirectional, i.e. they can only be rotated in one direction. This is a security measure that has been in place since the 1960s. Because the rotating ring of divers’ bezels can only be rotated in one direction, the remaining diving time is only shortened and not extended. An unintentionally extended dive time is life-threatening for divers, as they could run out of breathing gas before they have reached the saving water surface.

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The bezel of a pilot’s watch

Unlike the bezel of the diver’s watch, the bezel of the pilot’s watch is bidirectional, which means that it can be rotated in both directions. Pilot bezels are still used today by many pilots who fly visual flight. Just like with divers’ bezels, the current position of the minute hand is marked as the zero point when starting. During the visual flight, navigation is then carried out using the past minutes, a map and distinctive features of the landscape, such as church towers, motorway junctions, chains of hills or lakes.

Pilot bezels for visual flights must be able to be operated with gloves and have at least one luminescent mark. As mentioned above, the bezel can also be rotated in both directions and thus set faster than the unidirectional diver’s bezel.

Lünette Fliegeruhr

The slide-rule bezel

A practical function that some pilot’s watches have is the slide-rule bezel. This allows not only multiplications and divisions to be carried out, but also, for example, to convert miles into kilometers or euros into dollars and calculate descent rates or fuel consumption using the rule of three.

Rechenschieber Lünette

The chronograph bezel with tachymeter scale

Tachymeter Lünette Chronograph

In contrast to pilot and diving watches, chronographs have a stopwatch function and usually also have a fixed bezel with a tachymeter scale. This can be used, for example, to measure the average speed of a vehicle. For this, the time required for one kilometer is stopped. For example, at 20 seconds the average speed is 180 km / h, at 30 seconds it is 120 km / h. This value can easily be read off.

The GMT bezel

This bezel is particularly practical for globetrotters, business travelers or office chair acrobats with a lot of international contact. Watches with a GMT function often have a two-tone bezel to distinguish between day and night, as well as an extra hand, the so-called GMT hand, which can be set separately, especially with newer watch models, and circles the dial once within 24 hours.

With GMT watches you can display two or, with separately adjustable GMT hands, three time zones at the same time.

For two different time zones, the local time is normally set using the hour hand and the bezel (in the case of a non-adjustable GMT hand) is set to the corresponding time in the desired time zone.

If you want to display three different time zones, you need a separately adjustable GMT hand. This is then set for the corresponding time zone. For example, if the desired time zone is 2 p.m., the GMT hand will be set to 7 a.m.

To set the third time zone, the bezel is aligned with the GMT hand as described above. Now you just have to remember which time zone is what …

GMT Lünette

The countdown bezel

Countdown Lünette

In contrast to the common count-up bezels on aviator or diving watches, the minute division on the countdown bezel is counter-clockwise.

Such bezels are often found on military watches. They are very practical in everyday life, for example to read the remaining parking time or how long the breakfast eggs will still need.

The compass bezel

For the compass function, there are special, rotatable bezels on which the four cardinal points are marked. To find out the cardinal direction with a compass bezel, align the hour hand with the sun and, if you are in the northern hemisphere, turn the bezel until the south marking is exactly between 12 o’clock (or 1 o’clock in summer time) and the hour hand. Now you can easily read off the compass direction.

This trick works even without a compass bezel. Here, too, you align the hour hand with the sun and south is exactly between 12 or 1 o’clock and the hour hand. In the southern hemisphere you must rethink. There you align the hour hand with the sun, but halfway between 12 or 1 o’clock and the hour hand is then north.

Uhr als Kompass benutzen

The watch as a compass (winter time in the northern hemisphere)