The A-Z of Watches: B is for... Bezel

By Jessica Diamond

I f a car has a bumper, then a watch has a bezel. Located on the top and outer edge of a watch, its primary function is to protect the sapphire crystal glass and inner mechanics from the daily bumps and knocks that inevitably beset your timepiece.

Cartier, Stainless Steel and Yellow Gold Chronograph Wristwatch with Date, Santos 100, Ref 2740. Sold for HK$32,500.

Clipped into place or sometimes screwed, the latter method has lent watches such as the sturdy Cartier Santos a tooled, industrial bent. Other design and material features abound, such as gem-set or ceramic bezels which are particularly tough and scratch proof; but a bezel can also add additional functionality to a watch without the need to tinker with the movement.

Ulysse Nardin, A Limited-Edition Yellow Gold Automatic Wristwatch with Date and Power Reserve Indication, Ref 266-37 No 90/500 Maxi Marine Diver, circa 2009. Sold for CHF7,500.

No diving watch is complete without a unidirectional bezel – line up the large luminous arrow on the bezel with the watch’s minute hand and the dive duration can be accurately timed (if the bezel is knocked accidentally the unidirectional function will only mean that the dive is shortened).

Rolex, GMT Master, Reference 16750 Stainless Steel Dual-Time Wristwatch with Date And Bracelet, circa 1983. Estimate £4,000–6,000.

Other bezel functions include the now infamous Rolex GMT (affectionately nicknamed the Pepsi bezel due to its red and blue palette) introduced in the 1950s for the transatlantic pilots of Pan Am. By lining up the extra 24-hour hand with the appropriate hour on the rotating bezel a second time-zone could be read. Robust, protective and functional, the bezel is the un-sung hero of horology.

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