Why Do Some Watches Have a Rotating Outer Ring?

What is the rotating outer ring on watches do

The ring on the outer edge of a watch is referred to as the bezel. You might have noticed that some of them do turn. Inquiring minds might have asked themselves or others exactly why that is with varying results. The rotating outer ring on a watch can serve multiple functions, as a matter of fact it is insanely diverse. We have come up with seemingly endless uses, and we will cover all of them!

Today the mystery of rotating watch bezels will be unveiled as we teach you not just their function, but also how to perform that function. It's quite useful and something I hadn't really felt that I needed before sitting down to write this article, but now that I know what I can do with it? I find myself doing it all the time!

I personally have a bidirectional bezel watch, but there are a huge amount of bezel additions that perform a wide variety of functions. We will be covering absolutely every one of them that I could dig up information on. This will make it easy to choose the type of rotating outer ring that you need for your watch based on your hobbies!

Why Do Some Watches Have a Rotating Outer Ring? wrist watch bezel

Non-rotational Bezels

Before anything else, we should cover the primary function of a watch bezel. If a watch doesn't have a rotating outer ring then it's one and only purpose is to hold the glass faceplate in place and protect those sensitive inner components. This is the genesis of all watches. Before all the bells and whistles we had the vanilla non-rotating bezel which is perfectly acceptable. We all have to start somewhere.

Unidirectional Watch Bezel

This rotating outer ring can only spin counter-clockwise. This type of rotational bezel is a popular choice for divers. Simply rotate the bezel to mark out minutes based on the size of your tank. This obviously allows the diver to check how much air they have left at just a glance. The bezel is almost always ratcheted to keep it from being accidentally knocked out of position, as that could end in absolute tragedy.

Why Do Some Watches Have a Rotating Outer Ring? pocketwatch bezel

Bidirectional Bezel

Bidirectional bezels are my preferred form of rotating outer ring for watches, and luckily it's one of the most popular versions available. Bidirectional bezels obviously move both clockwise and counter-clockwise. This allows it to be used as a very flexible timer, adding or subtracting time as needed. Additionally it can be used for mathematical calculations. We will cover that usage a bit more in a later section.

Dual Time Indicator

This bezel requires an extra hand that will allow you to keep track of an additional time zone. This can be extremely useful if you're doing business in multiple countries. A broker in New York can set up a good time to contact his Japanese client simply with a quick glance at a watch with a dual time indicator. This would actually be quite useful for me while I'm away from family, but I've memorized the time difference in most locations, and highly prefer the multiple uses of a bidirectional bezel.

Why Do Some Watches Have a Rotating Outer Ring? seiko bezel


Most watches with a rotating outer ring can be used as a tachymeter. This will allow the wearer to calculate movement based on travel time. Start the timer at a distance indicator and note when the person or object being measures completes whatever unit of measurement you're trying to calculate the speed of. Once you know the total travel time you can easily extrapolate to an hour in order to get the units per hour.

Slide Rule

Slide rule watches feature logarithmic or other scales on the outer edge of the watch face. This allows for more complicated mathematical calculations than the previously mentioned bidirectional bezel. One scale slides around another stationary scale in order to make various calculations. This can serve a wide variety of purposes such as calculating how much fuel an airplane has used or even the weight of said fuel.

Why Do Some Watches Have a Rotating Outer Ring? invicta bezel


This scale is used to measure large distances. You can use this to estimate the distance of a storm or even distances on a battlefield. Like a tachymeter and pulsometer, this is used in conjunction with a chronograph. Since light travels faster than sound you can accurately time the microseconds from a flash until the boom. Using this time you can easily estimate the distance between those storm clouds or cannons.


Next time you're in the doctor's office, check out his watch. He might be wearing a bezel with a pulsometer. This makes things quick and easy, allowing a pulse to be taken over a base of 15 or 20 pulsations. Observant readers can mystify doctors by calling them Dr. So-and-so before they mention their job at all. You can seriously learn a whole lot from a person by what sort of rotating outer ring their watch features.

Why Do Some Watches Have a Rotating Outer Ring? antique bezel

Maintenance of the Bezel

Obviously the bezel needs to be kept clean and free of any debris in order to keep it in proper working order. One of the easiest and most portable solutions is Simple Shine's pure cotton silver wipes. For messes that need a bit more problematic you can kick things up to the next level with premium jewelry cleaning cloths. Maintenance is one of the biggest factors in keeping your watch functional for a long time to come.


Phew. That is a lot of uses for a watch's rotating outer ring. Who would've thought it? For many years I went without knowing what the purpose of this strange device was... Now that I have finally discovered all of this I feel like an entirely new world has been opened up! If you're looking for a watch bezel I hope that you were able to find something that suits your needs, and if you haven't found your match quite yet then maybe you can come up with the next big thing!

You have successfully subscribed!
This email has been registered