A bezel in a dive watch is like the cherry on the cake. It enhances performance and elevates appearance. There are several types of bezels to serve different functions. Besides, it is also made from different materials, such as ceramic bezel, aluminum bezel, and steel bezel. But, in this article, we’re going to give a special spotlight on ceramic bezels.
The first use of ceramic to make a bezel started when Rolex introduced its GMT-Master II back in 2005. The release gained high popularity that makes modern trends until these days. Technically speaking, Rolex’s timepiece isn’t the first that uses ceramic on its bezel insert but they are the first that makes the usage becomes popular.
So, what exactly can we expect from ceramic bezel watches and how does it compare to other materials? Let’s find out the answer in the following sections.
The Popularity of Ceramic Bezel
While ceramic might seem like little more than a talking point from a surface view, it’s in fact a serious material you very well may want when purchasing a modern sports watch.
Its superiority in durability has made it the material of choice for Rolex’s next generation of professional-grade sports watches, including the GMT-Master II, Submariner, and Daytona collections, which all now use ceramic bezels or bezel inserts most of their in their standard steel references.
Aluminum Bezel vs Ceramic Bezel vs Steel Bezel
Among the bezel options, three of the most predominant materials found on Rolex sports watches include ceramic, aluminum, and stainless steel. Here we examine the three types of distinct bezel varieties and the pros and cons they offer.
Considering all of this, it’s not so much that aluminum inserts were of poor quality, in fact, they’re still used in many modern watches, and not just those which channel the aesthetics of vintage favorites.
Rather, ceramic inserts represent such a major advancement for the longevity of watch bezels that most notable watchmakers naturally felt compelled to switch to it as their default bezel material of choice.
It was much the same as in the 1950s when aluminum itself became the standard choice across the industry, at the time beating out acrylic-based bezel inserts for its own relative superiority in durability.
CERAMIC – PROS AND CONS
Advances in ceramic chemistry, driven to a large extent by space-age needs, make it a remarkable material for use in bezels. This isn’t your Grandma’s china plate ceramic, this is some robust stuff. Even more durable than Corelle dinner plates (check it out, these were a thing in the 1960s).
Here are the primary benefits of ceramic:
- The color extends from top to bottom, so scratches are less visible
- Exceptionally scratch-resistant, so you don’t have to test pro #1 very often
- Nearly impervious to hostile environments like saltwater or the blistering heat of atmospheric re-entry
- Lightweight and durable
Of course, this beauty has its beastly side. When it comes to ceramics, the following cons must be considered:
- Ceramic bezels must be molded from powder under intense heat and pressure
- They are hard to machine after they are formed, so the dies need to have all features like position markers clearly defined
- They can break under the right (or unfortunate) set of circumstances
STEEL – PROS AND CONS
The most common material for bezels is stainless steel. It provides the following benefits:
- Easy to forge and machine
- Highly corrosion-resistant
- Tough as, well, nails steel
- Accepts a wide range of coatings (see our piece on IP coatings)
- Watchmakers are very familiar with adding lume to steel
- Won’t break
The cons aren’t deal-breakers, but a steel has some drawbacks.
- The finish can be scratched – an issue when diving around coral or shipwrecks
- While corrosion-resistant, it is not impervious to saltwater
Other Types of Material Used in Bezel
The bezel used in timepieces also comes in materials other than the three mentioned above. There are bakelite bezel and sapphire bezel inserts. Below are the details:
A Bakelite bezel is a type of watch bezel made from Bakelite, which is a type of early plastic that was first developed in the early 1900s. Bakelite is known for its durability, heat resistance, and electrical non-conductivity, which made it a popular material for use in a variety of applications, including watchmaking.
In watchmaking, Bakelite bezels were commonly used in the mid-20th century, particularly in military watches. They were typically black or dark brown in color and had a matte finish. Bakelite bezels are highly valued by collectors due to their historical significance and unique appearance.
A sapphire bezel is a type of watch bezel that is made from sapphire crystal and is mostly used in high-end watches that require a high level of precision and durability. In addition to its durability, a sapphire bezel can also add a touch of elegance to a watch.
It has a smooth and polished surface that can create a beautiful contrast against the watch’s face. Overall, a sapphire bezel is a high-quality feature that can enhance the functionality and aesthetics of a watch.
Our Top Picks of Ceramic Bezel Watches
Below is the list of ceramic bezel watches that should be in your collection:
Squale 20 ATMOS Classic Ceramic – 1545 – SEL Bracelet
The most obvious addition to the 20 ATMOS Classic Ceramic is of course the new bezel insert. The ceramic bezel is first cut into shape and then the numbers are carefully engraved by machines made especially for this purpose.
Next, the engraved ceramic bezel is super heated to 1500 degrees to harden and purify the ceramic. The engraved numerals on the hardened bezel are then carefully filled with white enamel.
The excess on the surface of the bezel is then polished to a high gloss leaving only the numerals filled permanently. Virtually indestructible and impervious to scratches, the ceramic bezel will last for years to come.
Steinhart Ocean 39 Black Ceramic
The Steinhart Ocean One 39 Black Ceramic is the younger brother of the much-recognized Ocean 1 Black Ceramic. The Steinhart Ocean One 39 Black Ceramic is made to the highest of Swiss standards.
The case of the Steinhart Ocean 1 is made from 316L stainless steel. Features a satin brushed finish on the top of the lugs and polished sides of the case. This finishing follows through the stainless steel bracelet.
The bezel on the Ocean 39mm is a classic diver design. The Ocean One 39 Black Ceramic has a ceramic bezel insert for added scratch resistance. The new ceramic bezel has numbers and markers that are all engraved to give it depth.
The cavities are then filled in white enamel to match the theme with a luminous pip at the 12 o’clock position.
Oris Aquis Date Black Sunburst – Bracelet – 39.5mm
The new Aquis Date model, the Black Sunburst, comes loaded with useful, potentially life-saving technical specifications. The stainless steel case is water-resistant to 30 bar (300 meters) and is equipped with a robust uni-directional rotating diver’s bezel for safely measuring dive times.
The bezel has the added benefit of either a polished or matt black ceramic insert. Ceramic is scratch- and fade-resistant, with properties that extend and enhance the wearer’s experience of the watch.
The high contrasts of the Aquis Date dial have been designed to deliver class-leading legibility. The hands and applied hour markers are filled with luminous Super- LumiNova®, as is the ‘lollipop’ feature on the central seconds hand.
Dievas Marine 500 – Rubber
Allowances made for casual onlookers exonerated for assuming any Dievas timepieces, like the multi-purpose Marine 500, to be merely another dive watch. It measures 41mm wide from the top bezel, 39mm at its mid-case section, and from the bottom to the top again at a remarkable 13mm in height.
Complying with the designation of a robust utility watch, the all-new Marine 500 comes with a sturdy, precise, and upgraded 120-click ceramic timing bezel with 30 sized-grooves for easy manipulation. The clear-cut proportions show both the strength and power the case is an expression of.
Evant Tropic Diver 39 Royal
In terms of its overall fit and finish, the Evant Tropic Diver 39 Royal upholds an exceptionally high standard of quality with sharp, elaborate case finishes — no expenses were spared here. For the very first time, the Tropic Diver comes presented on a 20mm solid stainless steel “Beads-of-Rice” bracelet flanked by brushed links on each side.
Following the appearance of vintage bakelite bezels the Evant Tropic Diver 39 Royal houses a glossy blue 120-click ratcheting ‘bakelite’ ceramic bezel insert, rendered in a raised convex design to achieve the distinguished look. Engineered from a special blend of ceramic with minimal luminous markers, the bezel boasts superior resistance to scratches.