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The Bezel Guide to Sports Watches: How to Choose the Right One for You

In this introduction to the world of all-purpose timepieces, we’re rounding up our top picks for sports watches.


Team Bezel

October 3, 2022


8 min read

Unlike dress watches, which prioritize aesthetics over utility, sports watches are all about function and durability. We’re talking timepieces that are robust enough to endure sudden shocks, water-resistant enough to take more than a few splashes, and legible enough to read at glance – maybe alongside a useful complication or two. They’re often constructed using hardy materials like steel or titanium (opting for sturdy designs and keeping ease-of-wear top of mind), and are historically meant for everyday wear, as opposed to the Met Gala. 

When it comes to choosing a sports watch, focusing on the specific functions that are most important to you is key. Of course aesthetics will always factor into picking a watch, but when it comes to sports watches, the most crucial element to consider is what you'll wear it for. From dive watches to pilot watches, and chronographs to robust, time-only models for everyday wear, the diverse range of sports watches on the market ensures you’ll find a timepiece that can fit any and all activities. To help narrow it down, we’ve crafted this guide to some of the most notable and useful sports watch models. 

Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch

Rolex Submariner Date

TAG Heuer Carrera

Patek Philippe Aquanaut

IWC Big Pilot

Breitling Super Chronomat

Tudor Black Bay Pro

Omega's Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch Ref. 310.

Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch 

Dates: 1964-Present

Price Range: $3,000-$70,000

As the official sponsor of the Olympic games and a longstanding partner to a handful of professional athletes, it’s no secret that Omega is an expert in the sports watch world. The brand takes a function-focused approach to design, creating watches that are suitable for all of its athletic partners. Case in point: the Speedmaster collection, long  associated with the spirit of adventure and refined toughness. 

Perhaps the most iconic iterations of the Speedmaster are those hailing from the Moonwatch series, like the Ref. 310., which shares DNA with the first watch worn by astronauts walking on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission. The watch offers a 42 mm stainless steel case and chronograph display with subdials indicating a thirty-minute scale, a twelve-hour counter, and a running seconds indicator. And while you might not technically need a watch fit for space travel, it doesn't hurt to have one for your own earthly adventures. 

Bezel’s Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch picks: 

-Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch 3861

-Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch Big Box

-Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch 30th Anniversary Apollo XI

Rolex's Submariner Date Ref. 126613LB-0002

Rolex Submariner Date 

Dates: 1969-Present

Price Range: $7,000-$70,000

It's no secret that the Rolex catalog is largely dominated by watches that fall into the larger category of sports watches. But we’re specifically going to highlight the Submariner: a dive watch that was the first of its kind to revolutionize water resistant watch technology in the 1950s. 

The Ref. 116610LN is a perfect example of a modern Submariner, with its built-to-be-used 40 mm steel case and matching Oyster style bracelet. With a sleek black ceramic bezel insert and matching dial, the design forgoes any flashy detailing in favor of professional-grade sports wear. The dial includes a date window at 3 o’clock and signature "Mercedes" style hands ticking overhead adding to daily utility and high legibility. And, as expected from a true dive watch, this reference offers 300 meters of water resistance.  

Bezel’s Submariner Date picks: 

-Rolex Submariner Date 116610LN

-Rolex Submariner Date "Kermit - Flat IV"

-Rolex Submariner Date 16610

TAG Heuer's Carrera Ref. CBN2A10.BA0643

TAG Heuer Carrera 

Dates: 1963-Present

Price Range: $2,000-$30,000

TAG Heuer watches have a long-standing association with the world of motorsport, with many models taking direct inspiration from time measuring instruments seen on racetracks. The Carrera model is no different, launching in 1963 as a racing chronograph and drawing its name from the then-world-renowned Carrera Panamericana auto race. The collection has since gone on to serve as the brand’s flagship design, which, alongside the Autavia and Monaco collections, has helped pioneer the auto racing sports watch category. 

One key example of the Carrera, the Ref. CBK221A.EB0171, features a classic chronograph display that's largely faithful to classic vintage aesthetics. Launched in 2018 and produced in collaboration with Japanese designer Hiroshi Fujiwara of Fragment, the model is a rare limited edition that embodies sporty racing appeal with true wearability. With a diameter of 39 mm, the steel exterior houses an automatic Caliber Heuer 02 that is capable of 80 hours of power reserve and 100 meters of water resistance, you have a watch more than ready for wear on or off the track.

Bezel’s Carrera picks: 

-Tag Heuer Carrera 1964 Lemania Silver

-Tag Heuer Carrera CAR280.FC6237

-Tag Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 02

Patek Philippe's Aquanaut Ref. 5167A-001

Patek Philippe Aquanaut 

Dates: 1997-Present

Price Range: $15,000-$800,000

Anyone even slightly familiar with watches, let alone sports watches, has heard of the Patek Philippe Nautilus and Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. With their iconic textured dials, integrated bracelets, signature bezel shapes, and unmatched finishing quality, these watches have helped secure the love of stainless steel luxury watches in the public's mind. 

While the Aquanaut has less airtime than its big brother, the Nautilus, it’s essentially an even sportier variatiation, equipped with a modernized silhouette, rubber strap, and a bolder dial configuration that makes it a perfect grab and go luxury companion. One example, the Ref. 5065A-001, features a versatile 37 mm steel case with loads of charm. As is standard for many sports watches, this Aquanaut omits complications and frills, only including a simple date window at the three o’clock position of its iconic textured dial, and boasting a water resistance of 120 meters. 

Bezel’s Aquanaut picks: 

- Patek Philippe Aquanaut - First Model 5060A

- Patek Philippe Aquanaut / Black 5167A-001

- Patek Philippe Aquanaut 5065A-001

IWC's Big Pilot's Watch Ref. IW501001

IWC Big Pilot

Dates: 2002-Present

Price Range: $6,000-$50,000

Schaffhausen-based IWC has secured a significant relationship with the world of sports in recent years, garnering professional partnerships with Tom Brady and Eileen Gu, to name a few. A prime example of this shift towards athleticism is the modern Big Pilot collection, which pairs a classic pilot's watch design and utility with modern, hard-wearing durability. 

If the name doesn’t give it away, the IWC Big Pilot is pretty… big. The Ref. IW5004-01 for example has a substantial 46.2 mm diameter steel case that offers a water resistance up to 60 meters. A benefit of such a large case is space to store a sizable power reserve, with this reference including a 7-day reserve. Day to day, the power status can be seen via an indicator in the 3 o’clock position, while a date window at six o'clock gives additional utility at glance. Pair these features with a super-legible white-on-black colorway, and you have a model to fly – literally or figuratively. 

Bezel’s Big Pilot picks: 

-IWC Big Pilot Stainless Steel / Black IW5004-01

-IWC Big Pilot IW501001

-IWC Big Pilot 43 Spitfire Bronze IW3297-02

Breitling's Super Chronomat B01 44 Ref. AB0136251B2S1

Breitling Super Chronomat B01 44

Dates: 2021-Present

Price Range: $4,500-$35,000

Breitling is largely synonymous with aviation, decorating many of its professional-grade watches with an iconic winged logo. This association has led the brand to make mission-ready timepieces for many aviation professionals, making itself a long-time leader in sports watch design. The brand's Super Chronomat collection, for example, is arguably the epitome of a sports watch. With dual dive and chronograph functionalities, the watch is an aeronautical hero, ready for action from sea to air and everything in between. 

The Breitling Super Chronomat B01 Ref. AB0136251B1A1 is a 44 mm steel iteration, offering 200 meters of water resistance and a 70-hour power reserve that makes it perfect for on-the-go wear. The tachymetric scale on the outside edge of the dial adds to its sporty appearance, with the scale helping measure speed. A ceramic insert on the diving bezel and the high-legibility chronograph dial layout further strengthen its sporting credentials, not to mention its bold appearance. 

Bezel’s Super Chronomat Picks: 

-Breitling Super Chronomat B01 44 AB0136251B1A1

-Breitling Super Chronomat B01 44 / Compass AB0136251B1A2

-Breitling Chronomat GMT AB0140

Tudor's Black Bay Pro Ref. M79470-0001

Tudor Black Bay Pro

Dates: 2022-Present

Price Range: $3,500-$6,000

Tudor is generally seen as Rolex’s younger sister, so it’s no surprise that the brand has its own fair share of sports watches across its catalog. One of the latest additions to its offerings is the Black Bay Pro, a GMT model joining the catalog in 2022 as a travel-focused iteration of the fan-favorite Black Bay collection. 

With a sleek exterior marked by polished and satin-finished steel surfaces and an under-the-radar 24-hour external fixed bezel, the watch is at once action-oriented and sophisticated. This sentiment is furthered by its sizing, being 39 mm in diameter, and suitable for most wrist sizes. On the dial, a very no-nonsense configuration is at work, with a matte black display paying host to applied geometric indices, a subtle date window at the 3 o'clock position, and snowflake handset sweeping overhead alongside a yellow-accented GMT pointer. Pair all of this with a 70-hour power reserve and 200 meters of water resistance, and you find yourself a watch well-positioned as an elevated travel companion — hard wearing enough for Alpine climbs and sleek enough for celebratory dinners. 

If you're interested in more from this brand, check out Bezel's picks for some of the best Tudor watches.

Bezel’s Black Bay Pro picks: 

-Tudor Black Bay Pro

-Tudor Black Bay GMT

-Tudor Pelagos LHD


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