Galaxy Watch Ultra: Where Is the Rotating Bezel, Samsung?

Samsung has killed off the physical rotating bezel for the second time on the Galaxy Watch, and I'm super sad. More so than any other feature, the bezel is what makes Samsung watches truly unique. The bezel stands out not only in a sea of other Android smartwatches, but especially when compared to the Apple Watch, which has only buttons and a touchscreen.

The new Galaxy Watch Ultra, announced Wednesday at Samsung's July Unpacked event, is a rugged outdoor watch with a hefty $650 price tag and plenty of helpful health features like sleep apnea detection and extensive workout tracking tools. It's also got a bold new look, marrying Samsung's round screen with a "squircle" case. 

It technically has a bezel around the screen, but it doesn't move. The first time I put the Galaxy Watch Ultra on my wrist, I tried to turn it out of habit, in the hopes that maybe it would move if I applied enough force.

It did not.

Here's why the physical rotating bezel is such a fun feature and why I hope Samsung doesn't kill it off completely on future watches. 

Not only does the bezel make the Galaxy Watch look more like a classic timepiece than a smartwatch, it's also incredibly practical. Here are just a few of my favorite things about it:

  • The raised bezel helps protect the screen from scratches.
  • It's easier to navigate the interface with the bezel than the screen if your fingers are wet or sweaty.
  • The bezel makes navigation much more accurate so you don't overshoot a feature you're trying to get to quickly.
  • You can change the volume with a few clicks or quickly dismiss an alarm with one action. 

Even if you never use it for any of these tasks, it's still an incredibly satisfying fidget spinner.

Galaxy Watch 4 Classic vs. 6 Classic

Galaxy Watch 4 Classic (left) vs. 6 Classic (right). Both have rotating bezels (RIP).

John Kim/CNET

The rotating bezel has been a flagship feature of Samsung's watches since the very first Galaxy Watch and even before that in the Galaxy Gear series. The first time I lamented the loss of the rotating bezel on the Galaxy Watch 5 series, many YouTube commenters agreed: "Bezel or nothing for me. It's the whole point of the watch to me," said Mario Gonzales. "It's a deal breaker for me," said Marcelo Souza.

I'm speculating why Samsung chose to nix a physical rotating bezel on the Ultra. For starters, it would make the watch even bulkier than it is now. And for people who use the watch for extreme sports, a moving part means something could go wrong: maybe dirt gets stuck underneath it during a Tough Mudder, or the bezel gets dislodged when rock climbing. But I'd still love an option to have an Ultra watch with Samsung's signature smartwatch feature.

Watch this: Samsung Galaxy Watch Ultra and Watch 7: Big Watch, Big Price


It's worth noting that Samsung's lineup still has a model with the bezel: the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic. But you'll pay a premium over the regular Galaxy Watch 7 just for the bezel and miss out on a couple key features from the new watches, like the redesigned bioactive sensor for greater accuracy and the rugged design from the Galaxy Watch Ultra. 

I'm hoping that the bezel comes back in 2025, sort of like a biennial surprise. Or maybe Samsung's approach is more like Apple's "S" years, when the iPhones used to sport more incremental features every second year. There's precedent, as the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic had a bezel in 2021, the Galaxy Watch 5 and 5 Pro missed out on it in 2022, and the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic came back with a bezel vengeance in 2023.

So I'm putting it out there now: 2025 will be the Galaxy Watch "B" year. Year of the bezel.


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