The Apple Watch Series 5 is the best smartwatch you can buy, but what if you want to personalize it a little before strapping it on your wrist? Apart from the range of third-party accessories and beautiful straps available for Apple’s iconic wearable, the other most striking change you can make is to change the watch face.
Apple provides a wide range of choices, with many being suited to particular situations. How do you find them, change them, and make them your own? Here’s our guide to everything watch face related. Once you’ve made your choice, don’t forget to load up some of the best Apple Watch apps to add special complications to it too.
How do I add faces to my Apple Watch?
To add faces to your Apple Watch, open the Watch app on your iPhone, tap Face Gallery at the bottom, and choose your faces. Once you’re finished configuring the watch face, just tap Add.
If you don’t want to use the app, faces can be changed on the Watch itself. Using 3D Touch, press down hard on the watch face. You’re presented with a left-to-right list of watch faces you’ve used and selected in the past, including any you’ve customized in the Watch app. To create a new face, swipe left until you see New. Here, use the Digital Crown to scroll through the available choices, and tap the screen to select. To customize the look, use 3D Touch again and tap Customize when it appears under the face.
Note: To delete a watch face, press down on any face, scroll to the left or right until you find the face you want to delete, and swipe up on the face. Then, tap Remove to delete it.
Our favorite simple watch face: Numerals Duo
Simplicity works really well on Apple Watch faces, especially when paired to a single color, uncomplicated strap like Apple’s Sport Strap, and faces don’t get much simpler than the Numerals Duo. Four oversized numbers dominate the face, but don’t mistake simplicity for a lack of features. It’s wonderfully customizable, with the option to change the fill color to your preference, and fill just two or all four numbers.
This ability to change the color makes it really easy to match the face to your watch strap, or your outfit. We love the Numerals Duo watch face because it’s simple, good-looking, and quickly personalized.
Our favorite all-rounder: California
Watch faces on a smartwatch are fun because you can change them depending on your mood, style, or what you’re wearing that day. However, sometimes you just want a reliable, clear, and informative all-rounder for everyday use. We’ve settled on the California face for this task.
It was introduced with WatchOS 6 and it can be as packed with data, or as minimal as you like. The complications are also completely customizable, so it’s your choice what you’d like each to show, or if you’d prefer to turn them off completely. The time display can be altered too for shape and numeral design, and take a look at the complication running round the dial in our example photo: It shows the Apple Watch’s new Noise app. Apps with their own complications can be assigned a space too. It takes a while to design the right one for you, and get the positioning right, but it’s worth it.
A great alternative, and our previous best all-rounder pick, was the Infograph watch face, so try it out if the California doesn’t do it for you.
Our favorite classy watch face: Gradient
Much as we love the Numerals Duo face, it’s quite a casual look, so what should you choose if you want something a little classier? We recommend the Gradient watch face. It’s still a simple option, but the example you see above is about as complex as it gets. The shaded areas denote the hour and minute marks, plus second hand sweep, making the face really nicely animated when lit up. You can strip it back to a single second hand sweep and alter the colors too, or change it from a full-screen look to a circular face, at which time you can add complications.
Our favorite stylish face: Fire, Vapor, and Liquid Metal
These were all new for the Apple Watch Series 4, and they’re as intricately and beautifully animated as the classic Butterfly face on older models. Select any and the screen fills with a smoke-like vapor, fire (or water, depending on your preference), or a liquid metal. Because the animation is different each time, the look never gets old. Customize the face to work full-screen or in a circle. While we prefer the full-screen look, you can’t run complications, making it more about the style than about information. The basic color can be changed too, with the option for the face to cycle through the different colors each time the watch is activated. We love the full-screen fire on the Series 4; it looks fantastic.
Our favorite custom face: Photos
Apple hasn’t opened the Apple Watch up to third-party developers to create watch faces, but there is still a way to get creative, and that’s by using your own photos as the background to your watch face. It’s easy to do. Open the Apple Watch app, and go to Face Gallery. Scroll down the list until you reach Photos. Now tap Favorites.
Here, you can either sync an album, choose individual photos to feature, or include up to 10 in a carousel. To find your synced album, go to My Watch, Photos, and Synced Album. We recommend syncing your Favorites album, if it’s curated well, to avoid overloading your watch. It’s also possible to limit the number of stored images.
Alternatively, and our favorite option, go back to the Face Gallery, and select Custom under Photos. Here, you can select up to 10 photos to create a carousel-style gallery of your own images, which the Watch cycles through every time it wakes up. Don’t forget to add complications, and to adjust the position of the time readout, to really personalize the look
Do you want a watch face for a certain task? We’ve chosen the best options for some common situations, so try them out.
Work watch faces
Siri’s watch face gives you personalized information throughout the day. It works as a scrolling Rolodex of data gathered from your Calendar, Alarms, News, Reminders, and it can even remind you to breathe. These are all options that you can turn on and off in the Watch app using your iPhone. Once you set up what sort of information you want Siri to display, you can set up the face just like any other and choose your complications.
If you crave even more information than the Utility face has to offer, then the Modular face is the way to go. This offering is without a doubt one of the most flexible faces currently available for the Apple Watch. It offers five complications, features a digital display for easy reading, and keeps everything tidy, even though it crams ample information into a single spot.
Fitness watch faces
The Activity face is the go-to watch face for fitness buffs, one that works via activity rings. The Move ring — represented by the red band — shows you how many calories you’ve burned so far, while the green and blue rings show you how many minutes of activity you’ve completed and how often you’ve stood up and moved about for at least a minute, respectively. You can also configure it to show you “roll” hours. Instead of standing and moving, it will show you hours in which you’ve pushed (in case you are in a wheelchair). You can also configure it with up to three different complications.
This watch face is perfect for runners or those who need a digital chronograph. The hands tell you the total time, and there’s a second flyback hand for monitoring lap times. You can customize the timescales to measure both short and long periods, too, and the face syncs with the Stopwatch app so you can keep better track of your lap times.
Fun watch faces
Kaleidoscope is a beautiful watch face with patterns that intertwine and change throughout the day — it’s also designed for relaxation purposes. When you turn the Digital Crown, the patterns move. The faster you turn the crown, the faster the patterns will move. Needless to say, you can use this to get yourself into a relaxed state if you’re having a stressful day.
The Apple Watch is known for having one of the largest selections of third-party cases and straps of any watch in existence. This makes it possible to turn the Apple Watch into a device fit for kids. This Watch Face showcases the main characters from the Toy Story franchise. You can currently choose from Woody, Buzz Lightyear, or Jessie, and the characters will animate and wave at you.
Mickey & Minnie Mouse
This watch face will take you back to your childhood, allowing you to choose either Mickey or Minnie Mouse. The characters move their hands to indicate the time, but they move their body naturally, tapping their feet as they do. It is a modern take on an old classic. The face also lets you use up to three complications at once, including Reminders.
The Motion face is a gorgeous app that reacts to your touch. It has three collections that you can choose. The Butterfly collection has 25 different species that move just like real butterflies. Every time you raise your wrist, a different butterfly will appear. The Flower collection has nine different flowers that animate themselves blooming. The third, the Jellyfish collection, has six different species of jellyfish and depicts a different one every time you raise your wrist. Each one of these collections features a natural animation that can keep you entertained for days.
For the astronomy aficionados, here’s a face that displays the time and showcases a real-time model of the Earth, Moon, and our Solar System. The Earth shows you the transition between day and night. You can also follow the moon phases, or you can choose the Solar System view to see the position of the planets on any day of the year. Rotating the Digital Crown will show the passage of time, too, so you can track the alignment of the planets or the next full moon.
Time-lapse is an elegant face that shows you six landscapes and cityscapes from around the world. Every time you look at it, the face will show you that city or landscape at your time of day. You can also add up to two complications to this face, which makes it one of the simplest available.
Minimalist watch faces
If you were looking for the most minimalistic of faces, then this might be the one for you. The Numerals face displays hour and minute hands, a second hand, and the hour in the upper-left corner. You can change the colors and the font of the number, too, but that is about as much as you can do with this face. You can add one complication at the bottom, or you can leave it barebones.
The Simple face is one of the most flexible faces, in that you can make it as bare or as useful as you want. You can set it up to showcase just hour and minute hands, or you can add up to five complications. The Simple face is similar to the Modular face, but this one is more elegant, showing you an analog watch face instead of digital. So if you want to strip your face to the bare essentials, this offering will give you the most style.
The Apple Watch can fit youngsters as well as seniors. If you’re planning to buy an Apple Watch for someone who finds it hard to read small text, this face can be a lifesaver. It will show you the digital time in bold, and utilizes an extra-large font that envelops the face of your watch. You can also add one complication, but it will take up the middle of your display and still show you the current time on top.
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