Alternative Apple Watch Faces

Third-party Apple Watch face style and color customization UI

These are functional, animated, third-party analog and digital watch face apps that run in the Apple Watch’s built-in WebKit browser (watchOS 5 + required). They download to the browser cache, use the Watch’s crystal oscillator to determine the time, and can function without an Internet connection. If you wish, they can appear automatically when you raise your wrist or tap the screen. Each includes multiple colors, styles, and options, such as a high-speed Demo mode.

To access all of these faces on your Watch at once, send this link to yourself as an email or text message, then view the link on your Watch. You can also try these timepieces on other devices—Safari or Chrome browser recommended.

Theses watch faces are experimental. They are offered as-is, intended only for entertainment, and may have bugs. I wanted to explore unusual graphic designs, artistic effects, and alternative methods of communicating time. Some of these faces show the time in ways that are not obvious until you know how to read them, but they are simple once explained. See the bottom of this page for additional tips.

— Morgan Adams
     AdamsImmersive.com      Twitter

Analog Watch Faces

Digital Watch Faces

Low-State Watch Faces

A conventional digital clock communicates 1,440 different states: 2 meridiem periods (AM/PM) × 12 hours × 60 minutes. A 12-hour analog clock shows 720 states (and many more—or infinite—with a second hand).

I wanted to try communicating the time using the fewest states possible. I have concluded that 24 states are sufficient to be useful for most everyday timekeeping purposes.

These “low-state” faces reduce the hours information from 24 states to 2 by conveying only the hour parity: even or odd. Example: at 10:30 AM, these faces will only tell you that the hour is even. But your internal time sense can easily tell you that it’s not 8:30 AM, nor 12:30 PM.

Minutes information is reduced from 60 states to 12 by quantizing time to the nearest 5 minutes. I have chosen not to indicate the “last-passed” 5-minute mark, but rather the nearest one. So at :44 minutes, these faces indicate “about :45“ rather than “some time after :40.”

Approximating the minutes in this way still tells useful time—but it means that these low-state faces can be up to 2.5 minutes fast or slow at any given moment. The average error is half that—75 seconds—which is only 45 seconds worse than a perfectly-set digital clock. Digital clocks run slow 100% of the time. The time they display has always already passed, as much as 60 seconds previously (for clocks without seconds) and their average error is half that: 30 seconds.

(For the half-minute between 2.5 and 3 minutes past a 5-minute mark, these low-state faces may appear to be rounding incorrectly when compared to a digital watch. At 12:02:35, for example, a digital watch shows 12:02, making the nearest 5-minute mark seem to be 12:00. But these faces correctly round up to 12:05, which is the actual nearest mark.)

Tips

Each of these faces is a tiny web page, because web pages are officially supported on Apple Watch. You start by sending a link to yourself in Messages or Mail, and receiving the link on your Watch. As a result, there are some quirks and disadvantages compared to the built-in watch faces: the top bar (with “Close” button) cannot be hidden, there are no complications, and the customization UI is a little awkward. (If you accidentally scroll the watch face, swipe up slightly and tap it to re-align.) Full support for third-party watch faces would be even better—you can request that feature from Apple.

The built-in instructions suggest setting “Wake Screen” to “Show Last App Always.” This is optional, but allows the custom face to be shown instead of the built-in face when you wake your watch’s screen.

You must choose whether to launch the face within Messages or Mail, since those are the only apps able to receive a web link and display it. I prefer using Messages, because using Mail causes your iPhone to check for new email when you view the watch. You may not wish to check for email that often.

You can dismiss or respond to incoming messages directly in the alert without losing your watch face web view. But if you enter the actual Messages or Mail app on the Watch and view a different thread, to get back to the web-based watch face you will need to return to the thread where you sent yourself the link. After time passes, that old thread may no longer be shown on the Watch—in which case, you can use your phone to copy and paste the same link to yourself again.

To return to the built-in face, simply click the Digital Crown. (Covering the Watch face—even when the screen is already off—can also revert to the built-in face.) You may wish to add a complication for Messages (or Mail) to the built-in face, so you can tap it to quickly return to the custom face.

These faces can also be used as desk or wall clocks, using an old iPad or iPhone in vertical orientation. On iPad, you can minimize distracting browser controls by using Dark Mode or Private Browsing mode. (Non-Apple devices may or may not work.)