You probably secure your iPhone with Touch ID or a passcode. If you have an Apple Watch, you can secure that against unauthorized access as well. Additionally, you need to have a passcode enabled on your watch to be able to use Apple Pay.

You’re probably thinking, “But, I don’t want to enter a passcode on that tiny screen every time I want to use my watch.” Luckily, that’s not the case. You only have to enter the passcode on your Apple Watch in a few situations, such as when:

  • You reboot your watch
  • You manually lock and then unlock your watch
  • You remove your watch from your wrist and put it back on

So, if you wear your watch all day, you’ll only have to enter the passcode once when you first put it on. We’ll show you how to turn on the passcode, change the passcode, use a longer passcode, and automatically unlock your watch when you unlock your iPhone.

NOTE: If you wear your watch loosely, you will have to enter your passcode more often.

Turn on the Passcode

To turn on the passcode on your watch, we’ll use our iPhone. Tap the “Watch” icon on the Home screen on your phone.

NOTE: You can also turn on the passcode directly on your watch and we’ll mention how to do this later.

Make sure the “My Watch” screen is active. If not, tap the “My Watch” icon at the bottom of the screen.

On the “My Watch” screen, tap “Passcode”.

Tap “Turn Passcode On” on the “Passcode” screen.

NOTE: We will be using the “Passcode” screen at various times throughout this article.

A message displays on your phone telling you to enter a new passcode on your watch.

Tap out a new passcode on the number pad that displays on your watch. By default, the passcode to unlock your watch is four digits.

NOTE: Your Apple Watch passcode can be different from your iPhone passcode. In fact, you should make them different for better security.

Dots at the top of the watch screen turn white as you tap out your passcode. If you mistype a number, tap the delete button to the right of the “0”.

You will be asked to re-enter your passcode, so tap it out again.

Your passcode is now set and your watch returns to the clock face.

Change the Passcode on Your Watch

You may want to change your passcode from time to time. You can do this on your phone or watch. We’ll show you how to do this on your phone, but changing the passcode on your watch is similar.

On the “Passcode” screen in the “Watch” app, tap “Change Passcode”.

Enter your current passcode on your watch.

Enter the new passcode you want to change it to on your watch.

Now you can use the new passcode to unlock your watch.

Use a Longer Passcode on Your Watch

You can create a passcode as long as 10 digits on your watch if you want better security. To add a passcode from 5-10 digits long, turn off “Simple Passcode” on the “Passcode” screen in the “Watch” app on your phone. The slider button moves to the left and turns black and white, as shown below.

Enter the current 4-digit passcode on your watch.

Then, enter a 5- to 10-digit passcode and tap “OK” when you are finished.

Now, you can use the longer passcode to access your watch.

Unlock with iPhone

If you take your Apple Watch off occasionally, and you don’t want to enter your passcode every time you put it back on, you can make your life easier by turning on a setting to unlock your watch automatically when you unlock your iPhone.

To unlock your Apple Watch automatically when you unlock your iPhone, tap “Unlock with iPhone” on the “Passcode” screen in the “Watch” app on your phone. This option can also be turned on and off directly on the watch, as we’ll mention later in this article.

With “Unlock with iPhone” on, you may never have to enter your passcode on your Apple Watch, as long as you’re wearing it. This is useful, if you can’t stand having to tap your passcode on the small screen.

Erase All Data from Your Watch

You can add further security to your Apple Watch by automatically erasing the data from the watch after 10 failed attempts to enter the passcode. To turn on this feature, tap “Erase Data” on the “Passcode” screen in the “Watch” app on your phone.

If you turn on this option, be careful how many times you enter your passcode incorrectly to avoid erasing the data on your watch.

Lock Your Watch Automatically

You can choose to lock your Apple Watch automatically when you’re not wearing it. To do this, open the “Watch” app on your iPhone and tap “General”.

On the “General” screen, tap “Wrist Detection” so the slider button turns green.

NOTE: The “Wrist Detection” option must be on to be able to use Apple Pay.

Lock Your Watch Manually

There may be times when you want to lock your watch when it’s on your wrist, but this doesn’t happen automatically. To manually lock your watch, press and hold the side button on your watch.

Three slider buttons display on your watch screen. Drag the “Lock Device” slider button to the right.

You’ll be required to enter your passcode the next time you want to use your Apple Watch.

Enter Your Passcode

If you take off your Apple Watch, wear it very loosely, or manually lock it, it asks for your passcode the next time you try to use it. Simply tap out your passcode on the number pad that displays.

Turn Off the Passcode

If you decide you don’t want to have to enter a passcode on your watch anymore, you can turn off the passcode using your watch or phone. We’ll show you how to do it on the watch this time. If you want to use your phone to turn off the passcode, go to “My Watch”, the tap “Passcode” and you should see the option to turn the passcode off.

NOTE: Remember, if you disable your passcode, you can’t use Apple Pay on Apple Watch.

On your watch, press the digital crown to access the Home screen and tap the “Settings” icon.

Tap “Passcode” on the “Settings” screen.

On the “Passcode” screen, tap “Turn Passcode Off”.

NOTE: You can also change your passcode or turn the “Unlock with iPhone” feature on or off on this screen as well.

Enter your current passcode.

The “Passcode” screen now shows the “Turn Passcode On” option.

If you’ve forgotten your passcode, you must reset your watch to access it.

Lori Kaufman Lori Kaufman
Lori Kaufman is a technology expert with 25 years of experience. She's been a senior technical writer, worked as a programmer, and has even run her own multi-location business.
Read Full Bio »

The above article may contain affiliate links, which help support How-To Geek.