Whether your Apple Watch is missing because you took it off somewhere in your house, or because it mysteriously went missing from your gym locker, there are several features baked in that will help you locate it (as well as mark it lost and even wipe it).
What You Need to Find Your Apple Watch
In order to find your Apple Watch, you’ll need up-to-date software and a little bit of prep work. First and foremost, in order to even take advantage of the find-my-watch feature, you need to be running iOS 10 or higher and watchOS 3 or higher. (If you’ve never updated your watch before and want a run through, check out our guide to updating the Apple Watch here.)
In addition, the kind of Find My Watch features you’ll have access to and the range at which they work is limited by which hardware version of the Apple Watch you have. All features work on all Apple Watches as long as they are within Bluetooth range of their companion iPhone, but only the Apple Watch Series 2 has built-in Wi-Fi and GPS which allow the features to work if the phone is far away.
Finally, and we completely understand what a bitter discovery this will be if you’re reading this article after you’ve already lost your watch and are in a panic, you need to enable the Find My Phone feature on the iPhone your Apple Watch is paired with in advance, or the features won’t be accessible. Don’t worry though, there’s no additional setup: any Apple Watch that is paired with an iPhone that has Find My Phone enabled automatically adds the Apple Watch to your list of devices.
How to Find Your Apple Watch
You’re running up-to-date iOS and watchOS, you’ve enabled Find My Phone (automatically dragging your Apple Watch along for the ride), and now your watch is missing. Let’s first look at how to simply locate your watch when it is nearby and then move onto more drastic measures like remote locking and wiping.
To access both the basic and advanced features simply open the Watch app on your paired device and select the missing watch, like so:
Within the watch menu, click on the “i” additional information icon:
Select “Find My Apple Watch” to begin the search process.
That selection will take you to the “Find iPhone” app on your phone, with the app focused in on your watch (as an aside you can always use the Find iPhone app from the get go or even log into icloud.com to use the web-based locator, but using the Watch app jumps you right to the relevant menu).
In the location menu, you’ll see your Apple Watch (if your phone can connect to the watch or your Apple Watch Series 2 watch can connect to the internet) with a rough location. Sometimes this is enough: if it looks like your watch is sitting in your car parked down the street there’s a good chance that, well, your watch is sitting in your car parked down the street. If not, you have other options.
Locate Your Phone with an Audio Alert
If you need more than a reminder than your watch is in your gym back in the back of your car, however, it’s time to tape into the more advanced options, a seen across the bottom of the screenshot above: “Play Sound”, “Lost Mode” and “Erase Watch”.
The “Play Sound” function is great for those times that you’ve merely misplaced your watch, and functions exactly the same as the function on the Apple Watch that allows you to find your missing iPhone: you tap the button and your watch plays a loud chime. It will continue to play the loud chime with the message below displayed on the watch, until you locate it and tap “Dismiss”.
If your watch is merely lost in the couch cushions, this should be more than enough to alert you.
Mark Your Watch as “Lost”
When squeezing a chime out of your watch doesn’t narrow down your search pattern any, it might be time to consider your watch genuinely lost. At this point it’s time to tap on “Lost Mode” and mark your watch as lost. Tap it and then select “Turn On Lost Mode”.
First, you’ll be prompted to enter a contact phone number to be displayed on the missing Apple Watch.
Next, you’ll be prompted to use the canned message provided (or edit it with your own message). This message, along with the supplied phone number, will appear on your watch.
When you click “Done” your selections will be saved, and the iCloud network will attempt to deliver them to your missing watch. Back on the main screen, there’s one final setting you can toggle: email notifications. You can do so by tapping “Notify When Found”—notification emails about the state of your Apple Watch will be delivered to the primary email associated with your Apple account.
After these changes the watch, if it can be reached either via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, will be marked as lost as if anyone picks it up it will display your message like so:
The watch can only be unlocked with your current or last used passcode. At any time you can modify the settings of Lost Mode or disable it by tapping on the “Lost Mode” icon again. You’ll be presented with the following menu:
Here you can change the number, the message, whether or not you get email updates, as well as turning off Lost Mode altogether. It’s important to note that like the find functionality itself, these changes, save for turning off the email updates, will not take effect if the watch is out of communication range.
The Nuclear Option: Wipe Your Watch
Let’s say you can see your Apple Watch on the satellite map, you know it’s still active, but there is some extenuating circumstance that prevents you from retrieving it. Maybe you’re no longer in that part of the country, or maybe the watch is in a dangerous part of town and neither you nor the police are interested in taking on the risk to retrieve it. Whatever the reason, you may wish to remotely wipe it to remove all personal data from it.
To do so tap on the trash can icon labeled “Erase Watch” in the find-my-watch interface. You’ll be prompted to confirm you wish to erase your watch.
Upon selecting “Erase Apple Watch” you’ll be prompted once more to confirm the process by entering your password. As soon as the watch is able to connect to the internet, it will be remotely wiped back to a factory state.
What Happens If You Can’t Find Your Watch
Ideally, you’ll find your watch. Much less than ideally, you’ll never see it again. Even if you never see so much as a blip on the map nor an email alert, you can rest easy knowing two things. First: even if you can’t wipe your watch, the data on your watch is still encrypted, and if you use a passcode the watch no one who finds the watch can access it (nor can they pair it with their iPhone to pull the data off).
Second, every Apple Watch is activation locked to the phone it is originally paired with (unless expressly liberated by the owner of said watch and phone). While it’s no fun losing your watch, you can at least rest easy knowing that even if some jerk at your gym lifted it, it’s of absolutely no value to them. Stolen Apple Watches can never be paired with another iPhone.
As a final note, if you’re reading this article our of curiosity (because your watch is still firmly attached to your wrist), do take a moment to set the passcode for your watch and enable Find My iPhone, so should that fateful day come where either the couch or the deft hands of a pickpocket steal your watch, you’ll have some recourse.