This Week's Sponsor:


Ensure that if a device isn’t secure it can’t access your apps.  It’s Device Trust for Okta.

Watchsmith Review: Create Your Own Apple Watch Complications

Watchsmith, the latest app from David Smith, was birthed from the inability to create third-party watch faces on the Apple Watch. As Smith has previously explained, while third-party faces may never be possible, several first-party faces already offer significant room for customization. The Infograph face, for example, contains eight different complication slots; if a rich array of third-party complications were available, you could build a highly customized watch face using the existing faces provided by Apple.

Watchsmith exists to provide that rich set of complications. The app offers 37 types of complications, each adaptable to different watch faces and complication slots, and all fully customizable so they can look exactly the way you prefer. Additionally, Watchsmith offers scheduling functionality to cause different complications to appear on your Watch at different times throughout the day.

Custom complications made with Watchsmith.

Custom complications made with Watchsmith.

In the absence of third-party watch faces, Watchsmith offers the next best thing: third-party complications that are highly customizable and can be optimized to your daily schedule.

Complication Creator

The iPhone version of Watchsmith is all about creating your custom complications. Upon launching the app you’ll see a single screen containing options for six types of complications you can customize:

  • Infograph Circle
  • Infograph Corner
  • Infograph Top
  • Infograph Large
  • Modular Small
  • X-Large

These types cover the bases of what you’ll find on most modern watch faces; however, Smith is also working to add support for more types in the future.

Scheduling your complications.

Scheduling your complications.

Tapping into one of these types presents the configuration screen, which features an elongated analog watch face covering the full 24 hours of a day. It’s on this face where you can create complications and determine the schedule they’ll run on. By default every complication type has one complication already set up, with the hours on the virtual watch face indicating when that particular complication will appear on your Watch. You can press the plus button near the bottom of the face to add new complications, and adjust their schedule as well.

Changing a complication’s schedule is as simple as adjusting its start and end points on the watch face. Based on the schedule you set for a given complication type, that complication slot on your watch face will automatically update per your schedule. So you can have certain complications occupy that slot at relevant times of day, getting the most out of each slot on your watch face. If you want to get really crazy, you can even have a different complication show up every hour of the day.

Is this enough customization for you?

Is this enough customization for you?

Having complications automatically cycle through the same slot was pioneered in HomeRun by Aaron Pearce last year, and I’m thrilled to see another app follow HomeRun’s example. Although Apple itself doesn’t enable scheduling complications through a native feature, I wouldn’t be surprised to see that change in a future version of watchOS. Since third parties can already do this, I’d love to see Apple properly endorse the function as a way of expanding the utility of complications.

The ability to automatically cycle through complications on a schedule is only as valuable as the number of complication options available to you. On that front, Watchsmith clearly delivers. You’ll find 37 complication styles spanning 10 different categories:

  • Date
  • Time
  • Calendar
  • Activity
  • Weather
  • Tides
  • Astronomy
  • Timezone
  • Battery
  • Blank

As this list makes clear, Watchsmith isn’t primarily interested in offering data that’s wholly unique; most, or perhaps even all of these categories have been covered by other apps before, including by Apple’s own native complication offerings. However, the appeal of Watchsmith is that you can style and customize each of these data points to your liking, effectively building yourself a hyper-personalized watch face in the process.

Watchsmith's complication options.

Watchsmith’s complication options.

Depending on the complication you’re working with, you may find lots of ways to customize its style. For example, Watchsmith offers six standard Date styles to choose from, but with just one of those – the Day & Date option – you can customize its font, the color of the day, the color of the date, and its background color.

The number of possible setups enabled by these tools is virtually limitless. The only drawback to all of this power is that, due to watchOS system restrictions, you can only configure one custom setup per complication type, so despite the Infograph face containing three Infograph Circle slots, and four Infograph Corner slots, you can’t create different Watchsmith setups for use across multiple slots of the same type; rather, you’re limited to one Circle setup, one Corner setup, and so on.

Nonetheless, if you’re the kind of person who wants fine-grained control over as many details of your watch face as possible, Watchsmith is still a must-have.

Watch App

Though the primary appeal of Watchsmith is its complications, the Watch app itself offers significant functionality. In it you’ll find seven categories of functionality: Workouts, Weather, Health, Calendar, Timezone, Games, and Astronomy. Essentially Smith has built full-fledged apps in each of these categories and thrown them all into Watchsmith. The ‘apps’ are basic in functionality, but I wasn’t expecting to get anything resembling real Watch apps from Watchsmith, so I count everything included as a nice bonus. The one game available now, Bounce, makes for a fun diversion – it’s Pong, but you play solo by moving the ‘paddle’ around in a circle using the Digital Crown.

Business Model

Watchsmith is a free download with many of the app’s complications unlocked; however, certain complications are only available with a subscription. This isn’t at all an arbitrary decision: most of the locked complications bear recurring costs to Smith for their data, such as the full roster of weather options, so they’re a natural fit for a subscription. If you’d like to unlock the ~10 complication styles that require a subscription, you can pay either $1.99/month or $19.99/year – seemingly a lot for a Watch app, but not too dissimilar from many premium weather apps.

No one has ever built a tool like Watchsmith before, but perhaps now developers will be inspired to try something similar. I’m particularly keen to see if the app can gain a strong subscriber base, enabling Smith to constantly expand Watchsmith’s roster of complications in existing and all-new categories. There’s a lot that can be done in this area, both in adding new customization options but especially in branching out to new categories of complication.

Apple may never enable third-party watch faces to exist, but if apps like Watchsmith catch on, then at some point maybe we won’t mind anymore.

Watchsmith is available on the App Store.

Unlock More with Club MacStories

Founded in 2015, Club MacStories has delivered exclusive content every week for over six years.

In that time, members have enjoyed nearly 400 weekly and monthly newsletters packed with more of your favorite MacStories writing as well as Club-only podcasts, eBooks, discounts on apps, icons, and services. Join today, and you’ll get everything new that we publish every week, plus access to our entire archive of back issues and downloadable perks.

The Club expanded in 2021 with Club MacStories+ and Club Premier. Club MacStories+ members enjoy even more exclusive stories, a vibrant Discord community, a rotating roster of app discounts, and more. And, with Club Premier, you get everything we offer at every Club level plus an extended, ad-free version of our podcast AppStories that is delivered early each week in high-bitrate audio.

Choose the Club plan that’s right for you:

  • Club MacStories: Weekly and monthly newsletters via email and the web that are brimming with app collections, tips, automation workflows, longform writing, a Club-only podcast, periodic giveaways, and more;
  • Club MacStories+: Everything that Club MacStories offers, plus exclusive content like Federico’s Automation Academy and John’s Macintosh Desktop Experience, a powerful web app for searching and exploring over 6 years of content and creating custom RSS feeds of Club content, an active Discord community, and a rotating collection of discounts, and more;
  • Club Premier: Everything in from our other plans and AppStories+, an extended version of our flagship podcast that’s delivered early, ad-free, and in high-bitrate audio.