My favorite new minimal Apple Watch face

Sometimes you really have to hack around an Apple Watch face to make it feel like your own. For example, California. Using Shortcuts can also be helpful. In watchOS 11, my new fave is an off-label use of an updated face to create a watch face that otherwise wouldn’t exist.

I have a strong preference for Apple Watch faces that do not light up the full OLED display. The original Apple Watch leaned heavily on this to hide bezels and corners. Apple later added full-screen watch faces like Timelapse and Photos in early watchOS versions.

In 2021, Apple revealed that Photos is actually the most popular Apple Watch face. This explains why new watchOS versions regularly focus on ways to personalize it.

watchOS 11 leverages machine learning to really dial in the Photos face wow factor:

In watchOS 11, the Photos watch face can help a user select their best photo options by quickly analyzing thousands of photos using machine learning and making recommendations based on aesthetics, composition, and even facial expressions. Then, a custom algorithm finds the best composition by optimizing for the subject’s position within the frame and creating a sense of depth. Users can further personalize the face with time sizes, layouts, font choices, and more, and the Photos face now offers Dynamic mode so users can be delighted by a new image every time they raise their wrist.

Meanwhile, I’m just using the new style options to create what could pass for an updated version of Numerals Duo. This is the configuration:

  • Time size: Extra large
  • Time font: Rounded
  • Numerals: Arabic, Western
  • Style: Natural
  • Style color: No options
  • Complications: Weather conditions, Today’s date

The trick is just using a black image as the photo. The only downside? I feel like I’m contributing to the Photos face popularity stat, when in fact, I actually want a watch face customization studio.

watchOS 11 is currently in developer beta preview. A public beta preview will be available in July, and watchOS 11 will officially land for Apple Watch Series 6 and later this fall.


When my son was two, he was impressed by the Mickey Mouse face. Now that my son is almost seven, it’s the double tap gesture that blows his mind. Daily reminder to not be cynical and jaded about technology!

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