The Apple Watch and 'Reverse Crown'

I was having dinner with my friend Rich when I noticed something interesting: His Apple Watch was on upside down. At least, it looked upside down. Out of the box, the Apple Watch is designed to work so the Digital Crown is positioned in the upper right hand corner. Rich's Apple Watch was oriented so the Digital Crown was in the lower left hand corner instead — an orientation practitioners call "reverse crown."

Rich wasn't wearing his Apple Watch upside down. He'd actually taken the band off the watch and put it back together oriented 180 degrees around. Rich explained to me that he'd read an entry about Apple Watch ergonomics on developer Craig Hockenberry's blog What Hockenberry said made sense to Rich, so he'd tried it out.

Hockenberry experimented with his Apple Watch, and learned that by moving the Digital Crown to the lower left, his natural inclination was to use his thumb to scroll, rather than twisting the Digital Crown between his thumb and index finger. What's more, that index finger was now free, making it poised to conveniently tap and scroll on the Apple Watch display. This makes scrolling and tapping a faster experience. It makes operating Apple Watch apps faster.

Hockenberry noted that the Apple Watch's speaker and microphone are pointed at to his face now too. "It's easier to hear sounds and Siri recognition seems a little better," wrote Hockenberry.

I tried reverse crown and decided that I like it. It's quicker for me to open apps, scroll and take actions. I'm spending less time fiddling with the Apple Watch and more time using it for what I need, whether it's scrolling through music playlists or scanning my calendar for upcoming appointments.

Since I've begun wearing my Apple Watch this way, I've noticed another reason to go with it. I would occasionally activate Siri when I bent my hand and wrist at hard right angles. That doesn't happen anymore. Every so often I'd lift my watch to my wrist and discover some fragment of a frustrated discussion Siri was trying to have with me, or a piece of what it thought it was supposed to dictate to a message.

But the old rules don't apply anymore, at least not to the Apple Watch. Apple, for its part, figured out straight from the start that users could break the rules. Because Apple supports the orientation in the Apple Watch settings on the Apple Watch app on the iPhone. Under the General settings, pull up Watch Orientation, then specify "Digital Crown on the Left Side."

There's one small downside to reverse crown, by the way: Some applications expect the digital crown in its standard upper-right corner location regardless of the watch's settings. Apple's own Calendar app, for example, shows you a scroll indicator, and positions it in the upper right hand corner regardless of how you have the Digital Crown positioned.

I'd argue that apps like Calendar should pay attention to the Watch Orientation setting, and render those scroll indicators and other UI elements specific to the Digital Crown where the crown actually is.

Bottom line: If you're turning hands or winding a mechanical motor, having the crown where you can pinch it between your index finger and thumb makes a lot of sense. It's precise. It's something that watch makers have done for a very long time, because it makes sense.

Apple has reinvented the crown for its smartwatch. It's turned the Digital Crown into an important interface that helps you navigate and activate the apps that make the Apple Watch such an incredibly useful device. Find the way that best suits your use, and if you're interested to try something different, give Reverse Crown a try. Let me know what you think!

Peter Cohen
  • I'm am taking the suggestion right now... Thanks! I will post back my with opinion... So far I like it! Sent from the iMore App
  • Nice article! I decided to try this as well because my wrist would occasionally activate Siri. It works more fluid now! Sent from the iMore App
  • I love this orientation much better definitely makes a big deference when speaking thru the speaker Sent from the iMore App
  • Deference Sent from the iMore App
  • Difference * Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • I'll try this, but now the speaker and microphone are in the splash zone when I wash my wands. I still don't feel safe enough to keep this orientation.
  • After hearing Tim Cook say he wears how watch in the shower, I felt ok to do the same. I also swim in my pool with it. In the many months I've had it, there have been no problems with the watch and water. That's my experience at least. Has anyone ruined their watch with water?
  • Shower every day with mine. It gets a really good soaking, and covered in soft soap suds. Also the jets of the handheld shower attachment are often directly hitting the mic and speaker opening. No issues yet, and Siri works well in the shower as well. I set reminders and sometimes reply to texts. I've taken a couple of phone calls too. I composed a text this morning with the word "antihistamine" and even with all the water swooshing, Siri still nailed it. ymmv. Sent from the iMore App
  • I shower with my watch on Sent from the iMore App
  • I've showered with my watch on many times, and with the crown on the right, the speaker and mic would be getting splashed with my arms at my sides and so far that doesn't seem to have happened. I wouldn't be surprised if those openings had some sort of membrane sealing them off.
  • I tried it but didn't end up liking it. I only use my index finger for rotating the digital crown anyway, and while CHOCK has a great point about reverse crown being faster for scroll+tap interaction, I don't do that often enough to really make a difference. I am super happy Apple programmed it in as an option, though.
  • I'm pretty new to owning the apple watch but I prefer to use my middle finger to scroll with the digital crown. I also curl my right fingers such that the crown is pressed with the middle joint on my middle finger. The same goes for the communication button. The force of the push is mostly happening from my thumb pushing in from the other side and the curling of my hand and use of the middle finger makes button pushing feel more natural. This is kind of challenging to explain with text but that's how I roll! So far I like it better than reversing the watch.
  • I tried it for a few days a while ago also, and I couldn't stand it.
  • It's funny, but I never use the crown for scrolling; only as a button. I tend to just swipe the screen to scroll. Just about the only time I use it is when I'm on the app screen where I press the crown to center the watch icon, then spin the crown to bring the watch face back. I'm trying this now as well. I have a friend at work who also has a watch; we'll see how long it takes him to notice that I've flipped it around.
  • Hmm, looks interesting, I'm going to give it a try.
  • Looking forward to give it a go but I'd still like to see apple drop the crown as it just feels very superfluous Sent from the iMore App
  • It's the main interface.
  • I am left handed and it is perfect for me so I do t have to go over the watch face to use the crown! One of the many reasons I bought the watch. No one else has that for us southpaws! Sent from the iMore App
  • Looks interesting, thanks Peter! I wish I could try it out, but....I scratched the heck out of my watch about a month after launch and I couldn't stand it anymore, so I took into the Apple store for repair yesterday. Turns out, it takes 5-7 days before the watches are returned. From never wearing a watch to wearing my  Watch daily since just May, I now feel naked without it! Go figure. I keep glancing at my wrist and it seems like real pain to keep pulling out my iPhone...
  • I have been rockin' it 'backwards' since reading @hockenberry's blog post months ago. I will never go back to the 'normal' way again.
  • I use my middle finger for scrolling and my index finger for tapping quickly afterwards. Sent from the iMore App
  • i use the middle finger for scrolling and a curled hand with the middle joint of the middle finger to tap.
  • As soon as I read hockenberry's blog on this in June I immediately converted my Apple Watch to this orientation. For me the "normal" way never felt right and the Digital Crown would snag on my shirts. When I was helping my wife setup her watch this was the first thing we changed.
  • But on your right wrist, correct? So the reverse crown to you would be the opposite. Crown on your forearm side. Not you have side.
  • I have to do it...lefty here. I know no other way Sent from the iMore App
  • There's a lesson there for Apple to learn in using an existing paradigm to fulfill another function. It's not a winding mechanism, so it doesn't need to be tied to that location by a mechanical necessity. It's also true of the querty keyboard, but muscle memory has kept that in place. No need for this on the Apple Watch. This is part of the evolution in smart watch design. Sent from the iMore App
  • I don't have an Apple watch, but as a left handed person it seems that it is the good way for me :) Sent from the iMore App
  • You know, this is actually a great idea for us lefties out there who would wear their watch on the right wrist!
  • I don't understand the thumb + index finger thing. I don't use my thumb at all, jus my index finger to turn the crown. I love using it, use it all the time. Am I missing something? Sent from the iMore App
  • I scroll with my index finger and tap with my thumb. Same thing but with the crown on the correct side. I tried this though and its not terrible. But I still cover the screen while scrolling and tapping with reverse crown. Just glad the options are there.
  • So wait are we wearing this on our left wrist? I'm a lefty but I also wear my watch on my left wrist. Sent from the iMore App
  • One more vote here for using just my index finger to scroll. I can believe that anyone who actually thought they needed to pinch the crown between thumb and forefinger would want to try a different way, because that seems terrible. But every video of the Watch that Apple released showed the demonstrator using just an index finger to scroll. I was trained in the "proper" way long before my own watch arrived!
  • I've been wearing mine this way for well over a month now and find thumbing instead of index fingering much more intuitive for the Digital Crown.
  • Hey Aashutosh Maurya! What's your take? Leave a comment. i had not apple iPhone or i mac but i use it is is good in look and my friends also use apple pine ,i want also to use apple product
  • Lefty here too. Right from the jump use with the crown on the bottom and I figured this is the way everyone should orient the crown.
  • I wear mine in the "traditional" orientation. I tried left wrist, left crown for about a day, but I found the watch moved too much when I used the Digital Crown. And the distance from the tip of my thumb to the tip of my first finger is almost 3 inches- forcing me to make an uncomfortable claw if I want to scroll & touch in that orientation. With the crown at the upper right, it suites my fingers better to have my thumb on the bottom left corner to stabilize the watch and my hand. It's just more comfortable and natural for me; I'm also more accurate this way.
    Also, to those who activate Siri at the bend of your wrist: consider moving the watch further away from your wrist so it is not on the joint, making it far enough away for full movement of the wrist yet zero movement of the watch. This may require you to tighten by a peg to keep it from sliding past that slight bump at the end of your ulna & radius. I find this comfortable for the majority of the day, with the occasional removal for scratching & drying. I find that if I have it too loose it tends to grab and pull more hair, this isn't a problem with it just one more notch tighter in this position on my arm.
    Lastly, I'm surprised anyone can pinch the crown with two fingers! If I could even grip it on two sides of the tiny nub, I wouldn't be able to turn it at all. I would also end up grabbing a few dozen hairs. I can only kind of slide a tiny tip of my first finger underneath for a 360 spin. Sent from the iMore App
  • Been trying it all day now. Just used Apple Pay. Sucked with reverse crown. Also pulling up your favorite contacts sucks this way. Switching back. Not for me. Sent from the iMore App
  • I have always had it this way. I am left handed and wear the watch on my right hand. It is most convenient for me.
  • After about 5 minutes, I am fairly convinced. My thumb works the crown rotation far better than my index finger. Seems better with the button and pressing the crown as well. Going out to run some errands, including going to the grocery store where I will pay with my watch...
  • After three days of 'Reverse Crown' I can't believe I didn't do this before. Sold and thanks!
  • I've been doing this for about a month, now, but I chose to do it for a different reason, then saw the benefits listed above. The reason I chose to switch was because I hated cocking my right wrist back to press the Digital Crown when I needed to do so. I don't like pressing with the tip of my finger, I prefer to press with the pad - so it was a little straining. Also, you'd have to brace the watch with your thumb in the right spot so it didn't rock, and cause slipping on the crown - also alleviated by switching. It more natural (and quicker) for me to press with my thumb. I had to fetuses to scrolling with my thumb, but it didn't take long. I'm much happier (with my OCD satisfied) by having placed my Watch in "Reverse Crown." I was wondering if others had done the same... now I know! Great article.
  • Not "fetuses", lol "get used to". Here's to commenting via with autocorrect on - CHEERS! Haha
  • Now that i realize that you're not referring to my favorite libation(CROWN Royal), i'll be happy to give this a try!
  • Tried it and hated it lol Sent from the iMore App
  • I wear mine this way now after constantly activating Siri while exercising. I'm happy with it this way. Sent from the iMore App
  • This makes sense for left handed people Sent from the iMore App
  • I haven't tried it yet but since the crown is always getting accidentally pushed especially at the gym, i am willing to give it a try. Sent from the iMore App
  • I have tried it for the last few day, I like it.
  • Have done this since beginning. Makes using watch and my electric wheelchair controller at same time easy:) Sent from the iMore App
  • Sloppy programming. Reminds me of ios 8 on the iPhone 6 plus. About half the Apple apps worked fully upside down, and half didn't. Sadly ios 9 has abandoned the idea of letting you use the device upside down. It would be great in the car if you have power cord coming downwards (which I do). Would be more like an iPad.
  • For us lefties it's not that complicated a reason to have it switched. We just need it that way.
  • For lefties, you could try it in "standard" configuration, with the crown on the right to get the same effect as this tip. Hey, could be fun! :D
  • I'll probably be doing this when I finally get my hands on the Watch... err... i mean... Get one on my hand :D
  • If you switch the settings to the opposite wrist, tell it that your wearing it on the right wrist but you wear it on your right, it solves the app scrolling problem.
  • “twisting the Digital Crown between his thumb and index finger”
  • I agree. I changed mine after two hours of using it. I like being able to use my thumb Sent from the iMore App
  • It makes double-clicking the crown to switch between apps MUCH easier. I agree with previous commenter that hitting the side button is a bit more awkward, but it really doesn't get used that often anyway (for me).
  • So far I like it . . . A headache for me was that when I'm exercising ever other day and wearing gloves for the dumb bells when ever I would flex my wrist the glove edge would press on the crown and the watch kept turning on.
    The other issue I was having was I tended to press the crown with just my index finger and the sport band would have to press into my skin on the opposite side to have something to press against. Now it seems more natural to grip it between my thumb and index finger. Nice that apple thought of the change of orientation feature. I thought that was just for lefties. Thanks for the tip!