How to unpair and restore the Apple Watch

The Apple Watch is a great piece of tech, but even great pieces of tech need a complete restore now and again. Whether you want to pair your Apple Watch with a new phone, restore it to factory settings to troubleshoot it, or plan to pass it on to a new owner, you're going to need to unpair it from your current iPhone, back up its data, and disable Activation Lock so that it can be set up again.

How to unpair your Apple Watch via the Watch app

  1. Go to the Apple Watch app on your iPhone.
  2. Tap your active watch at the top of the My Watch screen.
  3. Tap the info button to the right of your current watch.
  4. Select Unpair Apple Watch.

    unpair Apple Watch

  5. Confirm the process by pressing Unpair (watch name).
  6. If you have cellular service, choose to Keep or Remove your plan.

    remove plan unpair

  7. Disable Activation Lock by entering your Apple ID password and pressing Unpair.
  8. Your watch will now begin backing up your watch's latest data to your iPhone. Once it's finished, it will unpair itself from your current iPhone, delete all active Bluetooth accessory pairings, remove any Apple Pay cards used on Apple Watch, and wipe the passcode. Finally, your watch will restore itself to Apple's factory settings.

    watch setup

  9. Once this has finished, make a backup of your current iPhone if you want to make sure your Apple Watch data is safe and secure.

It'll take a few moments to back up your Apple Watch and complete the sync and wipe process. Once finished, however, the Apple Watch will have been reset to its factory default settings, and you can proceed.

How to unpair your Apple Watch directly on the smartwatch

Note: When you unpair your Apple Watch via your iPhone's Watch app, it automatically syncs and backs up the latest data from your smartwatch before restoring it to factory settings. It's the best and smartest way to save your most recent data. Unpairing directly from the watch does not create a backup, nor does it automatically disable Activation Lock. (And remember, while Activation Lock is enabled, a new user won't be able to set up the Apple Watch.) If you absolutely need a current backup, make sure you unpair using the Watch app.

  1. Launch the Settings app on your Apple Watch.
  2. Tap on the General setting.
  3. Select Reset.

    reset watch

  4. Tap on Erase All Content and Settings.
  5. Type in your passcode (if enabled).
  6. Tap on Erase All (or, if you have a cellular plan and wish to keep it, Erase All & Keep Plan).

    erase Apple Watch plan

  7. Once the Apple Watch has finished restoring, navigate to iCloud.com from your computer's web browser to disable Activation Lock.
  8. Sign in with your Apple ID and password.
  9. Click on Settings.

    Signing into iCloud on Apple Watch

  10. Select your Apple Watch under My Devices.
  11. Click on the X next to your Apple Watch to remove it.
  12. Click Remove to confirm.

    Removing a device on Apple Watch

Try some new bands

Looking for a new leather Apple Watch band? Check out three of our favorites:

Clockwork Synergy Dapper Collection Leather Band ($45 at Amazon)

Clockwork Synergy makes incredible quality bands for the Apple Watch at reasonable prices. The adaptors are as smooth as butter, and the premium leather is top-notch. Choose from over two dozen different textures and colors from traditional to fun. The link below is for the 42/44mm Apple Watch, but it's also available in the 38/40mm size.

Lowry Leather Band ($80 at Pad & Quill)

Pad & Quill's Lowry band is definitely something you could imagine Indiana Jones sporting on his way to his archeology class. The thick rough-edged design looks great without showing off too much. The tanned Horween leather feels incredibly supple as if it's been on your wrist for years.

Nomad Modern Leather Strap ($70 at Nomad)

A simple look, Nomad's Modern Leather Strap is similar to Apple's Classic Buckle look. It has a clean, no-stitch design that looks slim and beautiful. The Horween leather gets a nice patina wear after about three months of use. It also comes in Natural brown.

Any Apple Watch unpairing questions?

Any questions about unpairing your Apple Watch? Let us know in the comments!

Updated August 2019: Updated for watchOS 6.

Serenity Caldwell contributed to an earlier version of this article.

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