Hourly chimes on the Apple Watch, a little known feature, but one I absolutely love and which many people don’t even know exists

Ever since I stayed up way too late, refreshing my browser in a frantic attempt to pre-order my first Apple Watch, there is one feature that I always wanted to have: the ability for my watch to chime on the hour, every hour. Growing up, I remember everyone seemed to have a watch that could do this, even inexpensive Casio watches had the ability to beep on the hour. To be fair, the talking watches of my youth sometimes had this ability, but the hourly time announcement generally consisted of this loud bong followed by the readout of the time by an extremely loud and tinny-sounding female speech synthesizer. I’m talking seriously tinny, often I had the impression that the synthesizer was coming out of a giant can, or pipe, or from the bottom of a very deep well. I used to think that if a genie were stuck in a lamp, surely she would sound like the synthesizers in those old watches. Anyway, the point is that while the feature sometimes existed, it was anything but inconspicuous and in a room in which many watches were chiming or beeping at the top of the hour, I often found myself the object of unwanted attention. I remember one professor saying, “Well, Steve’s watch is telling us that our class time is up for today.”, as if 25 other beeping watches, and students putting their things away, didn’t tell him the same thing.

I received my first Apple Watch and was absolutely surprised not to find this feature. I mean this feature had been a staple of watches, even inexpensive watches, for so long, how could it not be on a device that seemingly costs more than the Gross Domestic Product of a small nation? Alas, no hourly chime was to be found. I thought for sure people would rise up in protest and the feature would be added in a software update, but watchOS 2, 3, and 4 came and went, all with no hourly chime. And, by the time three more generations of Apple Watch came out, not to mention numerous software updates, I had all but given up. And so imagine my surprise when I read an article talking about the hourly Taptic Chimes which were finally introduced in watchOs 6.

There were many cool features introduced in watchOS 6, but the hourly chime thing was by far my favorite. I don’t even really know why except, for me, there is something significant about marking the passing of an hour, there is something grounding in knowing that a new hour has begun — maybe a microsecond of mindfulness? Apple’s implementation of an hourly chime feature is very unobtrusive. Users can choose from a bird or bell sound and both sounds are played quietly and discretely. Even better, since this is a standard feature that can be enabled in all Apple watches running watchOS 6 or newer, I don’t stand out like a sore thumb at the top of every hour. Apple’s feature also provides “Taptic” feedback making the feature useful even when the watch sounds are muted.

How to use the Apple Watch hourly chime feature

Enabling the hourly chime feature on the Apple Watch is very simple, although maybe not intuitive especially if you’ve upgraded to watchOS 6 and beyond. Like many things Apple, there is more than one way to enable and configure this feature, this way is probably the easiest and yields more configuration options.

  1. Open the Watch app on your iPhone.
  2. Choose Accessibility. Note, you can also choose Clock, but you will have fewer options. Also, this is a great opportunity to check out accessibility settings, especially if you’ve never looked at them.
  3. Choose chimes.
  4. Toggle Chimes to on.
  5. Schedule is set to hourly, but you can change it to chime on the quarter and half hour if you want more microseconds of mindfulness.
  6. Sounds, birds is the default, but you can change the sound to a very quiet-sounding bell if that’s more you thing. I recommend trying out both options and deciding what works best for you, birds is my favorite setting though.
  7. Press back until you’re out of chimes > accessibility and then close the Watch app. You probably don’t have to do this last step, but I always do just to make sure things save and sync as they’re supposed to — I’m old fashioned like that.
Screen shot showing the chimes settings screen under accessibility
Screen shot of chimes settings screen

I absolutely love the hourly chime feature of the Apple Watch and am surprised more people aren’t aware of it. I also like that Apple has allowed notification sounds that are specific to this feature to be chosen rather than the default notification sound that applies to all third party app notifications. For me, this little feature is a wonderful addition to my Apple Watch, it’s a very small thing, but it helps to keep me grounded as I go through my day. Also, Do Not Disturb and Sleep settings are respected, so it doesn’t interrupt me when sleeping, or if I have Do Not Disturb on for any other reason. I find this feature to be incredibly useful and hope others will as well.

By Steve Sawczyn

Blind from birth, I do what I can to help make the world a more accessible and inclusive place for all.

One reply on “Hourly chimes on the Apple Watch, a little known feature, but one I absolutely love and which many people don’t even know exists”

I like this feature too. That baby wee birdie is so sweet and the bell is nice though not very bell like at all if you ask me. I also think it’d be neat if I could have the chimes from Westminster Chimes app that I love so much on the watch should I so choose and if it’d not bother others like when at home for instance. But I also long for more varied notification sounds on the watch as a whole and can’t for the life of me fathom why we don’t have that capability. Come on Apple bow to our wishes for once please? ☺


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