It's sometimes claimed that the most commonly used feature on the Apple Watch is 'Ping iPhone' - the Control Centre option that causes the paired iPhone to make a loud noise so you can find it. And it's certainly brilliantly useful. But what happens if you lose the Apple Watch itself?

Fortunately there are steps you can take to recover it, or (if it's been stolen) prevent the thief from being able to unlock it or access the data. And in this article we talk you through them.

Use the Find My app on your iPhone

Like all of Apple's mobile devices, the Apple Watch can be located using the Find My service. (This used to be known as Find My iPhone, but was rebranded to reflect its versatility.) Probably the simplest method is to track the watch's location on the paired iPhone.

There are two routes to this. You can just find and open the Find My app (the icon is a green circle), then tap Devices in the menu bar along the bottom. You may have to enter your Apple ID and/or password before being shown the device locations.

By default you'll be shown all of your devices, but if they're widely spread out the map probably won't be much help. So tap on the watch in the list below the map, and we'll only see that.

How to find a lost Apple Watch: Find My app

You'll be able to see not only what street it's on but the approximate house number. (Testing it now, the app is giving the address of our next-door neighbour, which is pretty impressive.) Tap the car icon to get driving directions to the location in Apple Maps.

Alternatively, you can open the Watch app on the iPhone, tap your watch at the top, then hit the lower-case I and finally Find My Apple Watch.

How to find a lost Apple Watch: Watch app

This will open the Find My app anyway, and seems like a slightly more long-winded way of going about things. But it does have the slight advantage of automatically jumping to the location and details of your Apple Watch device specifically, so we prefer it.

Further options

There's more to this app than just seeing a device's location and getting directions there. Once you've selected a device, you'll also see the option to Play Sound - making it ping, just like the watch does to the phone when it's lost. You can also mark it as lost, which disables Apple Pay and lets you lock and track the device, and provide contact information so a finder can return it more easily.

Finally you can choose to receive notifications if the watch is found, and erase it entirely. Swipe up on the menu to see the full set of options.

How to find a lost Apple Watch: Lost Mode

Use Find My iPhone, on your Mac

If it's more convenient, look up the watch's location on a Mac (or PC) instead.

Go to iCloud.com in your browser of choice and enter your Apple ID and password. Click on the Find My iPhone icon. If you've updated to Catalina it will be called just Find My instead.

How to find a lost Apple Watch: Find My iPhone on Mac

As on the iPhone, you'll see a map showing the location of all your Apple devices; because of the larger screen it may be easier to make out details, but it won't be as convenient to lug with you if you decide to chase down the watch on foot or in your car. (Please don't confront watch thieves in person, valued reader. Ring the police!)

The interface is slightly different, too: to focus only on your watch, rather than seeing all the devices, you click on the dropdown menu at the top, which by default will be labelled All Devices. Click on your watch and you'll zoom in.

As before, your options are to Play Sound, go into Lost Mode, or Erase Apple Watch - the nuclear option.

And there we have it! We hope this tutorial helps you find your watch. If you've lost an iDevice instead, try How to find a lost iPhone or iPad.