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I'm unsure about exactly when an Apple Watch gets backed up to an iPhone with which it is paired. Online sources are a bit vague and say a variety of things (some are perhaps outdated). Is it

  1. only when Watch is unpaired,

  2. whenever the paired iPhone is backed up (and the Apple Watch is connected via Bluetooth), or

  3. periodically?

Or is it something else?

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You can be sure the watch backs up only when you unpair it.

Apple says it backs up automatically but since you can’t check on that by tapping anywhere or logging into iCloud or looking in preferences, you don’t know when it happens or the date of the last backup.

The only way to check your available backups is when you pair any watch (e.g. you have a second watch or a friend that’s willing to unpair theirs or has a spare) and step through the pairing process and have your iPhone list the available backups and date ranges of backups. iCloud keeps multiple backups in time, sort of like time machine so you may have a choice of when to restore from your backups.

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