wrist watch pro logo white

How To Set Time In A Digital Watch & More: A Newbie’s Guide

July 28, 2021

Some digital watches have lots of buttons that you can fidget with. This can be fun, but it’s also confusing to use if you don’t know too much about the device.

This makes it impossible for you to set the time as well. In this article, we’ll be going through how to set time in a digital watch in-depth, making your experience handling the timepieces as smooth as possible.

Time Mode

The first step to setting a digital watch is examining its body. You’ll have to look for a button that takes you to the Time Mode. 

This button is on the side of the device. If you’re lucky, you might own a watch that doesn’t come with many buttons. They can either come with 4, 3, 2 or even 5 of these!

The button that will do the trick is marked as ‘mode’. Not only is it needed to change the time, but it also gives you access to the calendar, alarm and even the chronograph settings.


Let’s go through some issues during the location process:

An Absence Of Buttons?

girl holding a smart watch

The majority of digital watches on the market have a mode button, which is normally on the right side of your device. Although this is true of all devices, you may be confused if you don’t see anything like this on your watch.

There’s no need to panic as this could be a simple error. Things might have gotten mixed up a bit during the manufacturing process. Hence, the button (along with other buttons) might not be labeled or could be labeled wrong.

Hopefully, you didn’t throw out your manual yet. You should immediately grab it to see what it says about your watch’s mode button. With the description in mind, you can hunt for it easier.

The unfortunate truth is that things like this happen quite a bit. As a consumer, you should have inspected your watch before purchasing it. Who knows what else went wrong during the manufacturing process?

You’ve Been Fooled

smart watch

You may still not see the button. Don’t panic. Yes, a manufacturer could have placed it incorrectly, or forgotten to name it, but they wouldn’t have left it out as it’s an essential part.

Your watch could have its setting button hidden. This isn’t an error but a trait of the model. You may not have known about this if you bought the device without doing much research.

In such cases, they’re most probably on the back of the device. If you turn it over and still can’t see it, it could be recessed or behind a screen of sort.

Its Name Is Funny

man using a digital watch

Most of the time, the button goes as ‘mode’. This is the case at least 90% of the time. There is a remaining 10%, which is when it’s known as set, setting or time. Out of these, if you don’t see mode, it’s most likely set.

If you keep looking for ‘mode’, you may not realize that it actually goes by one of the other 3 names.

What Is Time Mode?

With the first step complete, you’ve covered the most difficult part of the process. Now you need to make sure the mode button is working. Otherwise, the below steps are going to be pretty frustrating. 

When you hit mode, you will go into time settings which would cause the time on the display to start blinking. The whole thing doesn’t blink (although it’s uncommon, this may be the case for a very few watches). Instead, it’s one unit at a time. This means either the hour, minute, second marking would start flashing. 

All in all:

We’re here to offer you a thorough guide, so you should know that the rightmost number is what blinks first. And as you know, this is where the seconds are located.

Setting The Time

The moment you see it blinking, you should be ready to hit some buttons. If your watch has many of them, there may be one dedicated to changing the time in time mode. 

If you own simpler watches like me, the start/stop button allows you to change time in Time Mode.

You’ll have to keep clicking ‘mode’ until it falls on the hour part of the reading. Here, do what you did with the minutes and seconds, hitting start/stop until numbers start popping up. 

Then scroll through and set the time you want the watch to read.

man checking time on a digital watch

Save It

By following the above points, you’ve just adjusted the time on your watch. However, the struggle isn’t over. 

The final step in the journey is saving what you’ve just adjusted. You can do this by clicking the mode button once more. 

If you don’t do this, you’ll be stuck in the time setting and you won’t know how to get back to the original display. As a new watch owner, this can be pretty nerve-wracking, especially if you paid a lot for the device. 

What About Other Settings?

Before we let you go (we’re almost done, I promise) let’s go through some other things you may want to set on your digital watch. Having covered how to use the mode button, the following points will be easy for you. 

Setting An Alarm

Click the Mode button. This time, do so until you hit the Alarm screen. Most of the time, it would showcase ‘AL’ when you get there. At other times, there might be a picture of a clock.  

Use the start/stop (or reset/set depending on your watch) button to navigate through alarm mode. Once you’re done, click the mode button to save and go back to the home screen, and voila! You’ve just set an alarm. 

Setting The Date

If your watch has a calendar function (which it most probably does) hitting the mode button and going to time mode would work. In time mode, you’ll have to click reset/set, (or start/stop) until you change the date. Once again, click mode when you’re done to save everything.

Further Tips

Having run through how you can successfully change the time and many more things on your device, there are a few more tips you need to know. I’ve noticed a few problems watch owners face when setting the time.

white digital watch

The Buttons Are Recessed

If your watch is water resistant, it’s possible that its buttons were recessed. This means it would make it harder for water to enter as its insides are sealed off.

Even if it isn’t waterproof, your watch may still have recessed buttons. This is because the manufacturers had the consumer in mind when producing the watch. They probably wanted to keep the side buttons hidden so they wouldn’t keep digging into the owner’s wrist.

Using a pen or another sharp object, you can poke at the button, getting it to switch to time mode. If you use a sharp object, you should be careful as you can easily dig too deep, damaging the watch’s insides. This is especially the case if it’s waterproofed as you may have just opened a gap, letting water enter the watch the next time you take a swim. 

The Buttons Aren’t Responsive

If you own an older digital watch, the chances of its buttons not being that sensitive are high. If it’s been sitting out for a long time, it may have collected dust unless you’ve taken impeccable care of it

The dust would’ve gotten in between its button’s grooves, making them less responsive. If this is the case, you should hold the button down for a little longer than usual, and with more pressure. Hopefully, this will get the job done. 

If it’s a model that you’ve just bought, but it was introduced in the 90s, you’ll notice that its buttons aren’t that responsive as well. No, this isn’t due to dust accumulation but due to the technology in the device. The only way around this is by pressing the button longer and harder than you normally would.


All in all, it can be a hassle to set a digital watch if you don’t know what you’re doing. This is especially true if the buttons are recessed, hidden or wrongly labeled. So, we looked at the many ways you can set the time, eliminating any problems you may face in the future.

Thomas Vanderlaan
When Thomas Vanderlaan was a child, the moment he learned about mechanical watches he was hooked. His first love being mechanical watches, he decided to pursue a career in engineering as he was entranced by the science behind its gears. As the years passed, his passion grew. Although he worked a hectic career as an automobile engineer, he’d always collect watches during his spare time.
Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API. Wrist Watch Pro is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for website owners to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon (.com, .co.uk, .ca etc) and any other website that may be affiliated with Amazon Service LLC Associates Program. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.