How to Create The Apple Watch Breathe App Animation with CSS

The Apple Watch comes with a stock app called Breathe that reminds you to… breathe. There’s actually more to it than that, it’s a self wellness app of sorts, that reminds you to take a brief moment out of your stressful day and focus on your breathing to encourage relaxation. Additionally, the app has a minimalistic interface with a nice animation.

I thought it would be fun (and relaxing) to recreate the design, particularly in vanilla CSS. Here’s how far I got, which feels pretty close.


Making the circles

First things first, we need a set of circles that make up that flower looking design. The app itself adds a circle to the layout for each minute that is added to the timer, but we’re going to stick with a static set of six for this demo. It feels like we could get tricky by using ::before and ::after to reduce the HTML markup, but we can keep it simple.

<div class="circle"></div>
<div class="circle"></div>
<div class="circle"></div>
<div class="circle"></div>
<div class="circle"></div>
<div class="circle"></div>

We’re going to make the full size of each circle 125px which is an arbitrary number. The important thing is that the default state of the circles should be all of them stacked on top of one another. We can use absolute positioning to do that.

.circle {
  border-radius: 50%;
  height: 125px;
  position: absolute;
  transform: translate(0, 0);
  width: 125px;

Note that we’re using the translate function of the transform property to center everything. I had originally tried using basic top, right, bottom, left properties but found later that animating translate is much smoother. I also originally thought that positioning the circles in the full expanded state would be the best place to start, but also found that the animations were cumbersome to create that way because it required resetting each one to center. Lessons learned!

If we were to stop here, there would be nothing on the screen and that’s because we have not set a background color. We’ll get to the nice fancy colors used in the app in a bit, but it might be helpful to add a white background for now with a hint of opacity to help see what’s happening as we work.


We need a container!

You may have noticed that our circles are nicely stacked, but nowhere near the actual center of the viewport. We’re going to need to wrap these bad boys in a parent element that we can use to position the entire bunch. Plus, that container will serve as the element that pulses and rotates the entire set later. That was another lesson I had to learn the hard way because I stubbornly did not want the extra markup of a container and thought I could work around it.

We’re calling the container .watch-face here and setting it to the same width and height as a single circle.

<div class="watch-face">
  <div class="circle"></div>
  <div class="circle"></div>
  <div class="circle"></div>
  <div class="circle"></div>
  <div class="circle"></div>
  <div class="circle"></div>

Now, we can add a little flex to the body element to center everything up.

body {
  background: #000;
  display: flex;
  align-items: center;
  justify-content: center;
  height: 100vh;

Next up, animate the circles

At this point, I was eager to see the circles positioned in that neat floral, overlapping arrangement. I knew that it would be difficult to animate the exact position of each circle without seeing them positioned first, so I overrode the transform property in each circle to see where they’d land.

We could set up a class for each circle, but using :nth-child seems easier.

.circle:nth-child(1) {
  transform: translate(-35px, -50px);

/* Skipping 2-5 for brevity... */

.circle:nth-child(6) {
  transform: translate(35px, 50px);

It took me a few swings and misses to find coordinates that worked. It ultimately depends on the size of the circles and it may take some finessing.


Armed with the coordinates, we can register the animations. I removed the transform coordinates that were applied to each :nth-child and moved them into keyframes:

@keyframes circle-1 {
  0% {
    transform: translate(0, 0);
  100% {
    transform: translate(-35px, -50px);

/* And so on... */

I have to admit that the way I went about it feels super clunky because each circle has it’s own animation. It would be slicker to have one animation that can rule them all to push and re-center the circles, but maybe someone else reading has an idea and can share it in the comments.

Now we can apply those animations to each :nth-child in place of transform:

.circle:nth-child(1) {
  animation: circle-1 4s ease alternate infinite;

/* And so on... */

Note that we set the animation-timing-function to ease because that feels smooth…at least to me! We also set the animation-direction to alternate so it plays back and forth and set the animation-iteration-count to inifinite so it stays running.


Color, color, color!

Oh yeah, let’s paint this in! From what I can tell, there are really only two colors in the design and the opacity is what makes it feel like more of a spectrum.

The circles on the left are a greenish color and the ones on the right are sorta blue. We can select the odd-numbered circles to apply the green and the even-numbered ones to apply the blue.

.circle:nth-child(odd) {
  background: #61bea2;

.circle:nth-child(even) {
  background: #529ca0;

Oh, and don’t forget to remove the white background from the .circle element. It won’t hurt anything, but it’s nice to clean up after ourselves. I admittedly forgot to do this on the first go.


It’s also at this point that others in the comments have suggested that replacing opacityfor mix-blend-mode with a value of screen makes for a nicer way to blend the colors of the circles. I’ve since updated the demos and the code.

Pulse and rotate

Remember that pesky .watch-face container we created? Well, we can animate it to pulse the circles in and out while rotating the entire bunch.

I had totally forgotten that transform functions can be chained together. That makes things a little cleaner because it allows us to apply scale() and rotate() on the same line.

@keyframes pulse {
  0% {
    transform: scale(.15) rotate(180deg);
  100% {
    transform: scale(1);

…and apply that to the .watch-face element.

.watch-face {
  height: 125px;
  width: 125px;
  animation: pulse 4s cubic-bezier(0.5, 0, 0.5, 1) alternate infinite;

Like the circles, we want the animation to run both ways and repeat infinitely. In this case, the scale drops to a super small size as the circles stack on top of each other and the whole thing rotates halfway on the way out before returning back on the way in.

I’ll admit that I am not a buff when it comes to finding the right animation-timing-function for the smoothest or exact animations. I played with cubic-bezier and found something I think feels pretty good, but it’s possible that a stock value like ease-in would work just as well.

All together now!

Here’s everything smushed into the same demo.


If you’re having a stressful day, even you don’t have an apple watch, you can gaze into the CSS animation you’ve created and lull yourself into tranquility.

Make sure you don’t keep all of this peacefulness to yourself, and pass along your newly discovered knowledge. 

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