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Deprecated starting in version 3.1. We recommend that clients adopt the watch-project command.

Requests that the specified dir is watched for changes. Watchman will track all files and dirs rooted at the specified path.

From the command line:

$ watchman watch ~/www

Note that, when you're using the CLI, you can specify the root as ~/www because the shell will resolve ~/www to /home/wez/www, but when you use the JSON protocol, you are responsible for supplying an absolute path.


["watch", "/home/wez/www"]

Watchman will realpath(3) the directory and start watching it if it isn't already. A newly watched directory is processed in a couple of stages:

  • Establishes change notification for the directory with the kernel
  • Queues up a request to crawl the directory
  • As the directory contents are resolved, those are watched in a similar fashion
  • All newly observed files are considered changed

Unless the --no-save-state server option was used to start the watchman service, watches and their associated triggers are saved and re-established across a process restart.


Watchman has the following level of support for case-insensitive filesystems, starting in version 2.9.9 on macOS only:

  • each watched root is queried to determine if it is case-insensitive. This is the common default for most Mac systems running HFS+.
  • When in case-insensitive mode, Watchman will attempt to resolve the true canonical name of a file on the filesystem when it observes changes.
  • If the case of a filename changes, Watchman will report a delete of the old name and a change for the new name.
  • Query expressions that match names will default to case-insensitive when the root is on a case-insensitive filesystem.
  • Watchman's case folding is ASCII case-folding. Note that the match and pcre query expression terms request case folding support from the containing library, and that their case folding behavior is not controlled by Watchman beyond being enabled when the root is case-insensitive.
  • The path generator is always case sensitive.