We analyze credit watch and rating actions to better understand the role of credit watches in the credit rating process. We find that watch actions are more frequently prompted by specific, publicly known events than are rating actions. The likelihood that a watch action precedes a rating action varies systematically with proxies for investor demand for credit quality information and the adverse consequences of issuing a rating change prematurely. Credit watches occur more often in response to deterioration in credit quality, and issuers make concerted efforts to address the concerns that prompted down watches. Down watches are less likely than up watches to indicate the direction of the subsequent rating change. Watch announcements are associated with abnormal stock returns, indicating that credit watch actions are significant information events. Our results suggest that credit watches are informative and facilitate the stability of ratings by allowing firms to correct deficiencies and prevent downgrades.