Why are Watches Always Set to 10:10?

Written by: Maz P
Updated on:
Rolex Submariner Watch

Clocks and watches have always been more than just tools for telling time. They are statements of style, precision and craftsmanship. When you imagine a watch, you might picture a sleek, elegant timepiece that you have seen advertised and in any piece of watch marketing, you will find it is set to the classic time of 10 minutes past 10 o’clock (1010). Maybe you have never noticed this characteristic when shopping for or purchasing a new timepiece but a quick Google will highlight this effective marketing strategy. If you have noticed this before, you may have been left curious as to why this particular time setting is so popular? The answer is rooted in history, design aesthetics and a touch of psychological influence.

The History of Time 10:10

Beyond aesthetics and marketing strategies, there is also a subtle nod to tradition in the 10:10 setting. Watchmaking is a craft that has deep roots in history and many watchmakers pay homage to their heritage by following the established practice of setting clocks and watches to 10:10. The tradition of setting watches to 10:10 can be traced back to the early 20th century. It was at this time that wristwatches began to gain popularity, marking a significant shift from pocket watches. In stores, pocket watches were usually displayed in an open-face manner with the hands pointing towards 12 and 6 but wristwatches required a different approach.

There are a lot of myths and stories as to why watches are set to 10 past 10. It is said that the inventor of the clock was born at 10:10 whilst others say it is because this was the time he passed away. There are also theories that this time was instead the inventor’s eureka moment in the invention process. There are more theories regarding US Presidents, Martin Luther King Jr and World War II but whilst all these theories could be plausible, they all come up fruitless. There is no evidence for any of them, in fact, many have evidence to the contrary, and the invention of the clock can also not be accredited solely to one individual. All these stories are part of horology legend and it is more likely that watches are set to 10:10 purely as an influential marketing strategy.

Marketing is key and to make wristwatches more visually appealing and symmetrical, watchmakers needed a time-setting that framed the brand logo or name on the watch face without obstructing it. Placing the watch hands at 10:10 achieved this goal. The hands were symmetrically spaced, allowing the logo and brand name to shine between them, creating a harmonious and balanced appearance that appeals to the market.

Highlighting the Brand

The 10:10 time setting strategically draws the viewer’s attention to the upper portion of the watch face. This area typically features the brand logo, name, and other important features, such as chronographs. By framing the watch face with the hands at 10:10, manufacturers ensure that the brand is the focal point of the visual presentation.

The arrangement allows for a clear view of the brand’s identity without any obstructions and is a well-utilized marketing tool. It is no coincidence that marketing experts understand the significance of brand recognition and watchmakers have mastered this technique to enhance the appeal of their timepieces.

The world of wristwatches is highly competitive and with a multitude of brands and styles, each watchmaker seeks to make its products stand out. Setting watches to 10:10 offers a consistent and visually pleasing display that helps manufacturers distinguish their timepieces from the rest by proudly showcasing their name and logo.

For many consumers, the first point of contact with a watch is through visual media both online and offline. The 10:10 display not only enhances the watch’s aesthetics but also facilitates brand recognition making it a key part of both digital and print ads.

The Symbolism of 10:10

The time setting of 10:10 is often referred to as the “smile of the watch” because the watch hands resemble a smiley face when positioned in this way. This appearance is psychologically significant as the smiling watch hands convey a positive, inviting, and friendly image that subconsciously appeals to customers.

Another symbolic interpretation of 10:10 is that it represents the idea of moving forward. The upward position of the hands can be associated with progress, positivity, and optimism. Watch manufacturers recognize the power of these symbols in attracting potential buyers and take advantage of this in their advertising strategies.

Subliminal messaging is a huge part of marketing with brands in all industries using subliminals in their advertising to subtly influence a purchase. The watch industry is no exception with the positivity of 10:10 secretly impacting watch purchases and buying decisions without the consumer even being aware of this.

Alternative Times

It is worth noting that not all watches adhere to the 10:10 convention. Some watches are set at other times with these variations depending on the watch manufacturer’s branding, design or unique marketing strategy. As times change, so do watch displays. While the 10:10 setting remains a popular choice, some modern watch brands are experimenting with different time settings to set themselves apart from the competition. These variations aim to capture a new audience by breaking away from the traditional display and diversifying the brand.

The 10:10 Strategy

Watches set to 10:10 represent a harmonious blend of history, design aesthetics, psychological appeal and brand recognition. This time setting showcases the watch and its brand name in the most visually appealing way possible, creating an instant connection with potential customers. While it is not a strict rule, the 10:10 setting continues to be a prevalent and effective choice for watchmakers aiming to make a lasting impression in their marketing. The next time you see a watch displaying 10:10, you will have a deep understanding of the reasoning behind this marketing choice whilst appreciating the art behind this timeless tradition.

If you think I’ve missed anything or have anything to add, please comment below.


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I started WatchmakingTools to share my passion and knowledge with those already bitten by the watchmaking bug. I’ve often spent hours searching online for answers on a specific issue, and even though there is a wealth of information out there, it hasn’t always been very useful, hence why I wanted to share my own findings.

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