Why is this the go-to setting in watch ads and photos

First published: 29-09-2016

If you've ever shopped for a watch online, there's one subtle consistency that you may have overlooked - the time on almost every promotional image of an analogue watch reads the same: ten minutes past ten.

You might have already spotted this intriguing trend or just had your mind blown by the sudden realisation that this has been going on under your nose for years. Either way, one question still remains: why are watches almost always defaulted to this same time in images?

Entering the twilight zone

The short answer is aesthetics - it frames most brand logos perfectly between the two hands.

However, there's a little more to it than that.

Originally, it seems watchmakers often preferred to have the hands displaying the time 8:20. Similarly, it would create a pleasing image of symmetry while allowing the brand's logo to take centre stage.

This method reportedly became less favourable after it was decided that it bore similarities to a sad face, with both hands pointing downwards. rom then on, the 'smiley-faced' alternative of 10:10 was preferred, and has been the time of choice for watches on display ever since.

The first 10:10s

It's difficult to pick out the original trendsetter who decided that 8:20 should henceforth be scrapped and replaced, though two of today's stalwart brands were amongst the first to make the change.

The Hamilton Watch Company has been setting its watches to 10:10 ever since 1926, and rarely ever deviates from this now tried and tested method.

However, some manufacturers do bend the 10:10 rule a little. As you can see on Hamilton's Khaki ETO Chronograph watch below, a few watchmakers use opt for 10:08. Why? Well, it hits the sweet spot of symmetry, showing logos and with the minute hand at eight minutes past, it doesn't cover the face's '2' marker.

In the case of this Hamilton number, there's a bold dial featuring just below the spot where the 12 marker should be sat, the hour and minute hands are balanced at either side, showing near-perfect symmetry.

Khaki ETO Chronograph watch

In this case, its dials aren't the only standout qualities, however, with the black and silver watch face and casing being perfectly complemented by an orange leather strap. Not your average colour combination, but one that's sure to stand out against the more traditional darker browns and blacks that are common in the watch world.

Other exceptions to the rule

Don't be too surprised if you ever catch a watch's hands pointing elsewhere - the Hamilton piece above isn't the only watch that dares to be a little bit different.

Shunning the 10:10 rule by a whole 24 seconds, Timex's watches are often set to the specific time of 10:09:36, which is the official time decided upon for marketing purposes. Timex also claim that it lends a particular synchronicity to stands in stores across the world.

Also, when applied to a Timex piece, such as the Weekender Fairfield watch below, you can see how both the top brand and bottom Indiglo logos are completely unobstructed.

Weekender Fairfield watch

The piece's face - being simple and understated - allows the strap to really do the talking. Showcasing a range of colours that are bordered by two stripes of royal blue, it's a bright and bold watch that is suited to both casual and formal occasions.

What about digital watches?

If the reason for favouring the time of 10:10 is for aesthetic purposes, with the hands creating something of a smiley face on analogue watches, then this doesn't necessarily translate to digital.

In fact, there is a lot more variation when it comes to digital times in promotional images, with each watchmaker often having their own specific preference. Times range from 6:30am, to 10:38am, and even 12:38pm.

Taking Casio as an example, its preferred time display is 10:58, as it feels this best demonstrates the LCD screen's capabilities and also takes up some of the most screen real estate of any number combination. Below, you can see it proudly displayed on the Casio Classic Leisure watch.


With a classic Casio digital watch face accompanied by a golden casing and watch strap, it's a piece that uses a minimal amount of colours to achieve its signature look. And what's more, as it's unisex, it'll look just as good on the wrist of any wearer who appreciates its stellar appearance.


So next time you're browsing a selection of watches, remember that whether the time reads 10:10 or 10:58, there's a decision based on that specific set of digits. And if you've ever happened to notice that many analogue watches seem to show the same time on the Watch Shop website, you no longer need to wonder why this is.


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