Why watches in Ads are always at 10:10

June 6, 2022By Bonetto Cinturini

What often seem to be pure coincidences are in reality very precise strategies that are implemented to capture our attention and make us focus on a concept or a brand.

Have you ever noticed, for example, that in video ads or pictures of any watch brand or type, the hands are always positioned at 10 past 10?

The most careful observers will have asked themselves if it is just casual or if there is something behind that position, for example the need to convey a message to clients that increases their desire to purchase the product or seek more information.

In this article we will unveil why watches are always set at 10.10 in ads and what is being communicated externally with this marketing plan which, according to statistics, produces the hoped-for effects.

Immediate and subliminal advertising

When speaking about advertising, it is a good idea to make a precise distinction between what clients effectively see before their eyes and what, instead, is hidden behind the photos and colours, which in reality is the true message to be communicated.

We are continually being bombarded by subliminal advertising, which tempts us to buy a product or service without us realising it and without any clear, direct communication.

If in some cases this process can conceal negative situations, in the case of watches it is simply a marketing strategy, which stimulates clients to focus on the brand name and the jewel model.

Think about watch hands positioned to show 10.10: in the viewer’s imagination they become a kind of frame for the brand, which in all the best models is usually in the top centre of the dial.

Not only the big names like Rolex, Omega or Patek Philippe, but also most of the cheaper brands use this trick to personalise their lines, so that purchasers always have the name of who made the watch they are wearing in mind.

A more unusual case was that of the company Timex, which opted for the more specific time of 10.09.36, because in their case the name was exactly under the 12, and using this position highlighted the company name even more precisely and punctually.

Who knows if the stratagem brought the results that were hoped for. Certainly, the team of experts that works in the advertising section of the company pays great attention to detail and is always looking for modern, implementable methods to conquer an ever-growing slice of the market.

Why are the hands always positioned at 10.10?

Competition in the watch market has always been very stiff, because there are lots of historical brands that compete to control sales and prestige, without forgetting the emerging brands that try to impose lines and designs using ideas that are different from the usual ones.

To beat the competition, strategies of every kind are used, from macroscopic ones that include discounts, offers and constant mass advertising on all means of communication, to the more subtle, invisible ones like highlighting the brand name using the elements of the watch.

A very accurate study is carried out on human nature, which instinctively concentrates its glance on the centre of any object, and only notices the elements around it later.
So, already the idea of always placing the company name in that position implies that buyers will pay more attention to what they are buying.

However, there are so many brands which use advertising – bombarding clients at all hours of the day – that clients can lose focus or be captured by a different detail when they see the images.
As a result, the hands are used to frame the words, written in a characteristic font that helps identify one producer from another.

Alternatively, 1:50 can be used, a different time that balances the words at best to give the same effect. It is chosen exclusively when the writing is not perfectly centred. 

Symmetry has an essential role in advertising, above all when visual, as in the case with street advertising; even only one element positioned in a slightly discordant manner can disturb the glances of passers-by, who maybe feel disturbed without understanding the real reason and do not pay due attention to what is before them.

A good part of the return of advertising is truly subconscious, because the receiver does not really realise that they are being drawn towards a product, and only when their attention has centred on the watch do they perceive the mechanisms used by marketing.

How did the 10.10 marketing strategy come about?

According to official sources, the first person to elaborate this winning marketing strategy, today unavoidable when presenting a watch, was Andrew Block, at the time vice-president of Torneau during the 1920s.
He spoke about this innovative method for drawing the attention of consumers, even if the first brand to use this intuition was Hamilton.

As often happens, the Americans are pioneers of this type of thing and when the idea does not come from their country, they make it their own, transforming it into a success.
In addition to the already-mentioned Timex, which further perfected this concept, every famous brand is on the list, among which even Apple, whose Apple Watch is an exception to the rest of the line.

It is, in fact, set according to the classic rule, which at this point has become widespread throughout the world, of 10.10, when instead the other electronic devices like tablets or smartphones always show 9.40.

The reason behind this is iconic and also romantic, because it is the exact time when Steve Jobs presented the first Iphone ever to be created, which then became a status symbol in subsequent years with the realisation of models that were increasingly more technological and innovative.

This tradition has never faltered, a way for remembering where it comes from, in spite of the giant leaps made in the sector.

An additional psychological interpretation of the hard-and-fast 10.10 rule

Marketing is a sector that often uses psychology to perfect its mechanisms, because it has to intervene directly on the subconscious of clients without them realising it, leading their interest towards one company rather than another.

Hands that point up have a positive impact on the brain because they represent an ascent and a rise, while hands pointing down evoke negativity and defeat.
It’s almost as if the object is more worthy of trust, so it tempts people to purchase it more.

Watch advertising uses other techniques in addition to this one, for example exalting colours and positioning the object at the forefront, making it bigger than the background to highlight its importance in relation to all the rest.

Famous models are used as a reference, or the jewel alone is chosen to be the undisputed main character but, regardless of the cut given to advertising, the time on the dial will always be 10.10, an established custom that stimulates interest in clients’ minds.