Why Watches in Ads Are Always Set to 10:10

Next time you see a watch advertisement, check out what time the watch reads. Chances are it’ll be 10:10.

So is there something special about 10:10? Why do people selling watches always choose to set watches to this time before showcasing them? That’s what a group of researchers recently asked in a study published under the title Why Is 10 Past 10 the Default Setting for Clocks in Advertisements? A Psychological Experiment.

Before doing the study, the researchers hypothesized that it could have something to do with the fact that setting the time to 10:10 makes the face of a clock “smile,” with both hands of the clock pointing upward and to the side. By contrast, setting the time to 8:20 would make the watch resemble a sad frown.

In the first experiment they did, the researchers showed that people did indeed tend to see a resemblance between watches set to 10:10 and smiling faces, and between watches set to 8:20 and sad faces.

Although it might seem like a stretch to say that people pick up on whether inanimate objects like watches are “smiling” or “frowning,” it’s not so far-fetched when you remember that people are highly attuned to faces and have the ability to see faces almost anywhere. Case in point:  : )

The next experiment explored whether watches with different “faces” actually elicited different emotions in people – and, the part watch companies care about, whether these emotions affected how likely people are to buy watches.

It turned out that watches set to 10:10 really did tend to induce positive emotions emotions in people. Moreover, people expressed greater intentions of buying watches that were set to 10:10.

On the other hand, setting watches to 8:20 didn’t affect people much one way or the other. In other words, being “smiled at” by watches might brighten people’s mood a little and subliminally make them more likely to fork over cash for a Rolex, but being “frowned at” by a watch doesn’t get most people too bent out of shape.

More generally, the findings reinforce two points. First, people can pick up on face-like patterns in all kinds of places. And second, subtle cues like how watch hands are set can influence our behavior as consumers in ways we aren’t even aware of.

Image: Flickr/James Cape