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Myths And Facts Behind The 10:10 Watch Setting

5 min read July 29, 2022

Myths And Facts Behind The 10:10 Watch Setting

Have you ever noticed what the time on watches in product photos or advertisements says? Well, it is not something most people look out for, but you should do so next time you see a commercial photo of a watch. The time on these advertisement watches is usually set to 10:10, which makes people wonder and come up with various myths or reasons behind such specific settings. 


Myths About The 10:10 Time Setting

Before we get to the main reason why watches show 10 past 10, let's see some reasons people came up with to justify this.

10:10 Omega Ploprof 1200M big watch paired with 24mm NATO watch strap by Strapcode

10:10 Omega Ploprof 1200M big watch paired with 24mm NATO watch strap

  • A lot of people assume it was a tribute to Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and or Martin Luther King Jr.. as they died around that time. However, this is inaccurate because although Lincoln got shot at 10:15 pm, he passed away the next day at 7:22 am. John Kennedy was shot at 12:15 pm CST in Texas while riding through Dealey Plaza in a presidential motorcade. Martin Luther King died at 7:05 pm after he got shot an hour prior.
  • Another myth is that 10 past 10 was the time an atomic bomb hit Nagasaki or Hiroshima in Japan, so setting the time like so was to honor the victims of the bombing. Actually, the first bomb was dropped on Nagasaki at 11:02 am and Hiroshima at 8:15 pm. 
  • The symbol of victory is another myth people have interpreted this setting to be. This victory symbol is also linked to the second World War. The letter 'V' was a symbol of victory from the war; hence watch advertisements post-war showed the hands of the clock in the V form, which is 10 minutes past 10. In 1945, when the German troops were brought to submission in Italy, a clock on Piazza San Marco was set to form the letter ‘V’ to symbolize their victory. It is not confirmed that this is the reason for the general adoption.
The V symbol of victory is another myth people have interpreted 10:10 setting to be.

The V symbol of victory is another myth people have interpreted 10:10 setting to be. Image credit : @history.com

  • Some people believe that the first clock, invented in 300 BC, was set at 10:10; this claim is quite unlikely because the 10 past 10 setting only became a norm in the ‘50s. 

    Why Are Watches Set To 10 Minutes Past 10? 

    According to researchers, prior to the ‘50s, watches were not set to 10:10 but 8:20, which was a way to keep the watch face looking asymmetrical while ensuring the logo was visible too. According to research*, it was assumed that watches set at 10:10 were more visually stimulating than one set to a time like 11:30. They also looked into the reaction if the clock was set to a “sad face”, that is 8:20- this brought about no effect on their emotions or any intention to purchase the watch. 

    IWC Big Pilot watch 5002 paired with Quick Release Hybrid  FKM / Sailcloth Watch Strap by Strapcode

    IWC Big Pilot watch 5002 modern casual elegance with Quick Release Hybrid Sailcloth / FKM Watch Strap

    Also, the New York Times says that a watch set at 10:10  resembles a smiley face, in contrast to 8:20, which looks like a sad crying face. Hence, a happier look is subtly more appealing to potential customers. They also added that 10:10 is associated with pleasure, the weekend and peaceful relaxedness. People who sleep are also likely to wake up at 10 am. 

    10:10 Oris Divers Heritage Sixty-Five and Hybrid Leather FKM Rubber Watch Strap by Strapcode

    10:10 Oris Divers Heritage Sixty-Five and Hybrid Leather FKM Rubber Watch Strap

    The primary reason for this setting is aesthetics. It spreads out the hands of the clock, making it visible and admirable. Also, symmetrical placement of the hands is more attractive to the eye than just any placement or asymmetrical arrangement. Another reason is to make the logo visible for advertisement. The logo on a clock is usually placed under the 12, so the V-shape formed by the 10:10 placement gives it a better frame and more attention. It is also a preferred method for making sure other features on the clock face, such as the date, secondary dial and the like, are easily seen.

    10:10 Hamilton Khaki Field 38mm H70455733 reinforced sports look with Nato watch strap

    10:10 Hamilton Khaki Field Automatic 38mm H70455733 reinforced sports look with Nato watch strap

    What Is The Effect Of The 10:10 Watch Hand Placement? 

    A Greek phenomenon called 'pareidolia' explains the tendency of humans to make meaningful deductions out of visual patterns which may not be meaningful in themselves. The word 'pareidolia' is derived from a joining of two words- para, which means beside or instead of and eidolon, which means a shape or image. Other cases where this phenomenon is applied, aside from the placement of clock hands, is when we form images in our minds from how the clouds in the sky look and our interpretation of emojis.

    Adam Andrew Newman, who wrote about the placement of clock hands on 10:10 in the New York Times, noted the reoccurrence of the practice among watchmaking companies’ advertising. In the 2017 research publication on the psychology behind clock hand placements, the paper stated that; 

    “This study provides for the first time empirical evidence for the notion that using watches with a time setting resembling a smiling face (like 10:10) can positively affect the emotional response of the observers and their evaluation of a seen watch, even though they are not aware of the fact that the shown time setting is inducing this effect."

    It is safe to say that this setting is a subtle but effective marketing strategy. 

    10:10 Seiko Mens 5 SPORTS Military Watch and Nato watch strap by Strapcode

    10:10 Seiko Mens 5 SPORTS Military Watch SSA299K1 was on a brilliant color Nato watch strap

    Other Interpretations Of 10:10 

    Numerology is quite a widespread practice today, where it is believed that numbers (or their arrangement) have a significance. It is believed that frequently seeing a specific pattern of the same numbers could be the universe trying to show you a sign. According to numerological deductions, 10:10 signifies happiness and help. It also informs the individual that their desires are soon to be met. According to Angelic interpretation, the angel Lecabel is said to be active between the times 10:00 to 10:20 and brings success and protection. The angel is also said to help in arts and their technicalities. 

    IWC or Oris  paired with Hybrid watch straps, sailcloth and leather  FKM rubber base by Strapcode

    IWC or Oris will always on time. Two Hybrid watch straps : sailcloth and leather plus all-weather FKM rubber base

    Some also believe that the number 10:10 is somewhat connected to the occultic, and the arrangement on a clock symbolises two horns. There is no confirmation to support this claim’s connection to the setting of the clock hands, although some are reminded of the horns when they see it. Other beliefs also attribute significance to the double 10 numbers, like protection, expectation and success.


    Written by Victor, images by Toni and others as noted


    4 Responses


    August 09, 2022

    Hi Chris,
    Thank you for the comment and the content has been updated.

    Strapcode team


    August 09, 2022

    JFK was not shot at 10:15 PM. He was shot at 12:15 PM Central Standard Time.

    He was shot while in a riding in a parade in Dallas Texas in broad daylight.

    Basic cursory knowledge of one of the most reported and famous historical events in modern history, (let alone a simple 5 second internet search) would’ve told you that.

    Failure to have this fact correct understandably leads to skepticism about the other parts of your article.


    August 05, 2022

    “People who sleep are also likely to wake up at 10 am.”

    Can you cite the peer-reviewed study that concludes this?

    Templeton Peck
    Templeton Peck

    August 05, 2022

    “ People who sleep are also likely to wake up at 10 am” Yeah…equally likely to wake up at literally any other time you’d care to choose.

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