Why Are Watch Hands Usually Set To About 10:10?

Harold F. from Mobile, Alabama, USA asks:

Why are display watches in advertisements and in stores usually set to about 10:10?

This is a good question and we've been amused at the various answers we've seen offered over the years. There is a very simple explanation for this. When the hands on an analog watch are set to about 10:10 they offer a balanced, symmetrical look to the dial that helps a watch look its best. Display watches and images in advertisements are interested in making products appear as attractive as possible. Many years ago, watch companies realized that this hand orientation seemed to work best. It isn't universal, and sometimes a watch is photographed or otherwise displayed with its hands in other positions, so as not to block elements on a dial. Though, for the most part, the hands (including subdial hands) are oriented in a watch to make the dial appear as visually balanced and symmetrical as possible.

Related to this is the date window, which is often set to the 8th or the 28th as the number "8" is considered good fortune in Chinese culture. Look at watch ads from many many years back and you'll actually see hands positioned in all sorts of ways including downwards. The upward facing hands are also said to be more "positive" feeling that downward facing hands. You can see a short writeup Ariel did about a New York Times article on the topic and see some vintage ads here »

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  • My brother-in-law pointed out another reason which seems really plausible: Because it looks like a ‘tick’ with the brand name typically below the 12 o’clock index. Subconsciously, it sends a positive message about the brand

  • GeoffBot

    Well there’s the ‘smiley face’ which is possibly a myth, but the fact that chronograph subdials, date apertures and manufacturer signatures are almost always at 12,3,6 or 9; having the hands at 10:10 ensures they’re not obscured.