Have you ever noticed that the watches and clocks found in product photographs and advertisements usually show the time 10:10? If you haven’t, pay attention the next time you’re flipping through a publication and come across a watch ad—the rule is almost always true.
If you have noticed this, do you know why 10:10 is the default time for watch photographers?
According to the New York Times, the main reason is quite simple and obvious: aesthetics. There are a number of visual advantages to having the hands set at the 10:10 positions.
One is that the hands are kept from overlapping. Having them on both sides of the watch face ensures that the hands themselves are visible and can be appreciated.
The position also allows the hands to look nice on the face of the timepiece. The 10:10 position is symmetrical, and the human brain tends to appreciate symmetry and orderliness.
Another reason is that key details on the face of the watch or clock usually remain visible at 10:10. The logo of the manufacturer is usually found under the 12, and sometimes next to the 3-, 6-, and 9-o’-clock positions. Logos found under the 12 are nicely framed by 10:10 hands.
Finally, the 10:10 hands look “happy” due to the fact that the hands look like a smile (or like a “V” as in “victory”). The NYTimes reports that Timex used to use the time 8:20 in their product photos, but eventually decided to turn that “frown” upside-down.
There are a number of urban legends regarding the 10:10 time floating around in the world. Many of them attribute it to a historic event (e.g. Lincoln/JFK assassinations, the dropping of the atomic bombs), but there isn’t any truth behind those explanations.