There are certain, small details apparent in everyday life that we never really notice, and we would quite happily carry on living in blissful ignorance of these small, insignificant details. However, there’s always some smart Alec who likes to point them out and the fact that no, we hadn’t noticed before, then plagues our conscious.
Worse still, if there’s an unanswerable question attached – “why is it that round pizzas are served in square boxes?” – we’re left puzzled for days. Such is the case with the following: In advertisements for clocks and watches, why is the time displayed almost always ten past ten? In fact, this is widely the default factory setting display for all clocks, watches and timepieces.
There are plenty of theories that argue why watches display this time; from the myth that this was the time at which Abraham Lincoln/John F. Kennedy/Martin Luther King Jr. were shot or died, through to the belief that it was at ten past ten that the first atomic bomb was dropped. These theories are however (sadly) totally unfounded and give way to a much more logical and much less fantastic explanation.
In truth, the real reason for the 10.10 display is merely down to aesthetics:
- The hands do not overlap, allowing both them and the face of the timepiece to remain visible and clear.
- The positioning of the manufacturer’s logo is most often under the 12, in the centre of the face, which is not only nicely fully visible but also nicely framed by the hands when showing the time as ten past ten.
- Any additional elements such as secondary dials, date windows etc. are similarly not obscured due to their placements being near the numbers 3, 6 or 9.
- The symmetry is pleasing on the eye for customers.
- The positioning mimics a ‘tick’, a symbol of positive sentiment that hopefully is subconsciously noted by a customer and encourages a positive impression.
- With the hands displaying ten past ten, this again subconsciously suggests positive sentiment with the ‘ten’ repetition calling to mind ten out of ten, top ten, top marks.
- Finally, with a standard setting of 10.10, the clock face is seen to be ‘happy’. When the manufacturers’ logo is at the bottom of the face, above the 6, the hands will often display the time as 8.20. This is not the more common practice however, due to the setting making the face appear to be frowning…
Armed with this new knowledge you can now confidently refer to yourself as a learner horologist (yes, there is a term for ‘watch geek’) and impress friends, family (or whoever will listen…) with the many reasons as to why ten past ten may be considered as “perfect timing”.