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This Industry Secret Is So Secret Industry Insiders Don’t Know It

June 5, 1995

It’s time to consider a marketing mystery: Why do watches in print advertisements almost always give the time as 10:10?

The answer is, well, somewhat imprecise.

Industry insiders have plenty of theories. ``It connotes a warm and enveloping feeling, like a person’s arms outstretched. It’s `V’ for victory,″ says Mike Carberry, president of Henry J. Kaufman & Associates, an ad agency in Washington, D.C. Even if consumers don’t notice the placement of the hands, it has a subliminal effect on them, he says.

``It’s more like a happy face than a sad face,″ says Missy Faren, a marketing consultant for Gevril, a small watch company in Manhattan. George Rudenauer, advertising account supervisor for TAG Heuer watches, calls the position ``upward positive.″

But Rory Gevis, a stylist who works on commercial photo shoots, believes 10:10 was the time Abraham Lincoln was shot. (He was actually shot at about 10:15.)

Other watch industry experts say the watch hands mimic the proper position of a driver’s hands on the steering wheel of a car ... or that it’s a pleasant time of day _ or night _ for many people.

``It’s easier to read this way,″ explains Jeff Prine, a senior editor at Accessories Magazine. It’s merely an effort by marketers to best display the logo, counters Hans Beck, president of Breguet watches.

Why, then, do digital watches in ads read 10:10?

Robert Nelson, who has been selling watches on the streets of New York for three years, still hasn’t figured it out. ``It must be an insider secret,″ says Mr. Nelson, who is far less particular about how his watches are set.

``People used to use 8:20, but it looked like a frown,″ says Susie Watson, advertising director for Timex. She claims Timex was the first to use 10:10 in print ads, a trend that caught on about two decades ago. (Her assertion is hotly contested by several rivals, however.) Timex, perhaps to set itself apart, now uses 10:09.36.

That doesn’t explain why Timex models with a date feature are set for Wednesday, Oct. 14.

``We call it `Timex Day’ around here, but no one knows what that means,″ Ms. Watson says. Timex employees, by the way, don’t get the day off.

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