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Thursday, October 12, 2017 by Manyi

Klaus Peter Mager, a spokesman for Swatch, said his 25-year-old company, based in Biel, Switzerland, has always photographed watches primarily at 10:10, because “they’re smiling instead of a sad man’s face.” About 30 percent of the more than 400 models Swatch introduces yearly are photographed set at different times so that the hands don’t obscure functions, he said.

But Timex never deviates, even if that means the hands block features, said Adam Gurian, president of Timex, which is based in Middlebury, Conn. The company has an official time, 10:09:36, at which every watch — even digital models — is photographed for marketing purposes. Having the second hand at 36 tends to accommodate secondary language — like “Indiglo,” its dial-lighting technology — which appears centered at the bottom of watches.

To preserve batteries, the company ships many watches turned off at 10:09:36, which lends synchronicity to Timex displays in store windows.

At Rolex, watches are always photographed at 10:10:31, and for models that list the day of the week and calendar day, it is always Monday the 28th. A survey of hundreds of vintage wristwatch print ads posted online — in galleries at, at the watch enthusiast site, and on eBay — indicates that 10:10 was not always the norm. Watches in the 1920s and 1930s were almost exclusively set at 8:20.

The Hamilton Watch Company was among the first to clock in at 10:10; that time is favored in ads dating at least as far back as 1926. Rolex began consistently setting watches in ads at 10:10 in the early 1940s. Timex appears to have begun the transition in 1953, when its Ben Hogan model showed 8:20 while the Marlin model was set to 10:10.

Linda Kaplan Thaler, chief executive of the Kaplan Thaler Group, a New York advertising agency, learned about the 10:10 rule when her firm worked on a campaign for Rolex several years ago, and was drawn to the notion that it was like a smile.

“In advertising we would never expect someone to look at a watch and say, ‘The watch is smiling,’ but it’s just a feeling you get,” said Ms. Kaplan Thaler, co-author, with Robin Koval, of “The Power of Nice,” which features a big smile on its cover. The watch theme, she added, is typical of “subconscious cues that are used in print ads.”


Watchmakers are, naturally, fretting over how to sell watches to a generation that is in the habit of consulting their phones for the time, so it is perhaps fitting that the most-hyped phone has its own time-related intrigue. Many bloggers have wondered why the time on the iPhone in commercials, with few exceptions, reads 9:42 a.m., even when the capability being highlighted on the phone — like watching the “Pirates of Penzance” and being compelled to order calamari from a seafood restaurant — might seem atypical behavior over the day’s first cup of coffee.

The most popular theory is that it was 9:42 a.m. Pacific Time when Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone at a MacWorld conference in 2007, a fact confirmed by live blogs from the conference, but two press officers from Apple did not return calls seeking an explanation.

Watch companies, meanwhile, have the unenviable task of creating ads that will be dissected by aficionados, who are by nature obsessed with precision. Ms. Hurni of Ulysse Nardin learned this painfully more than a decade ago, when preparing a watch with day, month and year features for a shoot. Ms. Hurni always sets the calendar date as much as a year ahead, ensuring that the ad will not look dated, but after she set the watch in an ad several months ahead to Sunday, March 19, 1996, some customers sent calendars to the company’s Swiss headquarters to underscore that March 19 would actually fall on a Tuesday.

That makes sense to Michael Sandler, the general manager of, who several years ago noticed that an out-of-focus model in the background of a Patek Phillipe ad was wearing her watch upside down, a slip-up he doubts was recognized by nonhorologists.

“Watch geeks are interesting people,” Mr. Sandler said. “They’ll pick up on weird stuff like that from an ad.”

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