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By on June 3, 2009, with 86 Comments

Cheap Watch store Optical Illusion

Smiling watch illusion

I have just remembered this cheap little trick a friend of mine, Boris told me once. Try looking at any watch store window, or if you are inpatient, and  wish to check this right now, you can use Google image search. Enter the search term “watch”, and search for wrist watches  or clocks. You will notice that 90% of the results (if not all of them); all the analog watches have their hands set on the exact same time – 10:10 (or 22:10  if you prefer). This is NO accident. Sellers do their best to comfort the buyers. Even if it takes making watches smile back at you. Unbelievable, is it? Well, marketers will do just about anything to sell their stuff. Even stranger is that this cheap trick actually works!

Cheap Watch store Optical Illusion

Sad watch illusion

Look at the both images in this article. If you liked these two watches, which one would you buy first? Just to remind you, they are both the same. Its just that the second image was rotated by 180 degrees. Weird, huh?


86 Responses
  1. bismuth says:

    Wow this is so interesting! I will never ever notice this if you don’t tell me! Definitely in the 1st pic the watch look more pleasant to me

  2. jm says:

    when timex was asked about this years ago their reasoning was that it framed their name on the watch.

  3. cody says:

    i google checked and most were 10 10 thats so wierd

  4. Pascale says:

    Not really an illusion, more a marketing tip, but still interesting.

  5. Craig says:

    subliminal messaging.
    even the slightest little thing you might not notice, but your brain does.

  6. Joe says:

    Wow this is cool and it works

  7. Lain says:

    Wow, that actually make sense!

  8. R. Nair says:

    I just wanted to comment on your article about the analog watches being st to the time 10:10.
    My understanding is that this particular time is chosen as it guides our eyes to the brand name of the watch (kind of like focusing our atention on the named of the watch). Does this make any sense to others?

  9. Jessica says:

    Probably fake though

  10. Not much of an ilusion, but good point! says:

    Imagine if they had them all set to midnight, or six thirty. you’d probably find that abnormal

  11. Not much of an ilusion, but good point! says:

    Just look at the flower watches ad ;P

  12. Stan Wilson says:

    The reason that most watches and clocks are set 10:10 is that most manufacturers place their name under the 12. Placing the hands that way “frame” and draw attention to the name. You can also find some that place the name above the 6 and then the time is normally set to 8:20 for the same reason.

  13. Xeridanus says:

    ok, first of all, long time lurker, first time poster. 10:10 on an analog watch can’t be 22:10 because analogs don’t go past 12. it’s always 10:10. also saying 22:10 means it has to be in the PM while this is not true for analog. it could be AM or PM since it shows the same time for both.

  14. Elvenstar says:

    Well, actually, most watches are shown at 10:10 (or 13:50) because most brands used to put their name right below the 12, so they use the hands as a frame to make you look straight there and enphasize the name of the brand…

    The problem is that nowadays they put the names anywhere… so the position is now just a formality.

  15. MR Winkie says:

    oh thats weird

  16. ozwald says:

    it’s also imposible to put the hand in that exact position, i’ve alredy tried

  17. sena says:

    Wow, thats nice!! all marketing!! but I would defintly buy the first one, the other one kind of shock the sight.

  18. lolo says:

    hey vurdlak.
    i like the new name for the comments…”speak your mind”
    and i like how its just a box on the bottom, not a separate window.
    cool changes!

    and though the watch trick isnt exactly an “optical illusion” its still pretty interesting.
    oh and i like the star rating thing too :D

    p.s. first?? sorry! had to.

  19. Chris says:

    Not really as much of an illusion as it is a marketing ploy.. Don’t see many products advertised upside down.

  20. J says:

    Wow, that’s amazing!
    Supermarkets also have their floors sloped slightly to the back, so you subconsciously go to the back of the building (to see more goods) and to discourage you from going to the tills until you really have to go, making you spend more time inside looking at stuff.

  21. \seasd says:

    hey its true nice!

  22. owac says:

    is not a happy face
    the hands in that possition make the manufacture’s logo to look better … well it was for that reason in a start at least…. now some watches like the one in the picture dosent have the logo under the 12 …

    i dont known if this is advertising or something like that but still.. http://www.snopes.com/business/market/clockhands.asp
    this article explain the 10:10

  23. Me says:

    Kind of strange that the 12 is on the bottom..

  24. Ben Fink says:

    Holy cheetos!

  25. Sara says:

    As graphic design student, I knew this trick, but putting the hands to 10.10 it’s also the best way to show the watch, the eventual background patterns in it and over all to show the brand that practically it’s almost set on the vertical ax of the watch.
    Furthermore, the eye likes symmetry…!

  26. wendy says:

    I like the second one better too

  27. Andy says:

    Actually, they do it so that you can see the manufacturer’s name/logo which, in most cases is under the 12.00 position. I had to photograph about 200 watches for a website that we were building and this is what the company told me.

  28. B. says:

    I really don’t like watches with the numbers up side down – so I would buy the top one :)

  29. Johnny says:

    This is not true. The google search produces a wide variety of watch faces. Upside down watches don’t sell to well maybe…

  30. Mike says:

    I once read this years ago and always look for it these days. A lot of digital watches on display do it too!

  31. Hommy says:

    What is the 12 doing at the bottom of the watch!?!?!

  32. David says:

    Sorry but this was incredibly lame. (I like the new way to comment even tho I love Blogger)

  33. Edgar says:

    I did the search on live search. Ninety percent (90%) of the analog watches were as you say; one of the ones that wasn’t had a background figure with a smiling face.

  34. BraDRoBBo says:

    Well, most of the watches I buy already have batteries in them… so they’d usually tell the right time in the store… or just some random time but the clock is ticking…

  35. Scott says:

    I’ve even seen advertisements where all of the digital watches were set to 10:10 as well.

  36. Asch says:

    The number 4 on most watches and clocks with roman numerals is btw incorrect: It should be IV, not IIII. This is a little trick to make it easier to tell the time (people tend to mix up IV an VI)

  37. Megan says:

    Did no one notice that the “12″ is where the “6″ should be?? But all the other numbers are apparently correct… weird pics…

  38. James Cummins says:


  39. Megan, the “12″ is the date, apparently..

    Plus, i don’t see any reason to show the watch upside down for the ‘sad face’. We could just set the time at 8.20 or 4.40!

    I also agree with the opinion about the brand names.

  40. =) says:

    the “12″ at the bottom of the watch is the date number, not the time number

  41. Cubey says:

    hehe, interresting :D
    nice job :D

  42. (= says:

    BigSmile (=


  43. why 10.10 not 2.50? although i suppose the short hand does look better on the left!

  44. Suzie says:

    I heard they do the same tricks with cars. the headlights are the eyes and the grill is the smile. all psycholigical!

  45. jameswalker85 says:

    I wouldn’t buy either, because they’re numbered wrong. 12 is never at the bottom of the watch!

  46. Robin says:

    Top and bottom pointers are pointing the wrong way.

  47. Anonymous says:

    Amazing- I’ve ALWAYS wondered that. Really!

    And yeah, I would’ve gone for the first watch..

  48. Detective Kitty says:

    lol I would actually buy the first watch it’s interesting how pshcology works

  49. Kilgore says:

    There’s a legend that watch and clock stores set the clocks to 10:10 because that was the time at which Abe Lincoln was shot. Many also used 8:20, same legend. It’s a myth, though, see the Straight Dope article on it:


  50. person says:

    woa! thats cool!

  51. Kyle says:

    Very interesting!

  52. mimi says:

    That’s pretty darn cool, but how is it an illusion? Anyhow, that is really cool!!

  53. samadhi says:

    Well because i read the article before looking at the images, i think they dont have any diference, but it is still cool the efect.

  54. Golfer says:

    Oh mine. That’s true. I searched through images on Google shopping. All analog watches are set to 10:10.

  55. ash ketchum says:

    not really an illusion stupid person
    and the “person” above is stupid

  56. Care Bear says:

    The new site is great. I always knew there was something subliminal about the placement of the hands on watches in ads. Thanx for clearing that up.

  57. TK22 says:

    I wonder why that happens. That is very kool, though.

  58. Tyler89 says:

    Clocks are sets on 10:10 to make the brand visible that is usually in the upper half of the watch… and to make smiling watches of course ;D

  59. anonymous says:

    i cant believe ive never noticed that

  60. Pesto says:

    That is not why they do the 10:10 “trick.”

    The simple reason is because in MOST cases, the name of the watch maker is over the center point of the watch face. So putting the hands at 10:10 simply frames the name.

    Of course, it became a “convention” so that even if the name is below the center point, the watch image is still pointing at 10:10.

    It’s not to make you think that the watch is smiling or happy to see you.

    Also, for the majority of watch displays in stores, the watches are active, so they just tell the time. Otherwise, you may end up buying a broken watch, or the jeweler would have to open the watch up and put in a battery (unless it was a wind-up or self-winding).

    Where you do see the 10:10 is on any watch print ad.

  61. God says:

    this is amazingly cool

  62. Gouri says:

    OMG!!! SOOOOO cool! I would buy the smilin’ one.

  63. winfield says:

    with that 12 on it kinda decieving

  64. AliceIgnis says:

    wow, I’ve never noticed it!
    You are right: The “smiling” watch seems more “pleasant” to me :)
    And I’ve googled it. It really is 10:10 in most cases

  65. Rach says:

    hahaha why would anyone ever even think of that! But if it actually works then well done to whoever came up with the idea!

  66. Gabriele Bonamini says:

    In fact, 10:10 is the standard position if you want to display all the main watch features: brand name, day/date (usually at 3, 4, 9 or 12 postion), possible special features like “automatic”, “officially certified chronometer”, or simply “swiss made”. No smiling position intended.

  67. Tristan says:

    Hmmm… but do they ever set the watch to 01:50??

  68. fàbio says:

    Dude! That’s insane! Go to http://www.rolex.com and look around for pictures, every single one is ‘smiling’!!!

  69. YAY says:

    its not that its when timex started making watches they did the so u could see the company name better…

  70. Angel says:

    yes i’ve searched and 90% use the smiling trick and i would buy the smiling one! But the watch is funny because the 12 is supposed to be at the top and the other numbers are like I,II,III…etc. and not like 1,2,3…etc, like the 12 is!

  71. Illusionist says:

    OMG you’re right! that’s awesome! how could your friend found out?

  72. amanda says:

    i think the sad face looks like a peace sign!

  73. Erikko says:

    Umm, i wouldn’t buy either, because the numbers are in the wrong place…

  74. littleladygoldie says:

    wow! ur right! i actually googled it! =D

  75. Someone says:

    wow, what ppl think these days…
    i don’t see them smiling…it takes a lot of imagination to see a watch’s feelings, and i absolutely don’t care about them
    and i don’t like the watch that’s shown here anyway, it’s ugly

  76. knowledge is full says:

    All shi taking, observation is good but watches are kept on 10:10 because of other reason.

    if you look at watches on ads, u will see that they are as below
    Hour hand (near to number 2)
    Minute hand (at number 10)
    second hand (at number 7)

    this is to denote that the world stopped when the atomic bombs hit nagasaki and hirosima at japan during world war II. (due the M*****F***** americans)

    google it not for fun bet for knowledge

  77. Jakesteed says:

    actually it was done as a tribute…..president lincoln was shot at 10:10pm

  78. eskii says:

    Watching making at it’s peak is a precise art. This is done to display symmetry or proper balance to both sides of the watch face. Expensive Swiss watches that display Roman Numerals also represent the 4 as IIII rather than IV for the similar reason. IV is too thin against VIII.

  79. RJ says:

    I would buy the happy one because the numbers aren’t upside-down.

  80. jon says:

    Another reason for the 10:10 is so all the watches in a catalogue would show the same time. Buyers thought they looked broken when they all showed different times.

  81. MattK says:

    Hi, nice article and watches. A lot of interesting stuff.

  82. Alex says:

    This isn’t true. The hands are in that position because they don’t cover the manufacurer’s logo.

  83. Janet says:

    i agree with alex, its so you can see the name of the watch! my brother in law did advertising for Timex in the 80′s and was told the time “10 minutes before 2″ was so you could see the Timex name!!

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