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By on June 3, 2009, with 86 Comments

Smiling watch 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!

Sad watch 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?

  • bismuth

    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

  • jm

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

  • cody

    i google checked and most were 10 10 thats so wierd

  • Pascale

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

  • Craig

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

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Vitaly-Chizhov/1245845202 Vitaly Chizhov

    It’s like smile.

  • Joe

    Wow this is cool and it works

  • Lain

    Wow, that actually make sense!

  • R. Nair

    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?

  • Jessica

    Probably fake though

  • Not much of an ilusion, but good point!

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

  • Not much of an ilusion, but good point!

    Just look at the flower watches ad ;P

  • Stan Wilson

    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.

  • Xeridanus

    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.

  • Elvenstar

    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.

  • MR Winkie

    oh thats weird

  • ozwald

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

  • sena

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

  • lolo

    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.

  • Chris

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

  • J

    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.

  • \seasd

    hey its true nice!

  • owac

    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

  • Me

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

  • Ben Fink

    Holy cheetos!

  • Sara

    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…!

  • wendy

    I like the second one better too

  • http://www.redcatmedia.co.uk Andy

    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.

  • B.

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

  • Johnny

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

  • Mike

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

  • Hommy

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

  • David

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

  • Edgar

    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.

  • BraDRoBBo

    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…

  • Scott

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

  • Asch

    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)

  • Megan

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

  • James Cummins


  • http://www.inout.gr Andreas, Cyprus

    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.

  • =)

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

  • Cubey

    hehe, interresting :D
    nice job :D

  • (=

    BigSmile (=


  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Shelley-Morris/515565102 Shelley Morris

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

  • Suzie

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

  • jameswalker85

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

  • Robin

    Top and bottom pointers are pointing the wrong way.

  • Anonymous

    Amazing- I’ve ALWAYS wondered that. Really!

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

  • Detective Kitty

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

  • Kilgore

    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:


  • person

    woa! thats cool!

  • Kyle

    Very interesting!

  • http://gmail.com mimi

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

  • samadhi

    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.

  • Golfer

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

  • ash ketchum

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

  • Care Bear

    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.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jamie-Kenny/592059901 Jamie Kenny


  • TK22

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

  • http://tyler89.deviantart.com/ Tyler89

    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

  • anonymous

    i cant believe ive never noticed that

  • http://www.tequipment.net Pesto

    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.

  • God

    this is amazingly cool

  • Gouri

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

  • winfield

    with that 12 on it kinda decieving

  • AliceIgnis

    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

  • Rach

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

  • Gabriele Bonamini

    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.

  • Tristan

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

  • fàbio

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

  • YAY

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

  • Angel

    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!

  • Illusionist

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

  • amanda

    i think the sad face looks like a peace sign!

  • Erikko

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

  • littleladygoldie

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

  • Someone

    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

  • knowledge is full

    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

  • http://espn.com Jakesteed

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

  • eskii

    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.

  • http://sosblogs.com lucy


  • RJ

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

  • jon

    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.

  • MattK

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

  • Alex

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

  • Janet

    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!!