Let's debunk these watch myths...
If you’ve ever looked at an advertisement for a watch, you may have noticed that the hands of the watch are always set to 10:10. People who have observed this detail have speculated and caused a great stir in the watch world in recent years concerning the reason behind the specific time. Is it default factory setting? Is it to memorialize Abraham Lincoln? Or perhaps it has something to do with the atomic bomb in Hiroshima? We"ll straighten out a few watch myths here and get to the real reason.
Default factory setting
False. On most quality watches, there is no default setting. The reason for this is that the hands are applied manually by a watchmaker, rather than being generated by a machine. There is no great machine progenitor of watches that spits out every watch with a predetermined time.
Another reason put forth by some very creative conspiracy theorists is that watches are set to 10:10 to memorialise the time of death of Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, or Martin Luther King Jr. While such a memorialisation would be a grand gesture, and for some reason it has become a popularly believed notion, it is, again, false. Lincoln was shot at 10:15 PM (and he didn’t die until the following day), and the deaths of JFK and MLK Jr. did not occur even close to the time.
This is also an interesting and somewhat shocking theory. Some people suggests that the watch hands are set in remembrance of when an atomic bomb was dropped on either Nagasaki or Hiroshima, and the memorialisation is to pay tribute to the casualties. This would be a strange way to memorialise the victims, and besides, "The Fat Man" bomb was dropped at 11:02.
Enough of the theories, you say? Fine. Let's get down to the real reason.
The positioning of the watch hands is actually for simple, aesthetic reasons. The 10:10 position introduces several benefits:
1) The logo of the watch, usually in the center of the dial can be nicely framed by the hands
2) Symmetrical arrangement of the hands makes the product more appealing
3) The hands are not overlapping, so you can see every little detail.
4) All elements on the dial (such as date, window etc.) are fully visible.
And there you have it. Sorry conspiracy theorists, there is no shocking truth to be revealed. The 10:10 settings are a simple matter of beauty and marketing.
Fun fact: The default position used to be 8:20 (10:10 but reversed) - but was later flipped to make the watch "smile" rather than frown. There are theories that customers are more likely to buy a "happy" watch but no real studies have been made to back those statements.