The benefits of putting a smile on your (watch) face

If you’ve ever looked to purchase a traditional watch, (you remember those aspirationally collectable, original items of wearable tech, the kind of thing with a couple of hands which noisily tick around counting out the hours, minutes and seconds, possibly with a little window denoting the date?) you may have noticed that the hands of almost every one on show will be stuck at around ten past ten. Have you ever wondered why?

The answer lies in the power of the smile.

A watch set at 10.10 appears to be ‘smiling’. This partial anthropomorphizing (in which people see objects as having some important human traits, but do not consider the entity as a whole to be human) is also evidenced in car design (‘friendly’ features for family cars and ‘aggressive’ for sports etc) and in logos such as Amazon and Tui. In every instance, the power of the smile conveys positive values i.e. it is an emotional way, and therefore much more immediate method when compared to rational association, of communicating positive performance. In the case of watches, it subliminally messages that the watch will be the consumer’s (almost) constant feel-good companion, always on hand (or should I say wrist), and make them feel ‘happy’ by implying that the watch will never let them down.

The marketers’ appreciation of ‘Smile power’ isn’t a new thing. Although Timex sets its promotional watches to 10.09:36, this was not always the case. Its adverts from the 1950’s displayed 8.20, but were quickly altered as this positioning of the hands was making the watch faces appear downcast with a frown.

Of course, the position of the hands also has other benefits; it leaves the face free at 3 0’clock (the usual position for the date to be displayed), it forms a visually pleasing and balanced appearance as the hands do not overlap and they are seen to ‘embrace’, and draw attention to, the manufacturer’s name at the top of the dial.

The reason Timex set their watches at 10.09:36, and not 6 seconds earlier at 10.09:30, is that the hands would obscure what they refer to as their ‘secondary language’ of features (which include the Indigo Illumination and the water pressure depth). Other brands select fractionally different times; Rolex chooses to display at 10.10:31, TAG Heuer at 10.10:37 and Mondaine plumps for 10.10 exactly, with the Apple Watch, set at 10.09:30 on both its analogue and digital faces. (As a little aside, early iPhone ads always used to show 9.42 am inspired by the fact that this was the time that Steve Jobs first unveiled the phone in California).

In 2008, research carried out by The New York Times revealed that 97 out of the 100 bestselling watches on Amazon were set to roughly 10.10. Further proof, if any were needed, that the smile is a powerful influencer when it comes to encouraging the consumer to make a purchase.

….so that explains the reasoning behind the smiling watch faces but doesn’t explain why, in the Rolex universe, it’s always Monday 28th…..answers on a good old-fashioned postcard please….

Grant Marshall, Creative Director