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Getting an Apple Watch? I Bet I Can Tell The Time.

JD Miller, PhD 47

As the world awaits Apple’s September 14th product launch, there are a lot of questions folks have about the iWatch Series 7. Will it have a bigger display? Upgraded connectivity? A battery life boost?

We’ll have to wait for the 10am Pacific event time to find out. But one thing I suspect I already know about the release?

The watch will be set to 10:09.

It’s a marketing tradition dating back for decades of watch releases. Rolex watches are generally pictured at 10:10:31, while Tag Heuer uses 10:10:37. And whether you’re a high-end seller, or a bargain basement manufacturer, chances are you’re photographing your product at a mid-morning time.

There are a few reasons this has become an industry standard. First, there’s something beautiful when the hands of a watch make a right angle; it’s even more beautiful when they split top of the face symmetrically.

Apple Watch Series 2 Launch — showing a watch set to 10:09
Apple Watch Series 2 Launch — via apple.com

Yes, there’s a similar symmetry to be had at other times of day, but for those who are accustomed to finding faces in inanimate objects, photographers would much rather put forth a smiling 10:10 watch than a frowning 7:20.

We also know there are other subliminal messages that the tech giant would want to steer clear of three hours earlier, at 4:20.

The classic 10:10 watch setting also tends to use the watch hands to frame a brand name or logo — which is traditionally centered on the top of a watch dial. Most ad agencies would avoid obscuring their client’s brand name at all costs — steering away from 12 noon, or 6:00.

It’s no surprise, then, that when the first Apple Watch was unveiled in September 2015, those smiling, right-angled hands were set to a familiar time. Nor was it a surprise to see the same for the Series 2, Series 3, Series 4, Series 5, or Series 6.

Nike Apple Watch 6, set to 10:09 on a digital display
The Nike-Branded Digital Apple Watch 6

When we look closely at ads showing Apple Watches with digital readouts — who have no cumbersome hands to deal with — we continue to see a preference for this mid-morning time setting. However, looking just a bit more closely, we notice that Apple has chosen a minute earlier — setting their watches at 10:09 — perhaps as a subtle indicator that they are just slightly ahead of all of their competition.

Curiously, this adherence to 10:09 doesn’t carry across to iPhone marketing, where 9:41 tends to be a more frequently-used number. IPhone fanatics report that this is the time when the original iPhone was announced by Steve Jobs in 2007 — though I’ve also seen the product photographed at 12:24.

Perhaps in a subliminal suggestion that it’d make a great Christmas gift?

Whatever the time, I’ll be anxious to see what new and exciting features we can expect from Cupertino this year.