The time of an event doesn't happen at the time it was said. Usually the clock or watch is off.
The event either happen early or later, but the characters don't notice until quite after the event. In mysteries, such a discrepancy can make or break an alibi.
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Anime and Manga
- In the very first mystery of The Kindaichi Case Files, Kindaichi manipulates a suspect's watch to get said suspect to reveal themselves. Many other mysteries are also solved when Kindaichi realizes that some sort of clock-based manipulation is in play.
- Also happens occasionally in Case Closed; once, a police officer realized that his roommate was up to no good because he kept all of his clocks 5 minutes fast to make sure he was never late to work, but the roommate reset the clocks to read accurately as part of his plot to fudge with his alibi. (Fortunately, more substantial proof of guilt is also found.)
- In an Archie comic, Big Eater Jughead is in class, and informs the teacher, Miss Grundy, that "his stomach" says its lunchtime. She reminds Jug that the clock on the wall reads 10 before noon. At that moment, the school janitor Mr. Svenson enters the classroom with a ladder. The purpose? To adjust the clock, which he said was running ten minutes slow.
- In The King's Speech, when Bertie comes to tell David that he is late for dinner, David reminds him that their father ordered all the clocks set fast and winds the hands back on a mantle clock by half an hour. According to royal biographers, this is Truth in Television.
- In the film Gremlins, one of the rules for handling mogwai was to never NEVER feed them after midnight (as turns out, it turns them into gremlins). One night the mogwai in the box were making noises like they were hungry. The alarm clock says it's about 11:30, so the boy feeds them some leftover chicken. The next day, the boy notices the clock reading the exact same time. Seems the extension cord had been ripped from the plug, the mogwai actually chewed through the electrical cord, so it was after midnight after all.
- Back to the Future
- Marty is at Doc Brown's house, and thinks he will be on time for school, only to discover all his clocks are a half hour slow.
- Doc Brown proves to Marty that the time machine works by syncronizing watches with a digital clock he attaches to his dog, then sending the dog one minute into the future. When the dog shows up again, his clock is a minute slower than Doc's.
- In Like Flint: Cramden discovers the plot to replace the President with an Evil Twin when he times the President's golf swing and his watch says it took 3 minutes.
- In Primer, Abe suspects that the Box is a time machine, and he confirms this by placing a digital watch inside it for a minute. Upon removing the watch, it's about 21 hours fast.
- In the film Mindhunters, the heroine re-sets the clock so the villain will misjudge when he's due to strike again. This also played on the villain's obsession with precise timing. She knew that he would reset the clock to the correct time, which would cause the phosphorous powder she coated it with to get on his hands, allowing him to be exposed by a special light.
- Around the World in Eighty Days: At first it looks like Phileas Fogg came a day late and lost the bet, but then he notices the date in the newspaper and realizes that, since they crossed the International Date Line, they had gained a day and still on time.
- The book 1984 plays with this idea. The main character looks at the clock which reads 8:00. He thinks it's still 8 pm, but instead it was actually 8 am.
- Happens in some Agatha Christie stories, notably Evil Under the Sun, where a watch worn by a witness is deliberately altered to give the murderer an alibi and allow him to stage a fake murder so that the victim appears to have been killed before she really was.
- In Murder on the Orient Express, the broken watch also appears - and Poirot points out that the killer wants him to think that the murder happened at that time.
- There's also an example revolving around the clocks going back in one of the Black Widowers mysteries, where a character is woken up by a phone call at a time that is actually an hour later than he thinks it is (because he hasn't yet set his clock forward for Daylight Savings Time) and thus unwittingly provides a false alibi.
- In another Black Widowers story, a discrepancy between "ten minutes before six" (which would exonerate the accused) and "half past five" (which incriminates him) is resolved in favor of the former — the witness reporting the latter was an accountant used to decimal numbers who unconsciously interpreted the digital clock display "5:50" as "five and a half".
- The Lord Peter Wimsey novel Have His Carcase has a discrepancy that's based on medical evidence rather than timepieces. Harriet finds the body of the victim with still-liquid blood pooled around it; then the body is washed out to sea before it can be autopsied. Peter and Harriet spend most of the book assuming the murder happened almost immediately before she found the body, because the blood didn't have time to clot; in actuality, the victim was a hemophiliac and the murder happened several hours earlier.
- Meanwhile, Harriet is working on a novel where someone has to set a clock to support an alibi. And finding it frustrating.
- A vital part of the solution to John Dickson Carr's The Hollow Man. The reported time of the second murder is so far off that it took place before the first murder, and the victim of the first murder was the killer.
Live Action Tv
- Shows up as a common contradiction in the Ace Attorney series. In fact, it shows up in the first case of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, when witness Frank Sahwit claims the time of the murder was at 1:00 when it was actually 4:00. Given that he's the real killer, the discrepancy is because the murder weapon was a talking clock that was off by several hours at the time of the murder.