Calling time on anti-LGBTQ+ bigotry

Who: Fondation Émergence, with Havas Montréal for strategy and creative, Tök Communications for PR.

What: “The 54-Second Watch,” a new initiative to raise awareness about how violence and discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community shortens lives and steals time from LGBTQ+ individuals. The six missing seconds represent the six colours of the Pride flag.

When & Where: The campaign debuted today (May 17), the 20th annual International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. It is being translated into more than 20 languages for amplification by organizations around the world, with creative assets that include video, posters, print, digital and radio. The centrepiece is a symbolic handmade watch whose “minute” lasts only 54 seconds. There is also a dedicated website at

Why: According to Fondation Émergence, the lifespan of those in the LGBTQ+ community can be adversely affected by a variety of discriminatory factors, ranging from the physical, to psychological, sexual, institutional, medical and economic. It says that young lesbians, gays and bisexuals are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual counterparts, while 4,042 trans persons were murdered around the word between 2008 and 2021. “Part of the brief was to draw attention to the unacceptable violence that continues against [the LGBTQ+ community],” said Havas ECD Carle Coppens.

The ultimate goal is to get signatories for a petition asking the United Nations and its member states to officially recognize May 17 as International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. Fondation Émergence said that UN adoption of the day would be a “major and unprecedented turning point” for the LGBTQ+ community on the world stage.

How: The ticking heart of the campaign is a watch created by Mélanie Guillaume, an adjunct scientist at Haute École Arc in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. Each minute on the watch lasts just 54 seconds, with each of the six subtracted seconds representing a colour on the Pride Flag (see the video explaining how the watch was made here).

“It’s a simple and powerful way of showing how the measure of time is changed by your sexual orientation,” said Coppens. “Your life expectancy is not the same.”

“When the team at Havas contacted me, I thought, what an intriguing idea and a great cause,” said Guillaume in a release. “But how am I ever going to be able to alter the measure of time? No one had ever willingly created a watch that doesn’t tell the right time.”

Twelve of the watches were created and are being worn by prominent figures including Canadian singer-songwriters Coeur de Pirate and Pierre Lapointe, as well as humourist Katherine Levac and Québec Solidaire party leader Manon Massé. There is also a downloadable version of the watch on the Google Play store.

A series of posters and print ads show how discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community plays out in countries around the world, with pictures of a participant in the Gay Pride Parade in Russia being arrested by riot police, for example, or a woman in Malaysia who was suspected of being a lesbian sentenced to six lashes with a cane. Each poster features the phrase “Every second, intolerance shortens lives,” while copy at the bottom reads “It’s time for it to stop.”

And we quote:“When minutes are only 54 seconds long, time goes faster, years are shorter and lives end far too early. As long as there is violence, we must continue to educate and raise awareness.” — Laurent Breault, director general, Fondation Émergence

Chris Powell