What's the story with roman numerals on dials?
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  1. #1
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    What's the story with roman numerals on dials?

    This has recently been intriguing me.

    The 4 on a watch dial is marked as IIII yet when we learnt about Roman numerals in school we were taught it should be IV, and nine should be IX. And of course on a watch or clock you get IX as 9.

    Is this purely an aesthetic thing?

  2. #2
    Member Shum's Avatar
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    Re: What's the story with roman numerals on dials?

    To be honest I don't know if there is a correct answer to this but here are some ideas about it.
    FAQ: Roman IIII vs. IV on Clock Dials
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    Re: What's the story with roman numerals on dials?

    Beat me to the link.

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    Re: What's the story with roman numerals on dials?

    It happens.

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    Re: What's the story with roman numerals on dials?

    This is something that bugs me a lot in anime; they always do the 4 on clocks and watches as IV.
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    Re: What's the story with roman numerals on dials?

    this is fascinating. ahh history.

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    Member AZchron's Avatar
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    Re: What's the story with roman numerals on dials?

    When you look at production of Elgin Pocket watches alone numbering into quantities of multiple millions, the add in the other multiple millions of other timepieces produced, many using the IIII instead of IV, just based on sheer volume alone, it's possible that the early Romans were just plain mistaken ...

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    Re: What's the story with roman numerals on dials?

    but, for the number 4 the ancient Romans used IIII
    The reason probably was religious . Keep in mind the fact that in ancient Latin (ie: 2000 years ago), the language (and the carvers who make statues) used what we would recognize as a "V" for "U" and "I" for what we now call "J."
    The name of the Roman god Jupiter, when written in Latin, begins with IV, and it seems that it would have been considered blasphemous to use it as a mere number.
    regards enrico
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    Re: What's the story with roman numerals on dials?

    I had to scroll through a LOT of topics after searching for "IIII IV"...

    Quote Originally Posted by Shum View Post
    To be honest I don't know if there is a correct answer to this but here are some ideas about it.
    FAQ: Roman IIII vs. IV on Clock Dials
    That link is dead, btw.

    Anyway, I think the "IIII" is for aesthetics, as was probably mentioned in the now-deceased link. It's also an old design decision, used in the earliest marine chronometers and pocket watches.

    I'm mainly posting to put up a couple pics. The 145-year-old chronometer is at the Smithsonian Air & Space Musem, and is very similar to earlier models on exhibit (closed to photography) at the Folger Library up the street. The wall clock is at a deli/dry cleaners nearby. I gotta say, the wall clock's "IV" looks a lot clumsier than the traditional "IIII".
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  11. #10
    Member b.r.us302's Avatar
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    Re: What's the story with roman numerals on dials?

    i wasn't curious about this question (IIII vs IV) however, i accidentally ran into this exact issue quasi-explained by Christie's Watch Shop: Patek Philippe, Ref. 5035G on youtube. i was researching this watch and the guy on the video explained it was due to symmetry why they used IIII rather than IV. however the ref. 5035 doesn't use IIII but IV which is the correct way to write the roman numeral IV, so go figure...
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