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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?
 

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

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".
ImageUploadedByTapatalk1437341539.885343.jpg
ImageUploadedByTapatalk1437341613.139549.jpg
 

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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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A few days ago, I posted something about a strange dial on my watch, and was also referring to a Roman IIII instead of a IV. Somewhere towards the end of this thread (page 5 now) and had to admit, that one does never stop learning, including the basics of horology.

http://forums.watchuseek.com/f11/onsa-watch-movement-identification-2064450.html

I even accused the maker of the dial of being in lack of 3rd grade knowledge in view of writing Roman numerals.

There is no 'secret' about this strange 'IIII', no lack of knowledge about the writing of Roman numerals, no religious reasons, no voo doo or anything. It is VERY SIMPLE:

The 'IIII' is called a 'watchmakers four'. The sole reason for this is an improved dial symmetry in line with the VIII on the opposite side. However, not all watch follow this style.

And we wouldn't go as far as stating, that the makers of Rolex watches (and many other brands) don't know how to correctly write Roman numerals, would we?
 

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