Most of us may realize a watch’s character can be attributed to the details on the dial… colour, gems, hour markers, numerals – Arabic or Roman. But how many people are conscious of a special feature of the Roman numeral appliques on dials of quality fake Rolex watches?
In fact, the use of IIII rather than IV is known as the clockmaker’s four, and no single, definitive reason for its use can be found. But one thing is certain: it is far from being a recent convention. The notation IIII was used by the Ancient Egyptians, the Greeks, and later the Etruscans, from whom the Romans adopted it.
It was not until the late Middle Ages that IV came into use. And when the first mechanical clocks were made, between the 13th and early 14th century, IIII was still in common use. As for the reason that it remains today, people often think it is due to the perfect balance it brings to the dial. After all, should modernity ever be allowed to interfere with perfection?