Why Do Watch Dials With Roman Numerals Use “IIII” Rather Than “IV?”

Jim B. from Long Beach, CA asks:

I am just starting into watch collection and over the weekend acquired my first watch with Roman numerals. I noticed that the "4" is " IIII" not "IV". Then looking on line I noticed that just about all watches used "IIII" not "IV". Is there are reason for this?

This is a rather popular question because when people first notice them it is confusing. No, watch makers didn't make a mistake and include the wrong Roman Numeral on the dial. "IIII" has been used instead of "IV" on dials for several hundred years actually. It is really a matter of aesthetics and visual symmetrical balance. Someone a long time ago, noticed that using that for 4 o'clock not only made a dial look visually better, but helped legibility when looking at the dial from different angles. It is called a "watchmaker's four," and it's used for those reasons.

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