Why in some watches the 4 appears written IIII and not IV? (PART I)

Do you remember when they showed you Roman numerals at school? Surely they explained to you that number four was written this way: IV. You would see it if you traveled to London and you would look at Big Ben; However, if you decide to check it without leaving Spain, in the Puerta del Sol clock you will see that number 4 is represented by this number: IIII.

Exactly, four sticks, as we would say more colloquially. Why this difference?The Roman numeral system, derived from that used by the Etruscans, was based on the additive method. I plus I were II, V plus I were VI, and II plus II were IIII.

As time went on they decided to start using the subtractive method, through this system the previous number subtracts its quantity from the next one. In this way, instead of writing 4 as the sum of 2 plus 2 (IIII) was written as the subtraction of 5 minus 1 (IV).Why then has the IIII continued to be used on behalf of 4? There are multiple theories, historical, aesthetic, practical ...

The most widespread is that, according to a compilation of information from the British Watchmaking Institute, it has its origin in aesthetic reasons. The four characters IIII create a visual symmetry with its opposite in sphere VIII, also of four digits, which the IV does not achieve.

To be continued in our next article...

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