Why is the 4 o’clock roman number of my watch represented with 4 sticks (IIII) when the correct number is IV?

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Why is the 4 o’clock roman number of my watch represented with 4 sticks (IIII) when the correct number is IV?

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The “correct” roman number is IV, but the IIII is also applicable and accepted. Several explanations are possible as to the reason for this interpretation of the roman figure. One thing is sure: it has been like this for more than 4 centuries. One reason is because half of the numbers are upside down, since they follow the edge of the clock face round. You can get IV and VI muddled up when they are the right way up. It is even worse when they are upside down. Another, historical reason, is that in the sixteenth and seventeenth century, most of the population could not read their own language let alone a foreign one. Time was displayed mainly on public monuments like churches, temples and towers. It was then easier for people to count four sticks rather than make mistakes reading a strange figure. Finally, it could also be seen simply to come from a decorative point of view as the IIII balances well with the VIII opposite.

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