New to Snapshots, ‘Did you Know’ will feature a more in-depth analysis of horological information that may not be widely known. You are welcome to submit comments or suggest material – please use the “contact’ page.

Using Roman Numerals – IV or IIII on Public Clocks and Notation Styles.

Most people when writing 4 in Roman notation would use IV. However, when using Roman numerals on clocks, invariably the four is written IIII.

There are several theories suggested for this.

  • It visually balances/matches with the VIII on the other side.

  • Dividing the dial into two halves leaves 14 Roman characters on each side.

  • IIII was used historically before IV (on sundials), so it is a valid number.

  • Would not upset the Roman God Jupiter (spelt “IVPPITER”).

  • Clock makers could create all the numerals by using fewer moulds.

  • Easier for the general public to read.

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Kurilpa Library 1929 Clock with IIII at 4.00.

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    Other Observations relevant to dial numbers -

  • The main exception is London’s Big Ben which uses IV.

  • Fob watches follow the IIII pattern.

  • Most early 20th century manual wind car clocks use Arabic numbers.

  • A common notation is for all 12 numbers to be shown by a single stroke of varying width.

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An analysis of the notation style of numbers used on Brisbane and Queensland public clocks in Snapshots, revealed -

Of the 27 Brisbane public clocks, 14 used IIII, 10 used single strokes, two used IV, and one only had Arabic numerals.

Queensland (not including Brisbane) with 32 public clocks listed, showed a different notation pattern. Only 6 clocks used IIII, 20 used single strokes, 6 used Arabic numbers and none used the Roman IV.

Conclusion – of the 59 public clocks surveyed in Snapshots (see graph 'total'), 30 clocks favoured the single stroke format. Queensland (non-   Brisbane) had 62% of their clocks using this format – maybe because these public clocks are generally newer, with the single stroke reducing construction costs. Brisbane City had 38% with single stroke clocks - the main notation format here was IIII (used on 54% of the clocks).

Ipswich PO 1900 clock with 12 single number strokes.

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Fob watch

Car clock

The Role of Watch Makers in Sport, specifically the Melbourne Cup. 

Timing has always been an integral part of sport. The ability to separate winners from losers can be a matter of parts of a second. With $millions on offer, it is not surprising then that many watch companies have been prepared to sponsor major sporting events allowing them to advertise to a world audience.

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The race that “stops a nation”, the Melbourne Cup, is the third richest horse race in the world. With $8 million on offer this year (2021), it has just been run at Flemington. Held on the first Tuesday in November, this day is a public holiday for Melbournians.

In 1876 a chronograph was installed by Thomas Gaunt (1829 – 1890) which could show the time for the race, accurate to a quarter of a second. Thomas came to Australia in 1852 as a qualified jeweller and by 1858 had his own business in Bourke St. He was instrumental in building several turret clocks for town halls, post offices and churches. His main claim to fame though is the clock and Gog and Magog figures in the Royal Arcade. He was the timekeeper of the Victoria Racing Club and would sit in the judge’s box with the chronograph mentioned above. A sister clock can be found at the Kalgoorlie Racing club’s museum – the only two in Australia. In 1885 he built and patented an electric scratching board system. 

A snap from 1896 shows the clock tower in the foreground. The Gaunt chronograph has an inner 30minute dial with the outer dial showing seconds. It is housed today in the Victoria Racing clubhouse.

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The Clock Tower built for the punters in the late 1930’s, is located 150m from the finish line. At 12m tall it provided a vantage point for the chief steward and selected others to watch every race. Whilst passing this point, jockeys were said to spur their horses on to greater effort. In 1996 its height was extended to 15m. In 2020 this heritage listed structure was renovated and repainted with the Longines name.

Longines, has the sponsorship for all racecourses in Australia and is clearly seen displayed on the base of this tower. Large models of Longine watches are also in prominent on Australian racetracks. Associated with the equine industry since 1878 many innovations for the timing of races have been pioneered by Longines.

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The Actual Cup. Only 3 jewellers have made this trophy. Drummonds from 1919 – 1980, Hardy Bros. 1980 – 2015 and finally ABC Bullion with a seven-year contract ending this year 2021. Pre 1919 the trophies were imported English silverware. In 1861 the first Cup race winner was given a gold watch. Since 1919 the Cup’s design has had three handles symbolising the jockey, trainer and owner and sits on a wooden base made of Black Wattle.

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Hardy Bros. produced this cup for 25 years. It was crafted from 44 pieces of hand spun gold taking over 250 hours to produce. Their contract was terminated in 2015 as it was not entirely Australian - the gold came from Germany. Today’s Cup is valued at over $200,000 and is made up of 1.65kg of 18-carat gold from a mine near Bendigo.

James Hardy migrated to Sydney in 1853 and by 1855 had a business selling silverware. He opened shops in Brisbane 1894 and Melbourne in 1918 where he sold quality timepieces (Omega, Breitling, Tag Heuer), traditional and contemporary clocks (supported by a Swiss service division), jewellery trophies and giftware. He is the only Australian jewellery business to hold a Royal Warrant. 

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You may be interested to research the role other watch companies have played in sport.