Welcome to the first edition of a feature likely to become a regular here at Rambs & Revs — the Say What?
Say What? will be a
rant description of something that exists, but doesn’t make sense. (Insert your own Justin Bieber joke here.) There are a lot more of these things around that we realize, but I’ll try to keep ‘em down to a couple of times a month or so.
Today’s example is a good way to kick off the series: The Watchmaker’s Four.
Ever heard of the Watchmaker’s Four? No? Me neither, until I stumbled across it today. Here’s how it goes:
We’ve all had at least a cursory education in Roman numerals. It’s pretty straightforward that the sequence Paul McCartney counts off at the start of “I Saw Her Standing There” is represented as I, II, III and IV. (Or, in McCartney’s words, “one, two, three, faw!”)
And so it’s been for millennia — I, II, III, IV. But some watchmakers, who produce impressively expensive timepieces made obsolete by the modern cellphone, don’t do it that way. Instead, they use:
I, II, III, IIII.
Say What? IIII?
It makes no logical sense. From a strictly numerical standpoint, it’s flat out wrong
It makes even less sense from a musical standpoint. Instead of McCartney’s “Faw,” Ay-Ay-Ay-Ay gives us Axl Rose’s howl in “Sweet Child O’Mine.” Hardly the same.
So what’s the reason IV it?
There are a number of explanations offered online. One alleges that King Louis XIV (irony alert!) of France insisted to a clockmaker that the correct way to depict the preteen part of his suffix was the now legendary IIII. Seems a trifle apocryphal at best, that one.
Other explanations say it’s a matter of visual balance — the IV on the right side of the clock doesn’t balance with the VIII on the left.
There are other explanations as well, but none well-documented.
All things considered, it’s about as logical as paying thousands of dollars for a watch.