Rolex Designers Are Stupid and Don’t Know Roman Numerals

Rolex has rolled out a new watch that costs over $20,000. But there’s a small flaw with the design:
What? You didn’t see it? Let me help:

Would you spend thousands of dollars to show the world that you’re illiterate? This is what you would expect to see on a cheap knockoff bought on the street corner, not the original.
We need an FMT: a Fucking Moron Tax. It would be 100% of the value of the offending item, plus an additional 50% for making everyone else’s brain hurt.

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33 Responses to Rolex Designers Are Stupid and Don’t Know Roman Numerals

  1. Russell says:

    I’m sorry to spill beer on your rant, but that is long, long tradition on clock faces. There are a variety of web pages on that, such as this one:
    It’s still pretty damned stupid to spend $20,000 on a watch. But if you’re going to do that, why not spend it on one with a traditional face?

  2. Navin says:

    An ancient Roman would see nothing wrong with iiii on the Rolex…

  3. garine says:

    The use of IIII on watches is very common. (Search on Amazon for watches + roman, you’ll see many examples.) There are many explanations as to why this is true, probably has something to do with not confusing IV with VI (though IX and XI are usually printed as proper, but as you see in the watch in your example, XI is frequently obliterated anyway). Not that I’m a supporter of Rolex, or stupidity, but they (Rolex, and maybe rich people?) are not at fault here. Whether there’s a larger question as to the original adoption of that convention, I don’t know.

  4. Colst says:

    Just about every clock or watch that uses roman numerals uses IIII for 4. It’s not a mistake.

  5. Navin says:

    When do Russell and I get our individual cuts of the FMT?

  6. Michael Schmidt says:

    What was it that Lucy Van Pelt used to say? “I’m never so stupid as when I’m trying to be smart?”

  7. Eric Lund says:

    Whether there’s a larger question as to the original adoption of that convention, I don’t know

    Isaac Asimov had a theory (also shown at the Wikipedia link) that IV was often avoided because it is the first two letters of Jupiter. In Roman times there was no distinction between I and J, or between U and V.
    But I agree that the real stupidity is spending $20k on a watch. This is definitely a move for somebody with more dollars than sense.

  8. 6EQUJ5 says:

    There are no universal rules for Roman numerals, and there never were. Rules vary from place to place and from time to time. Some people think there is a single rule set, but when they find contradictions they insist reality is wrong and their theory is right, a good prescription for misery.
    One of the nice things about place notation is that the rules are pretty much generally understood and agreed, and the same principles hold for decimal, hexadecimal, octal, and binary.

  9. Dave Munger says:

    But it also uses “I” for 11. I’m pretty sure that’s not a tradition. Yes, I realize they needed the space for the day of the week, but I’m just sayin’

  10. Hadyn says:

    There is still a mistake on the watch.
    If you look to the left of Monday you’ll see an I at the 11 o’clock position (corresponding with an I at the one o’clock position to the right of “Monday”.
    It should be an X for XI. Unless the designers were going to put IIIIIIIIIII 🙂

  11. Hadyn says:

    Stupid slow typing… “Snap” Dave.

  12. Karen says:

    The I in the 11 o’clock position, like the I in the 1 o’clock position, are probably ornamental brackets for the day name bar. The IIII balances the VIII visually across the watch face better than IV would. C’mon, folks, if you’re going to have the balls to charge $20K for a watch, you’re probably going to have a designer worry about these thing — to salve your conscience, if nothing else. 🙂
    In fact, it is a nice-looking watch. I’d pay, oh, 20 bucks for it!

  13. Scott Belyea says:

    Fucking Moron Tax.

    For your personal convenience, I believe they accept checks and all major credit cards. Pay now, and you’ll avoid the additional Arrogant SOB Levy …

  14. Paul Markovich says:

    Are you honestly that arrogant that you think a world leader in watchmaking, with probably dozens of designers, would overlook something that you could notice on a cursory glance?
    I like you blog, but come one! It wouldn’t kill you be a little modest, especially in areas that aren’t biology.
    Here are a bunch of alternative hypothesis.
    1. It’s unique, and sparks visual interest.
    2. It’s valid, although rare.
    3. It balances the VIII much more nicely then an IV. (Its balance is actually quite beautiful)
    4. Considering the numerals aren’t upright, it helps the wearer avoid confusing the IV a nd VI.
    5. The III is replaced by the date indicator, thus freeing the design of repetition. If the III WAS there, the face would look utterly cluttered with Is.

  15. Barn Owl says:

    You’re not stupid…you’re just not a rich bastard with the money to blow on Rolex watches or Antiques Roadshow-worthy mantel clocks with posh Roman numerals.
    Our 1960s vintage sunburst wall clock was soooo cheap that it had no numerals of any sort on its face. But then we lived in a cardboard box, and were thankful for it.

  16. Tex says:

    Is arrogant of me to think that a world leader in watch making, with probably dozens of designers would overlook putting the numerals right-side up? They are oriented to be read from the center of the watch, and who the hell does that? This makes the V’s upside down and puts the I’s on the wrong side of the V’s and X’s at 6,7,8, and 9 o’clock.
    If they can’t get something as simple as the face right, how the hell can you trust them to get the parts hidden inside right?
    And although little modesty in areas that aren’t biological probably wouldn’t kill me either, I don’t see any reason to start now.

  17. peter says:

    I once had someone explain to me why they owned a $50,000 watch. his rationalization was that if he were lost somewhere in the world, and had lost everything else, he could sell the watch for a way home.
    my response was to ask him if he thought that anyone who would relieve him of everything else he had would leave him with the watch…
    and as other people have noted, both forms of the 4 are valid, and the IIII form may predate. see here

  18. Graculus says:

    Is arrogant of me to think that a world leader in watch making, with probably dozens of designers would overlook putting the numerals right-side up?
    Yes, because theat’s not the way *you* read a watch, either. In fact the numbers are superfuous. Anyone who knows how to read a watch can read it without numbers (or even markings) at all.
    It’s the beauty of analog.

  19. headsign says:

    the hell…I hate roman numerals!

  20. bad Jim says:

    Fun with Roman numerals: how do you write 1999? I liked “MIM”, but I think it was normally “MCMXCIX”.

  21. Tex says:

    You Rolex apologists are just like the creationists. Things make sense to you only if you ignore reality.
    First, you defend their inability to follow Roman numeral convention (modern, if not ancient) and if there is any ambiguity, why use an outdated and worthless numerical system in the first place? Then, you justify their inability to even orient the numerals correctly by treating them as merely symbols. To paraphrase one of your favorite celebrities, “Symbols have meaning.” Finally, it is clear that they charge waaay too fuckin’ much for a timepiece that merely tells you how late you are for a meeting.
    Emperor Rolex has no clothes, but with so many apologists like you, it is no wonder that an idiot like Mike Huckabee is doing well in the primaries tonight.

  22. mark says:

    The watch shows a time of about 10 and a half minutes past 10 O’clock, nearly 1/10 of the way to 11:00. Is the little hand moved far enough past X? It should be about 36 degrees past the straight-to-X position.

  23. Turcano says:

    I see IIII on clocks with Roman numerals all the time. In fact, before I looked under the fold, I thought you were referring to the use of “I” for 11.

  24. Sean says:

    “Finally, it is clear that they charge waaay too fuckin’ much for a timepiece that merely tells you how late you are for a meeting.”
    Why are you so angry?

  25. Sean says:

    First, you defend their inability to follow Roman numeral convention (modern, if not ancient)
    As pointed out in the FIRST comment on your post: Using “IIII” instead of “IV” is a standard watch and clockmaking convention, and has been for hundreds of years. Rolex did not make it up, they are following tradition.
    For example, check the dial on this clock tower:
    On the plus side, your total ignorance regarding the history of watchmaking has been balanced perfectly with your loud, angry and aggressive style of writing. It’s the perfect way to mask that you completely have your facts backwards.

  26. Kitteh says:

    shoulda double checked your facts with Rolex…
    apparently your Swatch doesn’t have roman numerals on it…

  27. kitteh says:

    Rolex watch……$20K
    Blog hosting…..$10
    Beating a dead horse… priceless

  28. timeman says:

    ummm.. if you know ur rolex then will know this!

  29. Bob says:

    Are you sure you want that fucking moron tax now?

  30. Jake the "MAN" says:

    Ahh, the beauty of blogging. Bored morons with nothing better to do regularly take it upon themselves to generate really stupid commentary about things they know absolutely nothing about. This used to happen at the bar, to be enjoyed by a handful of close friends. Now, thanks to the internet, the whole world gets to enjoy the fun!
    The fucking moron tax is having a payday right here.

  31. Joon says:

    But I agree that the real stupidity is spending $20k on a watch.
    Says who? You? Who the fuck are you? If someone has that much to spend on a watch and wants to, who are *you* to judge? Better they spend the money than not. Keep it churning and working, and don’t forget the tax (sales, VAT or whatever) paid on it. Should Rolex employees be kicked to the curb because they dare create a product beyond your abilities, needs or desires?
    My personal tastes run to more nerdy, gadgety type watches (, but if someone wants a Rolex, well bully for them. Why should I care?

  32. rook says:

    The author is dumb. Do a google images search and look up “roman numerals clock” and you will see that every clock has it done in this matter, not just Rolex. Maybe get out a horology book and learn something before making an uneducated blog post.

  33. Franz says:

    It’s all about balance. four times I, four times V, four times X. The sad thing however, is that the charm is broken because the day/date is removing some digits.

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