Photograph by Mathias Konrath
“Perhaps I don’t know how to count in Roman figures,” said the reporter.
“You know that well enough, but watchmakers use different ones. Look at your watch. See the figure which stands for 4 o’clock.”
The reporter looked and was surprised. It was IIII instead of IV.”
— ‘The Railway Conductor’, 1889.
A watchmaker revises
the existence of IV.
He reinvents the numerals,
rewinds to 800 B.C and grips some Roman boy
by the throat,
directs his shaking hand
to scratch a line through IV.
Twist your wrist,
scan the dial,
and settle at four o’clock.
An afternoon hour when the sun drips
like hot wax below the horizon,
when lunch has long digested
and the mind wanders to dinnertime.
And the smaller hand points to
A watchmaker seeks symmetry.
He orchestrates the face
like a conductor
constructing an ensemble of twelve hours.
IV is a wrong note
scrubbed from the stave
by a pleasing set of four quavers
A watchmaker is a surgeon
restoring a vintage piece.
with steady hands to stitch a strap,
and straighten the fracture in the minute hand.
He works from nine to five,
a spring in his step
as the hour crawls