I got an old wall clock. I'm not at all a clock expert and I would like to know more about its real age.

It has a date engraved in its wood: 18/III 07. I assume that this is finishing-date and 18 is the day and III is the month. Now the 07 is most likely 1907, or maybe it is 1807. I assume the clock has its origin in central Europe. Germany, Austria or France, maybe Switzerland.

When did people stop, in let's say in Germany and France, to write dates with roman month numbers?

UPDATE 2013-01-12 (or 12/I 2013 ;-) ): After having the (real-life)-feedback of a knowing person: The watch might be from the early 19th century regarding the clockwork mechanics (wooden plates are keeping the gears in place, instead of metal plates as done in newer clockworks). The date is most likely not the construction date, but a repair date as it can be found regularly. So 1907 is the most likely.


People all over Europe still customarily use Roman numerals to write months, whatever ISO standards say.

What may be of interest to you I've tried to find an example of such format, including the unusual single slash. It did not seem German-like (they usually prefer dots over slashes), but I've found letters from Marc Chagall http://books.google.com/books?id=WXI6K9vPLfkC&pg=PA347 that use 28/XII 928 to refer to 28 December 1928. Looks similar to your date.


Part 1: Assuming dating relating to clocks

First of all, there probably still are clocks made with Roman numerals or what not these days. The thing is, there's no law specifying that people have to make or not make clocks with Roman numerals. The best one can do is estimate when doing such a thing began to go out of fashion. For example, here is a link of a 1903 clock using Roman Numerals.

However, this link appears to be the best source I can find, and it indicates that Arabic Numerals have been commonly used as the hour even since the 1800s. However, this is only the case with longcase clocks (grandfather clocks), and is probably not your wall clock. If you visit the main page of the site, and click on the clocks tab, it lets you see various older clocks. Just glancing at them, one can see the majority of them use Roman Numerals.

If one visits the Wikipedia page on Arabic Numerals, it is quite clear that clocks using Arabic Numerals have existed since the 1500s, but again, there is no authoritative evidence that by x year, people started mostly using Arabic Numerals. However, I would say that it's a safe bet to say that most clocks began to transition into Arabic Numerals by the 1900s. On the other hand, you are asking for clock dates, which is rather more specific and narrow, and I could not find an answer to such. My guess, (as that's all I can find,) would be a similar time period, in the 1900s.

In conclusion, or read this if you're too lazy to read the rest, I think that the year that the Roman numeral clock dates started going out of fashion would be approximately the 1900s. However, there is not one authoritative source on this information, so this is mostly based on information on clock numbers.

Part 2: Assuming dating in general

According to this link, Roman numerals have been out of use mathematically for 1100 years, but not in years. On this site, it is very clear that Arabic numerals began to be used in 1500s. According to this site, which may not be as credible, the Roman numerals began to go out of fashion commonly from the 1000s to the 1500s. However, as is emphasized, on official documents and whatnot, Roman numerals were still used on date until very recently. Dates on clocks would probably fit in the category of later used Roman numerals.

However, this link would suggest that they are still being used today on clocks and dates etc. Since this source is slightly more credible than WikiAnswers, I will go with this. The Wikipedia article also suggests this, stating that

In the 14th century, Roman numerals were largely abandoned in favor of Arabic numerals; however, they are still used to this day for things such as numbered lists or outlines, clock faces, numbering of pages preceding the main body of a book, successive political leaders or people with identical names, chords in music, some copyright dates, and the numbering of certain annual events.

Thus, Roman numerals are still in use today, although not commonly.


  • 2
    I don't believe that the OP is interested in the use of Roman numerals on clock faces. He's asking about their use in date representations. The presence of the clock in his question is mostly incidental. Nov 26 '12 at 14:22
  • 2
    @coleopterist Hahaha, you could be correct. If I have time, I'll go back and edit to answer it that way. Nov 26 '12 at 14:34
  • As @coleopterist points out, the part about the clock is just the background. My question only concerns the syntax of dates and not dates in clocks.
    – Patrick B.
    Nov 27 '12 at 12:06
  • @PatrickB. Does Part 2 answer your question, though? Nov 27 '12 at 12:13

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