“How is it that two unrelated watches have the same figure four? How do nearly all vintage watches have it?”
“How is it that two unrelated watches have the same figure four? How do nearly all vintage watches have it?”

https://www.typography.com/fonts/decimal/design-notes

Watch lettering is printed through tampography, a technique in which ink is transferred first from an engraved plate to a spongy, dumpling-shaped silicone pad, and from there onto the convex dial of a watch. To reproduce clearly, a letterform needs to overcome the natural tendencies of liquid ink or enamel held in suspension: tiny serifs at the ends of strokes can create a larger coastline, to help prevent liquid from withdrawing due to surface tension; wide apexes on characters like 4 and A eliminate the acute angles where liquid tends to pool. In the two watches above, an Omega 30T2 (ref. 2186) and a Universal Genève Aero-Compax (ref. 22414), artists have taken different liberties with the figures 3 and 7, using different approaches to maximize the openness of these forms. But the peculiar figure 4 is identical, with a low crossbar and a wide apex designed to dilate the counter, defending clarity while producing a silhouette that balances comfortably the other numbers on the dial. How is it that two unrelated watches have the same figure four? How do nearly all vintage watches have it?

Roberto Greco
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