In 1972, Professor Ferdinand “Butzi” Porsche, the visionary behind the legendary Porsche 911, established his own design studio separate from the family carmaking business founded by his grandfather, intending to apply his signature design language to products beyond automobiles. The first and most iconic product to emerge from that studio was a wristwatch, simply called the Chronograph 1, which would prove both influential and enduringly popular and serve as the precursor to other stylish items under the Porsche Design brand, including sunglasses, pens, and mobile devices. This year, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of both the Porsche Design Studio and the Chronograph 1, the company has unveiled a limited-edition timepiece that channels the trendsetting look of the 1972 original, alongside a restored Porsche 911 S 2.4 Targa automobile from the same year that takes aesthetic cues from the watch.
The Porsche Design Chronograph 1 – 1972 Limited Edition is a nearly pitch-perfect replica of the historical model — which is probably best known these days as the watch Tom Cruise sported in the 1986 blockbuster film Top Gun — albeit sacrificing historical verisimilitude for high-tech modernity in several important aspects. Like the original Chronograph 1, which brought elements of car dashboard design to a watch dial in a way that hadn’t been done before and also brought the now-ubiquitous “all black” aesthetic into mainstream watchmaking, the Limited Edition has a matte black case, dial, and bracelet; white, luminous-coated hands and markings on the dial for optimum legibility, a high-contrast red central stopwatch hand; and an anti-glare crystal, here made of hardened sapphire. True to the 1972 model are the typography on the tachymeter scale surrounding the dial as well as for the day and date display at 3 o’clock, and the baton shape of the hands. A vintage “PD” logo appears on the dial, crown, clasp and caseback.
In what areas are the Chronograph 1 Limited Edition different from the piece that inspired it? First off, the 40.8-mm case of the new model, as well as the bracelet, are made of bead-blasted titanium with a black carbide coating rather than the PVD-coated stainless steel of the original. Porsche design was, of course, one of the first manufacturers to use titanium, a tough but lightweight “motorsport-tested” metal, in watchmaking, as early as 1980. Purists might also point out that the original 1972 Chronograph 1, which was made in partnership with Swiss watchmaker Orfina, has that brand’s logo over the day/date window rather than the “PD” emblem.
The most significant departure from the vintage model is, clearly, the new watch’s use of a distinctly modern in-house movement, rather than the workhorse Valjoux 7750. The newly developed Porsche Design Caliber WERK 01.140, from the WERK 01.200 family of automatic movements that Porsche Design began producing in 2017 at its horological workshop in Solothurn, Switzerland, is a COSC-certified chronometer with an integrated chronograph function and a 48-hour power reserve generated by a black chrome-plated “Porsche Icon” rotor. The watch’s black titanium bracelet fastens to the wrist with a fine-adjusting titanium folding clasp.
Accompanying the launch of the watch, which took place today at the start of anniversary celebrations at the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart, Germany, is the unveiling of an impeccably restored Porsche 911 S 2.4 Targa from 1972 (below), a project that teamed the Porsche Design team with their counterparts at Porsche Classic. The car, another classic from the mind and hands of Butzi Porsche, features a host of historical elements, including the use of black Sport-Tex checkered flag upholstery, and is embossed with “50 Years of Porsche Design Edition” on its side stripes, headrests, and dashboard. Most notably, it echoes the color scheme of the iconic watch, with black dominating its interior and exterior. The dual launch presages a slew of other releases to come in 2022 in commemoration of Porsche Design’s half-century anniversary. Click here for more on the foundation of the Porsche Design Studio and its history of watchmaking.