Mostly known for the design of one of the most iconic cars ever created, a line that is extremely enduring (yes, we’re talking about the Porsche 911), Ferdinand Alexander “Butzi” Porsche was a genius, a visionary, and a talented designer of all things. As the founder of the Porsche Design studio, we should keep in mind that the first product created under this umbrella was a wristwatch. And an important one, being the first black-coated watch ever commercialised, and a watch that has defined the entire style of the studio for the years to come. This timepiece, the Chronograph 1, was released in 1972 and thus celebrates its 50th anniversary this year… And as you’ve guessed, Porsche Design pays tribute to this model by releasing a special model, the new Chronograph 1 – 1972 Limited Edition.
The first of its kind, the 1972 Porsche Design Chronograph 1
The first-ever product to be launched by Porsche Design was a wristwatch and one that broke new grounds. Headed by Ferdinand Alexander Porsche as a separate company next to Porsche as a sports car manufacturer, it opened its doors in 1972. With a clear and ever-present link to motorsports, there’s also that unmistakable Porsche DNA in everything that is done. The Porsche company is among the first to make full use of the newly founded design studio. A watch is commissioned in batches of 20 pieces per year to be handed out to long-time employees as a token of appreciation.
The design of this watch is certainly the best possible expression of “forms follows function” and was somehow radical back in the early 1970s. It is a true sports watch, not only because of its function, but also because of its connection with the world of cars – it essentially looks like it was taken out from the dashboard of a Porsche race car. There’s also the use of anti-reflective, matte colour and ultimate contrast between the background and the indications. Indeed, not only the dial is matte black, and equipped with high-contrast, pure-white indications and hands, but so is the case. In 1972 the Porsche Design Orfina Chronograph saw the light of day and was the first commercially available watch to have a black coated case – which we know now under the name PVD (physical vapour deposition).
This Porsche Design Chronograph 1 was a perfect interpretation of F.A. Porsche’s philosophy to simplify a product for what it needs to be. Leave out all that is unnecessary and perfect what it for the job it is required to do. The result was a highly legible dial set in a stealthy black case, something that wasn’t seen before. Simplification can lead to extremely balanced designs and this watch is a demonstration of savoir-faire that has guided the brand for the 50 years to come.
The first examples of the Porsche Design Chronograph 1 were equipped with an innovative movement (back then), the now-emblematic Valjoux 7750. Integrated and automatic, it was meant to be performant yet reliable, perfectly in line with the entire definition of this watch. With the quartz crisis showing its first signs, the industry had a hard time manufacturing movements. The production of the 7750 would be stopped, meaning that Butzi had to find another supplier. This is why, as of the mid-1970s (somewhere between 1974 and 1975), the Porsche Design Chronograph 1 will be equipped with an automatic Lemania calibre 5100, resulting in a different display with central seconds and minutes, and a 24h sub-dial at 12 o’clock. In addition, some versions were manufactured for West German Bundeswehr, where the Orfina logo was replaced by the word Military.
The Porsche Design Chronograph 1 will be produced under the entire Orfina-Porsche collaboration, which lasted from 1972 to 1978, before the brand started to work with IWC. And keep in mind that it’s also the watch worn by Maverick (Tom Cruise) in Top Gun…
The Porsche Design Chronograph 1 – 1972 Limited Edition
As the original watch celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, Porsche Design has decided to revive this important (yet often overlooked) watch in a mechanically modernized yet visually quite faithful way. The Chronograph 1 – 1972 Limited Edition shouldn’t be seen as a one-to-one re-edition but as a watch that captures the spirit of the original model, whether in style, proportions or overall concept.
Being a tribute to the first-ever Porsche Design watch, this Chronograph 1 – 1972 Limited Edition had to be black coated. Ob-viou-sly! However, we’re in 2022 and techniques have evolved, and this new watch is now relying on a modern, and far more resistant carbide coating. Also, another important part of the history of Porsche Design is the use of titanium for the cases and bracelets (something that started under the IWC era), and this new model takes full advantage of the brand’s knowledge in this field. The case and the bracelet are thus made of titanium, and in typical PD tradition, the surfaces are matte to avoid reflections, using a glass bead-blasted treatment.
The case of the Porsche Design Chronograph 1 – 1972 Limited Edition is modelled after the original Orfina-made watch, with its signature “integrated” shape with raised, circular bezel. Measuring 40.8mm in diameter, this modern re-issue has grown a bit compared to the 38mm diameter of the original, yet it remains fairly acceptable considering today’s standards. The height, being an automatic chronograph, is given at 14.15mm. The watch is equipped with a sapphire crystal on top and, as an ode to the past, the caseback is closed and reveals a commemorative engraving (and no coating, for a cool look). It’s also comfortably water-resistant, as rated for 10ATM.
The dial of the Porsche Design Chronograph 1 – 1972 Limited Edition is also paying tribute to its ancestor, with a matte black background contrasting greatly with the pure-white painted markers and straight, simple baton hands. All are generously covered with luminous material and the red central seconds hand is retained. The display is classic, with a typical 6-9-12 layout and a black day-date feature at 3 o’clock. There’s also a highly angled inner flange, printed with a tachymeter scale. And fans of the brand will be happy to see the historical PD logo reused.
Inside the case we can see the main evolution compared to the vintage edition, as this new commemorative watch is powered by the Porsche Design calibre WERK 01.140, a proprietary movement based on the 7750 architecture, improved on multiple levels, with specific decoration and certified chronometer by the COSC. The watch is worn on a faithful tapered titanium bracelet with a bead-blasted surface and a black carbide coating, closed by a folding clasp in titanium and steel.
Availability & Price
The Porsche Design Chronograph 1 – 1972 Limited Edition (ref. 6041.7.01.001.01.5) will be produced in 500 pieces and is now available from the brand’s website. It is priced at EUR 6,972 or USD 7,700. For more details, please visit www.porsche-design.com.