Ferdinand Alexander Porsche (1935 – 2012) is not only one of the greatest car engineers of the 20th century. In addition to the creation of the iconic Porsche 911, he also designed accessories, glasses and watches (all branded Porsche-Design). The brand’s motto: new materials to complement the functional aesthetics. And that is clearly how the Porsche-Design watches can be defined. Together with our colleagues of WatchTime, here is the history of the Porsche-Design titanium watches.
Porsche 911 – three numbers and a name synonymous all around the world and among every generations of racing, sport and elegance, without any useless ostentation. A similar fascination goes for the Porsche-Design watches, made with the exact same spirit as the cars. The design of Ferdinand A. Porsche combines functions with aesthetics: the product should “be raised from the pure form”, as he said once to explain his work.
Ferdinand A. Porsche’s credo: simplification helps the function
1972 is the beginning of the production of Porsche-Design watches. Despite the recent history of the brand and the changes of owner, timepieces manufactured by Porsche-Design are now considered as classics. In 1972, F.A. Porsche created the Porsche-Design Studio in Stuttgart, before moving it in Zell am See (Austria) in 1974. Since then, it is creating everything an active and modern man needs – sunglasses, writing instruments, leather goods and watches. Although the design is made internally, Porsche always looked for the best possible partners to manufacture the products. For its watches, F.A. Porsche first allied itself with the Grenchen based watchmaker Orfina.
The first model presented in 1972 by Porsche-Design is a chronograph. It drawn attention because of its appearance, focused on the essential: displaying time with the highest legibility. In addition to a matt black dial on which the white hands showed a great contrast, it was also coming with a full black case and bracelet. The 1972 Porsche Design Chronograph I was an immediate success and is now considered as a proper icon, which later influenced many other manufactures. Using the famous Valjoux 7750, it also met the requirements of Bundeswehr (german Army) that was using it as a pilot watch (without any brand on the dial) for the USAF Tigers Squadrons. In 1978, this model used the famous Lemania 5100 (also used by Omega under the reference 1045), without losing its so pleasant appearance. For collectors, a mint example equipped with a Lemania movement will be priced around € 2.500 Eur.
The IWC and titanium era
Porsche-Design had never been a manufacture. It had always relied on external partners to develop the technical aspects and built the watches. After Orfina, Porsche-Design decided to work together with the Schaffhausen’s manufacture: IWC. This agreement began in 1977 and continued until 1997. The first model born from this alliance was the 1978 IWC Porsche-Design ref. 3510. This was quite a special watch, with its folding case made of black anodized aluminium and hiding a compass. In 1980, Porsche-Design even goes further in the use of unusual material by presenting the 1980 IWC Porsche Design Titan Chronograph, the world’s first titanium wristwatch on the market (except a few concept watches, like the Omega Speedmaster Alaska Project) – editor’s note: since publishing this article, we discovered that the first titanium watch was produced by Citizen in 1970. The case of this chronograph is light and resistant. Thus, it became F.A. Porsche favourite material for watches and is still easily recognisable with its sandblasted finish.
Not only titanium is hard to extract but it is also extremely difficult to manufacture. However, one name is significant in the production of these cases: Lothar Schmidt, now owner of the German brand Sinn. He was working for IWC since 1980 and developed several manufacturing processes for new materials.
The IWC Porsche Design Titan Chronograph reference 3704 was coming with several novelties. Alongside the titanium case, it was also bringing chronograph pushers inserted in the case band and a fully integrated titanium bracelet. On the wrist, this watch was balanced and light, but mainly clear and legible, offering a perfect contrast. The IWC Porsche Design Titan Chronograph was available with a self-winding movement and with a hybrid mecha-quartz calibre, under the reference 3732 (the JLC 361, supplied by Jaeger-LeCoultre and that could be found into the IWC Ingenieur).
Breaking the barriers: 2,000 meters under the sea
Another milestone in the history of the Porsche-Design Titanium watches is the cooperation with the Bundeswehr, the German Army. While the chronograph was already adorning pilots’ wrist, Bundeswehr also required a watch for its divers. Two editions had been created: the reference 3503 with a resistance of 500m and the most famous IWC Porsche-Design Ocean 2000 reference 3504, that was resistant to an impressive 2,000m. These watches were coming with a reworked ETA Calibre 2892. The rarest editions are the antimagnetic models, the reference 3519. This specific military “Bund” edition is easily recognisable with it 3H logo printed in red on the dial. Some of them can even reached € 10,000 Eur nowadays.
From IWC to Eterna
End of 1990s, Porsche-Design decided to change its watch supplier from IWC to Eterna, with the wish to build in-house watches. In 1995, the Porsche family bought the Eterna Manufacture. Thus, Porsche-Design watches came back with a new identity, mainly because the conception of the movement was now part of the creation of the whole watch. The fact that Porsche-Design didn’t have to outsource anymore gave a total freedom to the designers. Titanium however continued to play a major role in the conception. In 2000, Porsche-design presented the PAT Chronograph, coming with a case made in a aluminium-titanium alloy. The in-house capacity of the brand is also bringing something new to the watches: complications.
Thus, in 2007, Porsche-Design introduced the WorldTimer, available both in matt titanium and in black DLC. It was the first watch with digitally displayed second time zone, just after the 2005 Chronograph that indicates the counted minutes and seconds digitally.
Even if Porsche-Design provides now the design and the mechanical parts, the actual editions have to prove they can be classics too. One thing to remind of the Porsche-Design watches: they contributed to the extended use of titanium in the whole industry, from cheap watches to very high-end timepieces. Porsche-Design was a pioneer and gave inspiration to many other brands.
The original article was published on watchtime and is republished here with permission.