Porsche looks back on the origins of Porsche Design.
Porsche has been doing two things since 1972: making sports cars like the 911 and watches. Even long-time fans of the brand may have yet to learn about the latter endeavor. The tradition of a Porsche owner matching his watch to his paint-to-sample 911 goes back further than you may think.
Porsche is looking to celebrate that. It recently commissioned a new watch to celebrate 50 years of Porsche Design. The brand also wants to educate more people on its watchmaking, why its watches look the way they do, and how this side of the company got where it is today.
Porsche says the idea for its iconic black dial was the brainchild of Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, the eldest of the founder's four sons. This is also the man who designed the 911, making Ferdinand one of the most important people in Porsche's (and perhaps all of automotive) history.
Along with his brother, Hans-Peter, the eldest Porsche son, founded his own Stuttgart-based design house in 1972. Today, the design firm calls Zell am See its home. A little nepotism secured Ferdinand and co. their first order: a request from Porsche cars to design a watch for a few special employees. The result was what Ferdinand Alexander called the "Chronograph 1."
Porsche says Ferdinand "was more interested in creating a high-precision instrument than a decorative accessory, which is why he looked to the 911's instrument panel for inspiration."
To make Chronograph 1 easy to read, Ferdinand used a matte finish on the watch's black dial. These, along with white numbers and a red second hand, made the watch closely resemble the tachometer on 911s of the era. You can see why in the image below.
The watch was a massive hit, and soon it was available for customers to order at dealerships. Porsche has now reissued the watch to mark Porsche Design's anniversary.
It has also built a special 1972 911 Targa with a matching watch that it auctioned off. Porsche Design now operates its watchmaking operation in Solothurn, Switzerland, something it's done since 2014.