50 Years of Porsche Design Brings New Chronographs and a Targa Recreation

There’s no surprise that the Porsche Design 50th anniversary would mean the brand pulling out all the stops, as is the case for any brand that has as rich a history to dive into. Though Porsche and Porsche Design run as relatively separate entities, there’s some clear overlap going on, as the brand unveiled both a pair of watches and a pair of cars to commemorate the occasion. While some of the releases will be more attainable than others — if you’re fast enough, some of the Chronograph 1 – 1972 Limited Edition watches are still available — Getting your hands one one of the 750 Porsche 911 Edition 50 Years Porsche Design cars will be no small feat. 

When Porsche Design launched in 1972, it was the brainchild of Ferdinand Alexander Porsche himself, who wanted to have a design studio for the creation of objects outside of the automotive realm. After all, the man known for sculpting the iconic curves of the 911 was still at the pinnacle of his career, and was by no means done with the pen and sketchpad. The original Porsche Design Chronograph I was the first creation from the firm, and was presented to market in the same year as the studio. In essence, this watch set the tone for the brand’s design language in the decades that followed. The watch was also the first in a string of industry firsts from Porsche Design, being the first watch to have a black coated finish, long before the watch modifying crowd like Bamford and others got on board with the trend. Though a pioneering spirit still echoes, for the 50th anniversary we see a fitting look back at where it all started.

The Watches

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At first glance it would look as though only one new watch was created, though that’s not the case. Yes, the casing, finish, and dial design/layout are near identical between the Chronograph I – 1972 and the Chronograph I – 911 Edition 50Y Porsche Design, both the details and the availability differ a fair bit. While the former is a commercially available series of 500 watches (priced at $11,500) available for online purchase, the latter will only be available to those lucky 750 who buy the commemorative edition 911 Targa. It’s also worth noting that this owners’ watch is fitted with a higher spec movement than its counterpart as well. Though both are fitted with COSC-certified chronometer movements with automatic winding, only the owners’ watch has a flyback function that allows for an instant reset of the chronograph timer. It’s also the only one of the pair fitted with an exhibition caseback, displaying the added finishing details of its inner workings.

While Porsche Design does list these watches as being fit with in-house manufacture movements, there’s a bit of grey area here. Yes, they are building a large number of their own components and applying finishing treatments themselves, however the movements are not of an “in-house” design the way we typically accept the term. Based on feedback from several watchmakers and watch movement designers, we can assess that the Porsche Design Kaliber WERK 01.140 is based off of the more common Valjoux 7750 we see in many other chronographs throughout the market. This isn’t a slight against the brand, as there’s nothing wrong with that approach, however we need to call a spade a spade.

The Cars

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At a tangible level the big news here is the 911 Porsche Design 50th Anniversary Edition — a tribute to F.A. Porsche’s preferred aesthetic, packaged into a new 911 Targa 4 GTS. Finished in black with platinum satin accents, including the Targa bar and its wheels — the same 20-inch front and 21-inch rear wheels fitted to the 911 Turbo S — this is not a loud and obnoxious tribute, but rather one very well aligned with the Porsche Design aesthetic. The retro touches are increasingly prominent in the car’s interior, as we see a black and white checkerboard fabric covering the front and rear seats. Though hardly something you expect to see in modern 911s, the timeless silhouette of the beloved coupe seems to embrace this little throwback effortlessly. It’s not a mass market look by any stretch, nor was it ever meant to be. The 750 examples being built have been allocated to dealers around the globe, and will no doubt be snapped up in a hurry, even with the 181,606 Euro price tag.

It seems Porsche had one more surprise lined up for the Porsche Design anniversary — a one-off restoration project highlighting an original Porsche 911 S 2.4 Targa from 1972. This restoration follows the exact design codes of its new modern sister car, both in its exterior and interior. Porsche Design has yet to confirm whether this car is destined for a client, or for the Porsche Museum collection, however we’re thankful for the opportunity to appreciate the multi-year restoration process that brought this car to life. The stark and almost modern-feeling interior — aside from the checkerboard fabric — is again aligned with the Porsche Design aesthetic, just as F.A. Porsche would have liked it. As a finishing touch, the grille on the engine cover at the rear features a ‘Porsche Design 50th Anniversary’ badge with a reproduction of Ferdinand Alexander’s signature.

View the Porsche Design 50th Anniversary Collection here.