On the occasion of the 2023 edition of the Zell am See ice race, in Austria, where a commemorative watch will be presented, a look back at a historic model born in 1972.
Through Arthur Frydman
Ihere are many watches and watchmaking inspired by motorsports in partnership with car manufacturers such as Rolex, TAG Heuer or IWC. However, come to think of it, few have more credibility than the one with the most legendary automotive name: Porsche Design. The pieces produced by this studio are more than a simple marketing exercise by fully integrating the design DNA and philosophy of the company’s founder: Ferdinand Alexander Porsche.
The proof in the new Chronograph 1 GP 2023 Edition. A watch inspired by the very first timepiece that signed Porsche Design in the early 1970s and designed especially for the GP Ice Race, which will be held in Zell am See, Austria, from January 27 to 29. A winter highlight for fans of Porsche – main partner of the event – and fans of all motorized dreams. However, to fully understand the essence of this new chronograph as well as all other Porsche Design watches, it is necessary, like so many things, to go back in time.
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Optimize function and minimize form
We are in 1963. Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, also called “Butzi” – the grandson of the company’s founder – together with Erwin Komenda, presents his latest model, the 911, at the Frankfurt Motor Show. A car that succeeds the very popular but aging 356 with a more minimalist design and the refined use of new materials. In fact, for all designers, form is a more than basic concept, especially for the Germans who followed the Bauhaus philosophy, that the form of an object is inextricably linked to its function.
A mantra that guided the realization of the Porsche 911 by Ferdinand Alexander Porsche where “if we think about the function of something, the form sometimes almost comes from it”. Not content to rest on his laurels, Ferdinand Alexander Porsche then decided to leave the family business to sharpen his eye as a designer in worlds other than the automobile. It was in 1972 that he founded his company in Stuttgart called Porsche Design. For this one, the line of direction is clear: optimize function and reduce form to the essentials, without compromise.
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An unknown watch object
To try his hand at exercise and very quickly after establishing his new house, Ferdinand Alexander Porsche launched his first product: a wristwatch. Thus the Chronograph 1 was announced – which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2022 – a strict piece for that era. This one is made of steel and completely dressed in black if we hide the white numbers, white hands and red seconds hand. A rarity in the watch industry of the 1970s, which saw this model as a UFO of sorts.
However, the color chosen by the founder of Porsche Design was not chosen by chance. For him, it was a question of “creating a watch that can be perfectly integrated into the car. Black, like the speedometer and the tachometer of the 911 for example, to avoid any glare”. A legendary piece – then on the screen in 1986 on the wrist of Tom Cruise, alias “Maverick” in Top gun – which broke the aesthetic canons of its time and was reinterpreted many times through a design that was always Germanic and functional. This, until now.
In fact, this year, Porsche Design and the ice racing team located in the Austrian Alps are unveiling the Chronograph 1 GP 2023 Edition. One model is limited to 250 pieces and inspired by his curves and general design of the watch in 1972. As in the source of reference, this edition is decorated with a 40.8 mm diameter case with a closed and screwed back. The latter is made of titanium, a material used for the first time in Porsche Design watchmaking in the Chronograph Titanium designed in 1980 in collaboration with IWC. For its part, the black chronograph dial with three registers reminds referents of Porsche 911 gauges of the time and sports a graduated scale at 60 seconds on the flange as well as a day/date display in homage to the Chronograph 1. For optimal legibility, the chronometer functions are aligned vertically and indicated by orange hands with a first 30-minute counter at the top and a second 12-hour counter at the bottom. On the mechanical side, the watch is powered by an automatic chronograph movement equipped with a flyback function – perfect on a circuit to accurately measure lap times – with a 48-hour power reserve and COSC-certified chronometer. Finally, this GP 2023 edition has two straps. Your choice of a black leather strap and an alter ego in white Nylon with adjustable Velcro closure.