Collaborations between car makers and watch brands are aplenty but few can claim legitimacy like Porsche Design. The company was founded as a design studio by Ferdinand A. Porsche, the grandson of the legendary Ferdinand Porsche. The former was an accomplished designer too — he designed the first Porsche 911 in 1963, a car that would go on to become a motoring icon.
Ferdinand A. Porsche left the family business and set up Porsche Design in 1972 at Stuttgart before moving it to Zell am See, Austria two years later. Their first product was a black steel chronograph, the Chronograph 1, inspired by the display gauges seen in automobiles and airplanes. Since then Porsche Design has produced watches in associations with brands like Orfina, IWC, and Eterna. In 2014, Porsche Design spun off their watches as a separate division, Porsche Design Timepieces AG, based in Solothurn, Switzerland. We caught up with CEO Dr. Jan Becker whilst he was in Dubai to open the brand’s new boutique at Mall of the Emirates. Here are excerpts from our chat.
How has the move to Switzerland helped Porsche Design’s watches division?
Since the foundation of Porsche Design Timepieces AG in Solothurn, Switzerland, the entire value creation chain of Porsche Design timepieces is in our hands – from product design and development to communication, pricing/trading and sales. The hallmark “Swiss Made” and the relevance of the region with key suppliers located in this area played a major role in the decision to establish our manufacture in the Solothurn area. We have established a production line and processes that are based on the Porsche car production principles which are unique in the watch industry and at the same time the basis for developing car-related timepieces that extend the sports car feeling to your wrist.
We have put together a team of people with a wealth of experience in the watch industry as well as people with a strong engineering background. Over the course of the last six years, the team has worked hard to successfully launch three completely new model lines – the Chronotimer, the 1919 and the Monobloc Actuator Collection. We have already developed two in-house movements which has enabled us to strengthen our position as a manufacturer of high-quality mechanical wristwatches.
Why did you decide to go it alone and invest in creating new movements?
For Porsche Design, motor sports and time measurement are in our roots. Therefore, the unconditional desire arose not only to be able to offer chronographs, but to be able to offer a chronograph with a complex flyback function. Having in mind that you can stop successive intervals with a flyback chronograph – it is the perfect timepiece for measuring lap times on the race track. That was the starting point back in 2017 when we decided to go one step further and to look into technical possibilities of today's movement construction.
As such a movement was not available on the market of Swiss movement manufacturers at that time, we decided to develop it ourselves – the first in-house movement Werk 01.200 with C.O.S.C. certification was born. Only two years later, with the launch of our new and innovative world-time watch, the 1919 Globetimer UTC [ Ed’s Note: An exclusive module was created for the time-zone control in conjunction with movement specialist Dubois Dépraz and sits atop a Sellita SW200 base movement], we introduced our second caliber Werk 04.110 in the series collection. And I can already tell you today that these two movements will not remain the only in-house movements from Porsche Design in the future.
Tell us a bit about the watches you produce exclusively for Porsche owners?
In 2017 we introduced an exclusive timepieces program together with our mother company that is called “Porsche Design for Porsche”. For the first time, Porsche Design offered sports car enthusiasts the possibility to own a personalized, custom-made wristwatch inspired by the design of a unique sports car. The first project was the Porsche Design Chronograph 911 Turbo S Exclusive Series that combined the classic attributes of Porsche Design timepieces with the characteristics of the 911 Turbo S Exclusive Series, extending the unique identity of the vehicle to its driver's wrist.
Both the sports car and the chronograph were limited to 500 pieces each, and only the owners of this exclusive car were able to buy one watch. Today, almost every second client also owns a watch giving us proof that this program is a success and meets our client’s demands. After successfully kicking-off this project we have presented three exclusive models to the Porsche community over the course of only two years.
The latest model in the range is an exclusive chronograph dedicated to the Porsche 911 Speedster. The timepiece combines the classic design elements, materials and performance features of the sports car, extending the unique feeling of Porsche to the wrist of its future owner. The lightweight titanium case reflects the color scheme of the sports car, mirroring the classic hues of Porsche's early race cars.
Like the instruments in the 911 Speedster Heritage Design Edition, the matte-black dial features green and silver colored Arabic numerals, with a green "70" highlighting the tachymeter scale and referencing seven decades of Porsche sports cars. Also referential of the brand’s historic past are the Porsche Design logo at 3 o'clock and the ‘Speedster’ logo on the mechanical function display at 9 o'clock. Both are finished with golden accents. Matching the alloy wheel of the Heritage Design Package, the lacquered rotor is attached to the movement by a Porsche central locking with Porsche crest. This is entirely dedicated to the historic design of the car.
Which is the most popular model in the line-up today?
I would definitely say it is the new 1919 Globetimer UTC. With this timepiece we have developed a very user-friendly GMT world-timer. What does that mean: if you travel east, simply press the top button for a distinct hourly forward jump, and for going back in time when travelling west, push the lower button.
The date also follows automatically if you were to cross a date line, thus eliminating the need for special correctors. Our aim was to create a GMT world-timer that you don’t have to take off your wrist to unscrew the crown.
You have three distinct lines today. Will the focus be on introducing new models within these three families or adding new families in the coming years?
For the moment, we are going to focus on adding further functionalities to the existing product lines to enrich the product assortment by technical features as well as by selected, appealing colors, like our latest release: the 1919 Chronotimer Flyback Blue & Leather.
How is the Middle East market doing for Porsche Design? How do you plan to grow the watches business in this region?
The United Arab Emirates is a key market in the Middle East for Porsche Design. We are present there for a long time and our brand is well known in this region. To further develop this important market we plan to grow the business together with our long-time partner Jashanmal National Company. Consequently we build up a transnational retail network in Dubai and opened a new flagship store at Mall of the Emirates. With the store we are presenting a sales format in the Middle East where our customers can experience the Porsche Design World while timepieces representing the brand core with consistently growing its revenues. We are very much looking forward to further increasing our business in this region.