If there is one thing the Germans do better than almost anyone else in the world, it’s having a knack for perfection in design. This is readily apparent down to the smallest and most easily overlooked details. For example, if you visit Berlin, Munich, Stuttgart, or any of the major cities, look at the crosswalk signals, which bear the famous Ampelmännchen (literally, “little traffic light man”). You will notice that they have large sunshades, are quite bright, and every single one of them works flawlessly. They were designed to be robust, handle all kinds of weather, and still be readable, even in the bright noonday sun.
While that may seem like a strange example for a site dedicated to Porsche cars, that exact same approach to perfection in design is what brought us the 911. From those first sketches by Ferdinand Porsche in 1959 to the prototypes that came out between 1960 to 1964 (and then the first 911s being sold) there were minute design decisions about everything from how thick the glass of the windshield was to the placement of the tachometer (it went at the center of the dash, so it would be easily visible through the space in the steering wheel). Even the dials themselves went through hundreds of refinements until they were easily readable, anti-glare, precise, and complimentary to the aesthetic of the new, powerful sports coupe from Porsche.
After the 911 proved to be a runaway success and a valid successor to the 356, Ferdinand Porsche, in the most German of manners, still wanted to pursue excellence in design, and perfection in aesthetics and style. Looking around at the other sports car makers at the time, he noticed that many of them not only sold cars, but boutique items and accessories that followed the same designs, colors, and/or style elements of their cars.
The lightbulb had just flicked on over F.A. Porsche’s head.
The Founding & History of Porsche Design
50 years ago in 1972, the product design studio with the simple, elegant name of Porsche Design was founded in Stuttgart. While sounding simplistic, the core philosophy that F.A. Porsche emphasized to any and all designers that joined was threefold:
- Optimize function
Reduce the design to the essentials
- Overcome the familiar and discover the new.
The boutique accessories branch of Porsche had been born. Well, except for the fact that Porsche Automobiles had undergone a transformation to become a public company, and the Porsche family was to withdraw from the operating side of the business.
While F.A. Porsche still held a seat on the supervisory board, he was forced to resign as Chief Designer. When he founded Porsche Design soon after, the initial surge of designs and accessories he had envisioned simply did not materialize.
The Right Time: Porsche Design As Luxury Watchmaker
In an ironic twist, however, it was the main Porsche company that helped bring Porsche Design into prominence. There was a request made for a watch to be designed and made that was to be a gift to long term employees, with a guaranteed order of 20 watches per year. F.A. Porsche and his crack team of the best of the best designers set to work—and soon after, the Porsche Design Präzisionschronograph (Precision Chronograph) debuted.
An elegant design, with a simple, functional, robust strap and a clear, easy to read face, it was the first watch to use PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition) to make every single surface of the metal matte black in a nod to the 911’s anti-glare dials. It was also one of the first watches to use the now-legendary movement from Valjoux known as the caliber 7750.
Beyond Watches: Porsche Design Expands
However, F.A. Porsche did not want to have his design studio be known as just a watchmaker, so he let his imagination lead him to what to design next. Over the next year, sunglasses, smoking pipes, and even pens were designed and perfected by the tiny company in Stuttgart.
After some initial interest grew around the Porsche Design accessories starting to appear in Porsche showrooms to demonstrate how they complimented the cars, the studio moved from Stuttgart to Zell am See in Austria, to allow for more designers to have the space they needed to pursue perfection.
The request for accessories to compliment the now ten year old Porsche 911 led to the studio having almost a blank sheet to work on anything they felt would sell. Designer t-shirts and button ups, made of the highest quality materials, emerged, as did other items such as leather driving gloves that were meant for the new leather-wrapped steering wheels in the 911.
New watches, pens, sunglasses, glasses cases—all of them were designed, perfected, and presented. These items sold very well, because of the initial philosophy that F.A. Porsche had emphasized, which in effect boils down to the now common saying of “form follows function.”
This success continued through the entirety of the 1980s, with the timeless, elegant, and often simple-but-luxurious designs emerging from the studio not being bothered with all the flashy neon colors and new style trends that that decade brought with it. As the 911 was a higher end sports car, more often than not they were purchased by older ladies and gentlemen, who appreciated the classic designs over the “New Wave” aesthetic that took over fashion from 1985 to 1991. Those bright colors and flashy aesthetics were typically seen by these customers as unnecessarily chaotic, which would disrupt the perfect elegance that F.A. Porsche wanted to portray.
Bigger & Better Porsche Design Products
As the studio gained a reputation, especially in Germany and Austria, collaborations and partnerships started to emerge. Kitchen appliances, consumer goods, even some industrial machinery started to have a small tag attached to them that simply stated “Design by F.A. Porsche.” Even the streetcars of Vienna, for a time, bore that little tag, as F.A. Porsche and the Porsche Design studio helped make those streetcars the best they could be.
Of course, a toaster is a toaster, but if it’s a Porsche toaster, it’s made of the best materials, with the best metals used for the induction coils, a precision timer, and a reliable, robust spring to launch your toast into the air when done for years to come. It will also have a durable finish, either matte or glossy, and the press handle will function smoothly for the life of the toaster. That, at least, is what Porsche Design stood for in the early 1990s.
Reuniting Porsche Design with Porsche AG
In 1994, Porsche AG, the car design and production arm of the company, finally brought Porsche Design into the fold, acquiring it but leaving the designers already there in place. The offerings for the automotive side, such as tie-in watches, key fobs, sunglasses, and the like were now being offered under the branding of “Porsche Selection,” which was changed to “Porsche Driver’s Selection” ten years later in 2004.
After Porsche restructured in 2007, Porsche Selection and Porsche Design were merged back together under the control of Porsche Automobil SE, and renamed the Porsche Design Group. Now under a single controlling parent, Porsche Design was allowed to go somewhat wild again, and in 2012, Porsche Design concept stores popped up in major cities around the world. Three are still in existence today as boutiques of fine clothing, footwear, timepieces, and Porsche-related accessories—located in Berlin, Frankfurt, and Beverly Hills.
Standout Products & Accessories From the Past 50 Years
We’ve already touched on the Präzisionschronograph watch that helped launch the studio back in 1972. But between 1972 and 2022, there have been a number of noteworthy products, projects, and accessories that have emerged from Porsche Design.
In 1976, with the ideas and designs flowing out of the studio, Porsche Design took on a part of one of the favorite winter pastimes in Austria: ski goggles. Of course, these weren’t going to be your run of the mill goggles. In the pursuit of a wider field of view, as well as to reduce the design to its base element, the very cyberpunk looking Porsche Design Ski Goggles 5600 were released.
A simple rectangular design, with a cutout behind the frame for the nose to fit, covered the eyes from temple to temple and was held on with a band that matched the height of the goggles perfectly so that the lines were not interrupted. They were also quite expensive, often 5 to 6 times pricier than even moderately high end ski goggles of a traditional shape.
The next foray into eyewear, however, proved to be an absolute smash hit. The Porsche Design P’8478 Aviators were the very first sunglasses, from any manufacturer, that featured interchangeable lenses. On a bright day, you would slot in the darker tinted lenses. Cloudy or raining with sunshine? Slip in the yellow tinted lenses to highlight moving objects, such as other cars on the road. Incidentally, this is the reason that the visors for some racing drivers lean towards the yellow and red side of the spectrum.
They are still on sale today, basically unchanged since blasting onto the scene in 1978, and have sold into the tens of millions.
The Porsche Design Breakfast Set
When the kitchen appliance “Design by F.A. Porsche” era began in the mid-1980s, Porsche Design’s greatest success came via a collaboration with Siemens. The initial goal was to make an electric kettle for boiling water—a fairly standard appliance typically made out of plastic in 1990s Germany—into an elegant, sophisticated, and iconic appliance.
Instead of plastic, the exterior of the kettle was made of brushed aluminum. Instead of a level plastic window that would gradually become opaque over time, tempered heat-resistant glass was the material of choice.
On top of all of that, it would be detachable from a base, meaning you didn’t have to deal with the hassle of the cord hanging down around your legs. These might be things we take for granted today, but they were revolutionized by Porsche Design back in the 1990s.
The initial production run was intended to be for 100,000 kettles. To date, they have sold over 1.2 million—and Siemens expanded from just a kettle to a single slice toaster, a coffee machine, a blender (known as the Siemens Porsche Design Breakfast Series) and for those that shower before breakfast, a hair drier.
The 50th Anniversary: How Porsche Are Celebrating
Porsche, as we have discovered in the past two decades, has started to love making special editions of things. The Sport Classic, the 911 R, and now, the 2022 Porsche Type 992 911 Targa 4 50the Anniversary Edition are just a few examples.
The 2022 Porsche Type 992 911 Targa 4 50th Anniversary Edition
While a standard Targa 4 underneath, the car comes with the SportDesign package already applied, as well as the SportChrono package, and has a special, this-car-only shade of “50th Anniversary Black” paint, finished in extra glossy clearcoat.
The car also comes with Type 992 911 Turbo S center-lock wheels in a special semi-gloss platinum color, with high gloss 50th Anniversary Black painted calipers showing through the spokes.
In a rare move, Porsche is letting the customer determine what transmission comes with their special edition 911. You can opt for a 7-speed PDK, with a brushed aluminum selector in the center console, or a 6-speed manual, with an aluminum shift knob wrapped in top-grade leather.
Embossed GT seats, as well as the steering wheel from the GT3, are also present. The wheel gains the top-center mark in subdued grey, and the seats are finished with black leather bolsters over the classic black and white diamond pattern that premiered with the very first 911.
Special side stripes will say 50th Anniversary instead of the Targa lettering, the tail air intake will have a 50th Anniversary rondel placed in the center, the door sills will also state the edition of the car, and the 911 badge will carry “50th Anniversary Edition ### of 750” underneath.
Return of the Präzisionschronograph
To match the 750 Porsche Type 992 911 Targa 4 50th Anniversary Editions, Porsche Design is also re-releasing the Präzisionschronograph, made with modern versions of the processes that it was made with in 1974. As well, since Porsche has come so far in watchmaking, this special edition carries a Porsche Design Kaliber WERK 01.140 movement.
It is also autowinding, so as long as it’s on your wrist, it will just keep going—much like the high-performance daily-driver cars that Porsche is known for!
Much like the original, these watches will be a limited edition per annum. While all 1,000 for 2022 are sold out, preorders are now being taken for the 2023 numbered editions. Unlike the 750 special edition Targa 4’s, these chronographs will be available for the foreseeable future (just limited to a 1,000 per annum).