The Porsche Design GmbH was founded in 1972 by Ferdinand Alexander Porsche. In addition to products, which Porsche Design offered under its own brand name, there are those who bear the name of a joint cooperation with partners, like, for example, Porsche Design by IWC.
Professor Ferdinand Alexander Porsche was born in Stuttgart on 11 December 1935 as the son of Ferry Porsche and grandson of Ferdinand Porsche. He is the cousin of Ferdinand Piëch, the former CEO and chairman of Volkswagen AG.
In 1942 his family relocated from Stuttgart to Zell am See in Austria. He completed successfully his training at the elementary school, startet one year ago in Stuttgart, at its new home. In 1949 the family moved back to Stuttgart, where Ferdinand Alexander Porsche attended the Waldorf School.
At the College of Design in Ulm he took a university place. After only two semesters he had to leave, because the audit committee doubted his abilities. In 1957 Ferdinand Alexander Porsche began to work in the car body styling studio at Porsche under the director Erwin Komenda. In 1962 he became director of design at Porsche.
His most famous work is the Porsche 911, which was still called 901 at the presentation on the IAA in 1963 (Peugeot had registered all model names with a “0” in the middle).
In 1990 he became Chairman of the Board of Porsche AG, Stuttgart. He belonged to the Supervisory Board until 28 January 2005. In 1999 he was awarded the title of Professor by the Austrian Federal President. Ferdinand Alexander Porsche died at the age of 76 on 5 April 2012 in the presence of his family.
The design style practiced by Porsche may be, in the best sense, called sober and belonging to the approach of “objectivity” (Sachlichkeit), according to the well-known credo of form follows function. Bit the products are by no means cold or free of emotion, but they develop their own very powerful charisma (as the watch pictured above proves, or like the aforementioned sports car model).
The first Porsche Design watches were jointly created by Orfina of Grenchen, which also manufactured them. First launched before the Basel Fair in 1974, the Orfina models feature a hard black coating for durability and were one of the first users of the then-new Valjoux 7750 automatic chronograph movement. Period advertisements featured the Porsche racing team and Dr. Ferdinand Porsche, demonstrating the close link between Porsche Design and the Porsche family of companies. Early models are signed “Orfina” and “Porsche Design” but by 1977 the Orfina name was replaced by the “pd” logo.
In 1978, Porsche Design joined IWC to produce a line of signed watches. Still using the black hard-coated surface, the firs model included a 3 mm thick compass hidden below a flip-up ultra-thin automatic watch. The cross-hair dial was white on black, contrasting to the all-black case and bracelet. In 1990, IWC introduced “the world's first titanium chronograph”, the Porsche Design “Titan” with the Valjoux 7750 movement. It featured a modern, angular design with integrated pushers and “TITAN” engraved on the bottom end link for the integrated bracelet. The design is specifically credited to Ferdinand A. Porsche, and the company advertised it as one of the three “model leaders”, along with the Da Vinci Chronograph and Ingenieur SL.
In 1983, IWC introduced the Porsche Design “Ocean” model, a time-and-date automatic in a titanium case waterproof to a claimed 2,000 meters. This was joined later in the decade by a line of IWC Ocean models not signed by Porsche Design. Next up was the Porsche Design Chrono II, a 7750 in a rounded case with integrated pushers.
Another model seen in 1985 was the round time-and-date “Ultra Sportivo” in an Ingenieur-inspired titanium case. This was joined by 1987 by an Ultra Sportivo model with triple calendar and moon phase. The Sportivo 02 line in 1992, with a chronograph and time-and-date model in slim rounded cases, both quartz-powered.
The final IWC creation for Porsche Design came in 1993, the Titan Automatic and Lady Titan. Now featuring chunky titanium cases and a variety of finishes, these were time-and-date watches with a wide bezel and “shield” lugs. Following the 1996 dissolution of their partnership with Porsche Design, IWC focused on the IWC GST line of watches and retired the Porsche Design models.
In 1983, Porsche was using TAG-branded engines in their Formula One effort, and by 1987, Eterna was sponsoring the Porsche prototype racing team. In 1991, Vienna-based Motochron launched watches specifically inspired by (and named for) Porsche speedometers, though without the Porsche name. Clearly, Porsche was signaling an end to their exclusive relationship with IWC.
In September 1995, Porsche Design purchased the Swiss watch manufacturer Eterna in Grenchen through subsidiary, F.A.P. Beteiligungen GmbH for a reported CHF 25 million. The next year, Porsche Design and IWC announced the termination of their long-standing relationship as of March 1988. Porsche had been considering other Swiss brands, reportedly placing an unsuccessful bid for Vacheron Constantin as well.
The first Eterna products carried just the Porsche Design name. The first model for 1998 featured a silver titanium case, with a scalloped bezel and convex rectangular-link bracelet reminiscent of the IWC models but more modern. A black-coated titanium chronograph with the same scalloped bezel followed in 1999, retaining the Valjoux 7750 movement of the original. Quartz chronographs in titanium, aluminum, and rubber followed in 2000.
In 2003 F.A. Porsche sold shares of its previously independent design label Porsche Design to a subsidiary of the Porsche AG. Thus ended a confusing chapter in the history of the Porsche brand. Since then, there is also an economic connection between Porsche Design products and the sports car manufacturer.
Porsche Design launched the Porsche Design Indicator in 2004. Their most expensive watch to date, priced at Euro 100,000, it used a heavily-modified ETA 7750 with a digital chronograph counter designed by Antoine Tschumi.
In 2005 F.A. Porsche was appointed honorary chairman of the board of the Ferdinand Porsche AG. This function was introduced at the time of his father, Ferry, as he retired from business life. F.A. Porsche is said to have retired for health reasons from business life. His son, Dr. Ferdinand Oliver Porsche, took his place in the board.
Porsche Design celebrated the original P'6530 “Titan” chronograph in 2010 with a limited edition of 911 re-creations. The company also launched the P'6780 Diver that year, water resistant to 1,000 meters and only the brand's second dive watch.