The Porsche Design Studio in Zell-am-See, Austria, is identified with clear, timeless, and unmistakable design that is the trademark of all Porsche Design Group products. One of the most important and influential series of products born there are the timepieces. Traditionally, creations that originated from this studio encompassed a clear vision of how to create a pure and timeless precision instrument. From the choice of materials to the overall design, Butzi Porsche managed to steer with precision between functionality and luxury. This design ethos is ever present in the new chronograph series presented this year. Today on Monochrome, we review the Porsche Design Chronotimer Series 1 in matte black.
With the Chronotimer Series 1, Porsche Design presents chronograph timepieces influenced by legendary Porsche Design icons produced in 1972 and 1978; in essence we are dealing with a fusion of these timepieces constructed from the best materials with the highest standards. Firstly, the Chronograph 1, which was introduced in 1972, was a ground-breaking sport chronograph. Bold from its inception and at the same time simple in its design, this watch created a stir. The chronograph 1 was the first watch that defied the traditional design that existed in chronographs up to that point. It became a style-defining classic as a result of its appearance: it was black, something that had never seen before. But not only the colour of the watch was revolutionary. It was the whole wristwatch itself. Butzi Porsche, espousing the Bauhaus aesthetics, designed a highly functional wristwatch, which blended functionality and aesthetics in equal measure. Nothing was there for decoration.
In 1978 Butzi Porsche wrote yet again another chapter in watchmaking history with his extraordinary design, with a chronograph made entirely of titanium: the IWC by Porsche Design (Ref. 3700). Chronographs had been heavy and bulky up until that point. Processing the new material, titanium, allowed the designer to construct a light and compact timepiece that was just as durable and precise as its stainless steel predecessors. Hence, Professor Porsche changed yet again the watch industry, setting a new benchmark.
Ferdinand Alexander Porsche was one of the truly great designers of the 20th Century. He conceived one of the world’s most recognizable and legendary sport cars; the Porsche 911. In everything he envisioned, he tried to install the basic principles of the Bauhaus movement adorned with a zip of luxury and uniqueness. Therefore, he managed to blend new materials, technologies, and functional elegance into a truly exclusive iconic contemporary design that withstood time by being classic and modern and lavishly opulent at the same time. His various wristwatch creations prove our point as well as the Porsche Design Chronotimer Series 1, which we will review.
The Porsche Design Chronotimer Series 1
The Porsche Design Chronotimer Series 1 are developed entirely by Porsche Design Timepieces AG, based in Solothurn (Switzerland) – and they are also manufactured in Switzerland. The bezels are available in black, titanium or 18-carat rose gold. The dial also comes in many flavours: black, carbon or deep blue, while high-quality leather, high-tech fabric and rubber are the choices the buyer has regarding the straps; of course a titanium bracelet is available as well (all can be seen here, in the article we published when the watch was introduced).
The Chronotimer 1 we had for our review is the all black one with the matching bracelet and admittedly, it is a very peculiar watch… on first glance what you see is just plain and simple – no bells and whistles, nothing! However, when you start seeing the chronograph in your hand, then you realize that its austere look is what makes it quite unique. It seems as though Butzi’s legacy still thrives in Zell-am-See. It’s dimensions – 42mm in diameter and 14,6mm in height – means that this is a relatively large and bulky chronograph by classical terms. It wears large because it is quite a long watch (lug-to-lug spacing is above average) however the stealth looks and its weight make the wearability of the Chronotimer a quite comfortable experience.
The case is made of Titanium which is glass bead-blasted with black coating. Porsche Design finishes the Chronotimer with this process because it is an effective way of increasing the fatigue properties of metal parts and surfaces (the watch case) and offers resistance to stress corrosion cracking. Glass beads are very hard and lightweight thus they produce a high magnitude layer of residue while leaving a smooth surface finish. Therefore, the benefit is a watch that can withstand quite an abuse, while the black colour creates a visually appealing result that withholds the tradition of the first black chronograph in history.
The Chronotimer also incorporates a tachymeter scale on the bezel and has a screw-down crown since the watch is water resistant to 5 Bar. Last but not least it has a convex, scratch-resistant and double-coated anti-reflective sapphire crystal on the front and a screwed-case back with black-tinted sapphire crystal on the back. Personally, I think that this option is very clever since I caught myself many times to admire the ETA/Valjoux 7750 in all its glory.
The dial of the Chronotimer stays in harmony with the case and with the character of the watch as a whole. It is a plain and simple dial with nice little details, however it remains very functional and legible. The matt black glass bead-blasted dial has a brushed chapter ring with matt white numerals. The indices are white and grey while the Porsche Design logo is highly polished. What dominates the dial of the Chronotimer are the two central sub-dials; we can see an asymmetry between the constant seconds sub-dial at 9 o’ clock and the 30 minute and 12 hour sub-dials which are placed at 12 and 6 o’ clock. These two are substantially bigger and they are circular brushed with polished edges. By activating the chronograph functions, the Chronotimer user has a perfect legibility of the elapsed time. Therefore, it becomes apparent that the tool/instrument ethos of the first creations of Butzi transcends generations and it is ever present in the 2015 Chronotimer Series 1. Last but not least, we can also observe the highly polished white luminescent hour and minute hands while the hands for the central subdials have red tips.
The chronograph’s heart is the classic ETA/Valjoux cal.7750. Based on the workhorse manual-wind Valjoux 7733, the 7750 was one of the first movements to be designed with the aid of a computer in the early 1970’s. It uses an automatic-winding module attached to the top of the movement, winding in one direction by means of a single double-click wheel. The 7750 is 13.25 lignes (30 millimetre), 7.9 millimetres thick and boasts a 42-hours power reserve (48 hours in our case since Porsche Design technicians reworked the calibre). Initially using 17 jewels, current versions use 25. An ETA/Valjoux 7750-powered watch is characterized by its rather stiff pusher action, and by the familiar “wobble” of the winding rotor when it spins inside the watch – and in our case, I experienced both. The pushers have a stiff but very positive feeling when pressed and sometimes the Chronotimer seem to become active in my wrist. Personally I do love the classic 7750 ‘wobble’ effect. It constantly reminds me the inner workings of a purely mechanical wristwatch.
This legendary calibre runs at 28,800 bpm (first editions ran at 21,600 bpm) and it has a great reputation of being extraordinary tough with a nearly indestructible self-winding mechanism. Its layout is straightforward and offers great legibility. We can observe small seconds at 9 o’clock, the 30-minute counter at 12 o’clock the 12-hour counter at 6 o’clock and the date window with quick set function at 3 o’clock. Here, as we showed previously, the two chronograph sub-dials are much bigger for enhanced legibility. Also the calibre, which can be seen from the open back sapphire glass is finished with high standards – with a rotor that has imbedded the Porsche Design logo. As far I am concerned, a neat and classy detail.
Last but not least the watch came with a glass bead-blasted titanium bracelet with black coating and a double folding deployant clasp with push button release. First and foremost, the bracelet is the perfect match for the character of the watch. It is greatly executed, and very comfortable on the wrist. Although Porsche Design offers the Chronotimer series of watches with quite a few quality options, I think that it’s imperative to wear the watch on its bracelet. It ads a lot to the stealthy character of the chronograph and its a very impressive combo functionally and visibly.
There is an old saying about aircraft that if it looks well it flies well. I could say that this motto applies in our case with the Chronotimer 1 chronographs. The watch is very attractive in its austere form and very luxurious in its strict character. How someone will fuse these elements might be difficult but in our case the exception defines the rule. This timepiece is very comfortable to wear and will last a lifetime, as every quality mechanical watch should, since the materials chosen and the way this chronograph is built are top notch.
The character and the ethos of this specific watch are to me at least its biggest strength and its biggest weakness. On one hand we have a timepiece with a clear and defined raison d’être: a chronograph designed to be a pure and timeless precision instrument in which every design nuance follows a specific reason. On the other hand, in our era, this might look to some as an over simplistic way of design ethos. However, I will say that simple things are the most complex after all. In our case, there is so much to discover if you start to wear and live with the watch in your everyday activities.
The Porsche Design Chronotimer 1 might be a difficult Chronograph to comprehend. It will be bought by someone who values an instrument embellished lavishly with touches of luxury. It is a tough choice especially on a market that flourishes with extravagant chronographs and prospective buyers that value impressive looking, jewellery-like, status-symbol watches. This chronograph from Porsche Design follows the dictum “form follows function” and as such, it is made for those who want to make a difference with their timepiece. Surely, it is a wristwatch that it is different, as with every Porsche Design creations. The Porsche Design Chronotimer Series 1 is a chronograph that follows the spirit of the company’s founder and that’s something that needs to be applauded. Price: 4.750 Euros. Porsche-Design.com.