To celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, Porsche Design—an independent industrial design consultancy and brand—teamed up with its vintage vehicle cousin, Porsche Classic, to restore a 1972 Porsche 911 Targa. A factory-restored vintage 911 would be cool enough on its own, but this one has the added allure (or shame) of being rejuvenated to look like a special wristwatch.
Founded by Ferdinand Alexander “Butzi” Porsche—the original designer of the 911, and grandson of company founder and imprisoned Nazi war criminal Ferdinand Porsche—Porsche Design was intended to bring the German marque’s monomaniacal engineering and minimalist aesthetic to other product categories. The first commission came from the car company itself to create a premium timepiece that could be gifted to deserving employees and customers.
The result was the Chronograph 1, the world’s first watch with an all-black matte case and dial. Inspired by Porsche’s signature non-reflective dashboard gauges, the design flowed from Butzi’s stated desire to “create a watch that matches the car.” Porsche Classic and Porsche Design took that instruction quite literally by acquiring a red 1972 911 T and converting it to matte black specification, just like the Chronograph 1.
The donor car for this process was quite tomato when it was located. “We had rust, and a lot of corrosion on the body. And the engine didn’t run, nor the gearbox,” says Uwe Makrutzki, manager of factory repairs at Porsche Classic, who oversaw the process. Worse, it suffered notable physical molestations during the Me decade. “That was one really funny thing that was modified,” Makrutzki said. “In the ’80s, whale tail spoilers were very fashionable, so many customers, like this one, modified them to make their cars look more ‘sporty’.”
Fortunately, Porsche Classic is adept at amputating cetaceans. Even more fortunately, it has excellent availability of parts for repairing these cars. “90 percent of the new parts were available,” Makrutzki said.
Particularly devilish though was locating the proper camshaft housing, as the car would also be upgraded to a heated 2.4-litre “S” spec during the rehab process. After some searching one was located, as new old stock from a dealer in the special procurement network. “It wasn’t challenging,” Makrutzki said. “It just takes time, so we just have to be patient.”
Fortunately, owners of classic Porsche 911 Targas will benefit from this process. “Prior to this project, the replacement Targa sheet we had in stock was only close in texture to the original 1972 surface,” said Makrutzki. “So we used this opportunity to rebuild the material exactly the surface and spec of 1972. And we got it.” That newly produced piece will now be available for purchase via Porsche Classic.
In honor of the 50st anniversary of Porsche Design, an updated iteration of the Chronograph 1 was also created. “We kept the watch design completely true to the 1972 original, including the brand’s old historic logo on the dial and crown,” said Roland Heiler, chief design officer of the Porsche Lifestyle Group. However, the company changed the case material from steel to titanium, for improved lightness and durability, and updated the works with modern mechanics.
The only other major update appears on the back. The rotor – the device that converts the wearer’s motion into winding energy – now has a shape that will be familiar to any fan of vintage 911s. “It mirrors the original Fuchs wheels from the sports car,” Heiler said.
Both the restored car and the special watch will be auctioned by RM Sotheby’s from 29 November. Since the car has a non-original engine and transmission, another numerical correspondence was created to serve high-end collectors’ obsession with matching numbers. Heiler said, “The watch has the car’s unique VIN on the case back.”
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