[VIDEO] Hands-On With The Porsche Design Chronograph 1 1972 Limited Edition

When I think of great designs a few things jump to mind straight away, stuff like the concept of timelessness, the original Sony Walkman, and the Porsche 911, to name a few. Sure, a few watches make the list, typical stuff like the Patek Philippe 1815 or the Vacheron Constantin Cornes de vache, you know the type – but also the less traditionally beautiful, the beautifully functional. The JLC Deep Sea Alarm, the Sinn EZM1, or even the Porsche Design Chronograph 1. That last one happens to come from the same hand that designed the Porsche 911, in an exercise to express his design philosophy across different utilitarian subject matter. Crossovers rarely work as well as they sound on paper, but every now and again a Bo Jackson comes along, and makes it look effortless. This was Ferdinand “Butzi” Porsche and the Porsche Design Chronograph 1 in 1972, 13 years after penning the 911’s classic lines. 

The original Chronograph 1 kind of put all-black watches on the map. The watch had a steel case and bracelet that were coated entirely in black, joining a black dial in the process to create what was surely a ‘vibe’ even back then. The purpose, as we’re told, was to put the form entirely behind the function, and there is no greater contrast you can achieve than white on black. Okay, we’ll chalk up some style points on account of the sweet “PD” logo above the day and date apertures. And the sweet case design.

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$7700

[VIDEO] Hands-On With The Porsche Design Chronograph 1 1972 Limited Edition

Case
Titanium with black titanium carbide coating
Movement
WERK 1.140
Dial
Matte Black
Lume
Super Luminova
Lens
Sapphire
Strap
Black titanium bracelet
Water Resistance
10 bar
Dimensions
40.8×44.5mm
Thickness
14mm
Lug Width
24mm
Crown
Screw Down
Warranty
2 years
Price
$7700

There’s more to the heritage of this watch, and that’s a story we’ll get into with a comparison of the original with the reissue seen here in the coming weeks. For now, here are our impressions of the latest attempt at capturing the spirit of the original by Porsche Design in the new Chronograph 1 1972 Limited Edition. 

The latest chapter of the Chronograph 1 goes back to its roots. This is a modern watch that captures the spirit of the original with a deft hand, meaning it’s not a copy/paste, but rather a thoughtful interpretation. A look at this watch with fresh eyes would reveal a design that is as relevant today as it would have been in 1972. Of course, all-black watches are relatively commonplace today, but this is a watch that wears it naturally, it feels made for this color scheme. A clean steel version would look like a novelty, a cool one, but strange nonetheless (for the record, these do exist in Orfina’s archive). 

The dial and case have a synergy that holds up remarkably well. They compliment each other, with a sparse tachymeter scale serving as the dividing line. The proportions of this transition have been reworked when viewing this next to the original, and it’s the biggest tell that some serious consideration went into re-creating this design in ways that aren’t immediately apparent.

A closer look at the dial reveals sub-registers sunken into their own spaces, something only visible from certain angles. Legibility is still clearly the prime focus here, so there’s no faux patina or yellow/brown lume, it’s pure white against matte black. The hands and hour markers jump off the dial even at a glance, and while there’s plenty going on within the dial, there’s plenty of breathing room between each component. A bright red timing seconds hand stands in sharp contrast to the black and white landscape surrounding it. I would have welcomed corresponding red timing hands in the hour and minute totalizers, as some older military references received, but the single red seconds hand provides maximum impact. 

A favorite detail of the dial is the preservation of the original “PD” logo mark above the day and date apertures. The style is immensely satisfying, providing a look that defines the era of its origin. It’s the single part of this watch that I can’t see being created today, and it adds a wallop of character here.

The largest of the unseen departures from the original is the case and bracelet being constructed of titanium, with a surface treatment bringing a black titanium carbide coating, that’s been glass bead blasted for a satin matte finish. It’s soft to the touch, light on the wrist, and won’t crumble off under stress (probably). I wouldn’t go as far as calling this a light watch, but it manages its heft with grace thanks to the material choices, and that pays dividends on the wrist. 

Mercifully, Porsche Design has resisted upsizing the case, and have managed a diameter that’s a touch over 40mm, and an end-to-end length of under 45mm. Thickness is about bang on 14mm, a side effect that comes with the territory, but it wears as well as it possibly could. I’d call the case, bracelet and overall weight of the watch downright ergonomic, all things considered. 

The H link bracelet gets a slight taper to a thick clasp which features the same “PD” logo. Inside the clasp is a tidy micro-adjust system that affords a considerable amount of slide to get the fit just right, or for quick adjustments on the go. It’s a light, comfortable bracelet that, in this GP Ice Race Edition gets a quick release end link that slips out with the push of a button. These types of features are becoming more commonplace these days, however they’re only as valuable as the additional strap options available to you. In this case, with no traditional lug design, you’re looking at custom options, or the additional white nylon strap provided, which has enough length to be worn over a large jacket or coat. It looks great, but not exactly practical in most situations.

The additional strap does come with an endlink that slips into the case, and had the white strap been removable, would have afforded the perfect opportunity to fit any strap to the watch. Unfortunately, that white strap is sewn on. So close, yet so far. Thankfully, the bracelet suits the watch perfectly, but still, it’s nice to have options, and they clearly went through the trouble of making a quick release end link. With the end link removed, there is room for a regular 22mm springbar, and a tight clearance that some straps will likely be able to manage, should you want to go that route. 

Porsche Design have been moving upstream with their in-house movements under the WERK banner, beginning with the 01.200 in 2017. The Chronograph 1 uses the WERK 01.140, a chronometer rated automatic chronograph with day and date complications. There isn’t much in the way of details about this movement, however the concentric screw regulator arm over the balance bridge bears the signature flair of a Concepto design, which may have been the starting point here. There’s a strong general resemblance to the Concepto C9901 used by Sinn, a movement that reads pretty closely to the 7750 itself. Just what revisions and alterations, or even components come from Porsche Design are unclear, but the chronometer spec regulation is certainly welcome. For what it’s worth, the tell tale 7750 rotor wobble is subtly present in the Chronograph 1. 

The movement source feels a bit like a ValFleurier – Richemont, or Kenissi – Tudor type situation with less clear lines of ownership. To be perfectly frank, it’s rather difficult to make a good movement from scratch, and I’d feel more comfortable knowing it’s been sourced from a manufacture with a strong track record. And there’s no shame in that. A little more transparency here would go a long way, as would doing away with the ambiguous ‘in-house’ language we’ve all become a bit numb to. There’s a broader discussion here which is best saved for another day, but as it relates to this Porsche Design Chronograph 1, the movement has performed tip top thus far, and I’d sleep a bit better knowing its lineage to the 7750.

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The new movement, the titanium case and bracelet, and the updated old-school design all make for a pretty compelling on-wrist experience with the Chronograph 1. There’s an element of nostalgia here, no doubt, but it begs to be used rather than collected. This is a watch that ushered in the all-black trend, which never really subsided in the following decades. Today, I’d hesitate to call it a trend and more a style all its own, and in a sea of black watches offered by watch brands across the spectrum, the Chronograph 1 still stands out as a prime example how to do it right. 

There’s a connection between the design of the chronograph 1, and the 911 of the era in which it was produced. That connectivity feels far more organic than what I see in the modern Porsche Design watch collection and the modern Porsche 911. Place a 992 next to a LWB 911 from the late ‘60s and the evolution is obvious. The modern Porsche Design chronograph design language seems to have lost something when compared to the Chronograph 1. This 1972 LE is a reminder of what that original vision was. 

The Porsche Design Chronograph 1 1972 Limited Edition is priced at $7,700, and its 500 examples are currently listed as sold out. Interested parties can join a waitlist through Porsche Design.

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Blake is a Wisconsin native who’s spent the past decade covering the people, products, and brands that make the watch world a little more interesting. Blake enjoys the practical elements that watches bring to everyday life, from modern Seikos to vintage Rolex. He is an avid writer and photographer with a penchant for classic cars, non-fiction literature, and home-built mechanical keyboards.
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