March 26, 2011
by Ariel Adams
Porsche Design started a retro-refresh like most other brands last year as they get close to a major brand anniversary next year. On the one hand I could just dismiss what they are doing with the retro-revival as just playing along with “follow the leader,” but that isn’t totally the case for Porsche Design. First of all Porsche Design isn’t at all abandoning their more contemporary, future thinking line of watches. Second, Porsche Design will be offering re-releases of classic designs not to re-live the past, but to get it right. Plus designs like P’6520 and P’6530 (offered last year as a limited edition Heritage model), were futuristic to begin with so making them again still feels like it is about looking ahead.
In the mid 1970s Porsche Design teamed up with IWC (as they did for a few pieces) to create the IWC Porsche Design Compass watch (that I discussed here). There were a few such “Compass” models. Each of them has the dial lift up to reveal a signal mirror and a compass. Some of these watches has minimalist moonphase indicators on the dial, and others did not. The watches were made of aluminum because steel interfered with the magnetism of the compass. These watches also relied on early PVD coating treatments. Today these watches are loved collector’s items and a look at futurism of that era. This futuristic perspective was a design theme borne of the Bauhaus and the modern art movement. It offers a sense of optimism and function, to a more efficient and clean future. It is a design imbued with such ideals and I think the same design can have similar emotive effects today. When it comes down to it, this timeless design felt fresh then, and it feels fresh now.
The original Compass watch was 38mm wide in aluminum. The modern P’6520 version will be 42mm wide in titanium. Today’s case will be a harder, stronger metal and utilize a PVD coating that is far superior to that of the original. In the 1970s PVD and use of titanium was still very new. Porsche Design was actually the first to use black PVD on a watch. Today the metal and the coating process are mature and will result in a far superior product.
Porsche Design has the case and bracelet sandblasted before the PVD coating process takes place. The resulting looking is a slightly glossy watch with a amazingly smooth tactile experience. The watch surfaces feel wonderful to run your finger over. You’ll have to experience it for yourself. Just like the original the case flips open via two buttons in the lower lugs. The dial lifts to reveal a mirror (which PD states is scratch resistant) on it underside and a traditional liquid compass. The compass is actually removable by unscrewing a bezel. You can then use the compass for navigation on maps ((when GPS batteries die). Turn the watch over at any time to see the compass as well. The case is also 50 meters water resistant and the crystal of course is sapphire.
The bracelet uses a modified construction versus the original but is still great looking. The outside is all horizontal links and on the wrist it looks great with the tall design of the case. I love the look of the watch on my hand. The dial is still the minimalist, but highly functional design we have come to like. This is another “cross-hairs” style dial that for some reason I always find attractive and functional. Inside the watch is a Swiss Sellita SW300 which is an analog to the original Swiss ETA 2892 automatic used previously. The SW300 is the same movement by another maker. Brands like Porsche Design and many others are using Sellita movements as ETA is offering less and less to non-Swatch group brands.
Porsche Design will offer the P’6520 as a limited edition model of 911 pieces. Price will be in the $6,000 range (5,950 Swiss Francs). There will be two models, each the same but one will have compasses for the Northern Hemisphere and one for the Southern Hemisphere. In my opinion this is one of the better re-release models this year. The Heritage Compass watch is one that I think is very well done and a clear improvement over the original. I want this one a lot and look forward to seeing what else Porsche Design will offer in the coming years as they celebrate their history.