The Other, More Affordable Porsche

Like the automaker, Porsche Design pulls no punches. Unlike the automaker, copping their gear is pretty easy.

byMichael Frank| PUBLISHED Feb 26, 2016 7:23 PM
The Other, More Affordable Porsche

Porsche Design isn’t located in Germany. It’s in the Austrian ski town of Zell am See. And in Zell am See pretty much everything, even the gondolas that whisk you to the top of three separate 10,000-foot mountains is designed by Porsche.

But not by that Porsche, the Volkswagen-owned carmaker, creator of the legendary 911 and 959. This one, Porsche Design, was founded by Ferdinand Alexander (F.A.) Porsche, son of Ferry and grandson of Ferdinand—the latter having founded founder Porsche cars in 1931.

F.A. broke from the carmaker in 1972, after penning the 911 and arguably doing more for Porsche than any designer in the history of carmaking, to found his own design firm. But F.A. clearly didn’t want to just design cars, and Porsche Design went on to influence far more than the automotive world, since it's crafted everything from office equipment to dental chairs, watches, yachts, and tractors.

You see the most influence from 1972 to 2012 (the year F.A. died) in pieces like gorgeous titanium chronographs, perfectly balanced writing instruments, and iconic sunglasses. We recently paid a visit to their Madison Avenue outpost to see the latest and coolest designs coming out of the Austrian mountaintop headquarters. Here are a few highlights.

911 Soundbar

It's almost intimidating to stand beside the Porsche Design Soundbar. Turning it on (music is streamed via Bluetooth 3.0) you expect the pop and crackle of PDK downshifts to resonate at deafening volume. That’s possible, almost. The rear silencer and twin exhaust pipes are derived directly from a 911 GT3, right down to the welds. Porsche Design has revised these parts to work as a resonator (in lieu of an electronic subwoofer) so that lower-register signals that would otherwise be bounced to the rear are filtered up through the exhaust. It gives the system a richness that a typical sound bar wouldn’t have, and at 200 watts the unit can easily fill an entire room. Clarity, not just bass, are signatures. Do note that 2.1 Virtual Surround is not the same as 5.1—the unit sends sound to three less speakers, e.g. two total—but if you’re looking for an awesome system that’s dead simple to operate in an apartment or a den, the $2,900 Soundbar will crush the job. Now the bummer: It’s sold out in the U.S. at the moment because, naturally, making these is labor intensive so supply stays low. More are on the way, and this is the one piece in the current collection that will be stocked directly by select Porsche auto dealers.

1919 Globetimer Series 1

When F.A. started Porsche Design the company outsourced its watch construction. But in the late 1990s Porsche brought production in house under its own Swiss facility, Porsche Design Timepieces A.G. Its latest models, the 1919 series, hew to classic Porsche principles of honing away filigrees. All watches in the 1919 series (there will be four in total) pay tribute to the year Bauhaus, a modern design ethos that has influenced everything from cars to architecture, was born.

We dig the Globetimer because it’s plainly gorgeous. Its titanium case makes it light but still tough, and the 42mm diameter is large enough to have presence but without being showy. Timepieces A.G. nails the intrinsics of the $3,500-$4,500 Globetimer, too: The titanium is glass-bead blasted, which yields a smooth surface that’s both kinder against your skin and protective to the case. The Sellita SW 330 movement is ultra reliable, and the fourth hand lets you keep tabs on a second timezone, which is handy during jet-lagged travel. The crystal is a scratch-resistant, double-sided anti-reflective sapphire. It’s also slightly domed—the better, say Porsche Design advisors, to see the hands out of the corner of your eye while driving.

Hardcase Luggage

Porsche Design has offered soft-sided luggage for years, but these are its first hard shell pieces. The design is smart—polycarbonate makes them both tough as well as exceptionally lightweight, and four dual-sided double-bearing wheels roll with a liquid ease that no other roll-aboard we’ve tried can match. (And we travel. A lot.) The Hardcases range in size from a carry-on (42 liter) to a medium (69 liter) and a large (99 liter) model, priced between $600-$750. The pieces feature zipped mesh dividers to reduce weight and preserve internal volume. Each piece comes with a TSA-spec lock.