Think of Ferdinand Alexander “Butzi” Porsche and the first of his game changing creations to come to mind will, of course, be the iconic Porsche 911 sports car of 1963.
The son of Ferry Porsche oversaw the development in styling of the car from its previous 356 silhouette, while a flat-six engine replaced the flat four under the rear decklid. The rest, as readers of Total 911 will very well know, is history.
However, nearly a decade after creating the world’s most famous sports car, Butzi formed his own design studio in Stuttgart, Germany, the result of a management restructure at Porsche.
Converted to a public company in 1972, the Porsche family members stepped down from their positions of leadership, and Butzi – considered more of a designer than an engineer like his father and grandfather – formed Porsche Design. His thesis was to take the spirit of Porsche beyond the automotive, creating a new luxury lifestyle for men.
Porsche Design’s first commission came from Porsche AG, themselves searching for a suitable gift to honour employees with long-standing service. The answer was a timepiece, with Porsche AG committing to buying 20 units per year.
Butzi and his small team also created glasses, pipes and writing utensils with designs that sought to break the mould from contemporary conventions and styles.
Butzi then moved Porsche Design back to his childhood neighbourhood in Zell am See, Austria (Ferry moved his family there to avoid the bombing in Stuttgart during the Second World War), and the company has been based there ever since.
Now flanked by design studios in Berlin and Singapore and brought to life by carefully selected manufacturers from Germany, Italy and Switzerland, some Porsche Design products have become as famous as that aforementioned sports car – P’8478 aviator sunglasses, for example, continue to be worn by the world’s fashion cartel today.
A relatively small company compared to its automotive cousin (Porsche Design had less than ten employees as recently as the 2000s), the firm has long had little by way of business ties with the car firm, too.
That’s slowly changing though. Behind the scenes, the Porsche Design Group, founded in 2003, is a majority-owned subsidiary of Porsche AG, bringing the accessories and licensing business into one single company.
Meanwhile, and more visible to the public eye, Mark Webber, works driver for Porsche’s LMP1 WEC team, is the new face of Porsche Design fragrances, and frankly outstanding products such as the 911 Soundbar are available for the discerning customer (more on that later).
Once a brand that confessed its target clientele was “people who do not necessarily drive Porsche 911s,” the company has realigned its strategy and now seeks to fuse together Butzi’s two most famous creations – a perfect marriage for the Porsche 911 owner whose fashion sense is an extension of the style perpetuated by his or her sports car of choice.
So how successful is this likely to be? We’re on Brompton Road in London’sKnightsbridge, just a stone’s throw from the world’s most famous department store, Harrods (where Porsche Design also holds a concession on the third floor).
Luxury shops and hotels line the street as continual throngs of supercars intermingle with black cabs carrying tourists along the quad-laned inner-city road (our pick of the action is a Basalt black 991 C4S with snaring Sports exhaust).
Around 50 yards along from Harrods lies the UK’s chic Porsche Design store, its elegantly styled exterior dominated by simplistic black décor and the trademark ‘pd’ logo.
Stepping out from the bustling street and into the quiet, lavishly-presented store makes for a welcome reprieve. Spread over four floors (with a VIP room up top), the vast array of products on display are impressive both in their design as well as their presentation. Despite the pan appeal of the P’8478 sunglasses, Porsche Design is no one-trick pony.
Clothing, shoes, writing tools, luggage and, of course, timepieces dominate the store, with men’s and women’s products noticeable throughout each collection.
Sure, rather more outlandish products such as gold sunglasses may appeal to those with truly eccentric taste, but for the Porsche 911 owner there are indeed many synergies between products on sale here and the sports cars we all love to drive so much.
Carbon fibre writing tools are a personal favourite, while lightweight, easy-breathing polo shirts undoubtedly fuse a motorsport-derived efficiency with cutting-edge fashion.
We’re soon greeted by Sophie Charbonneau, UK country manager for Porsche Design, who sheds some light on Porsche Design’s focus towards the Zuffenhausen-oriented driver: “There are many interactions between a Porsche sports car and a Porsche Design product. Both exert an unwavering attention to detail in their design and are of the highest build quality,” she says.
Before long we’re shown to the Chronometer Collection of timepieces, where the link with automotive and racing in particular again becomes apparent.
Porsche Design has long been associated with building quality timepieces, right from the early days with Butzi himself, and watches continue to rely on strong titanium elements while featuring matte black surfaces, considered hallmarks of the specific needs of a racing driver.
The tachymeter hand is usually finished in red, keeping with the needle found sweeping around the tachometer of a modern-day Porsche. In keeping with true luxury and mechanical integrity, Porsche Design timepieces are also Swiss made.
“It’s important for us to form a bond with the Porsche 911 driver as he or she has the same interests as us,” Charbonneau continues. “This is perhaps best epitomised by our timepieces, which carry many semblances with design details of the sports cars our customers drive.”
“And, in the same instance, we love cars too, and relish meeting like-minded people with a passion for engineering integrity and flawless design.”
These are not hollow words either: Porsche Design has recently hosted an event here at Brompton Road with the Porsche Club of Great Britain, while readers lucky enough to win tickets to the 2015 Total 911 Awards will have noticed a ‘pd’ presence too.
Of course, where Porsche Design will prosper is in allowing fanatics to take their Porsche passion with them once they leave their vehicle, be it into the office or home. The greatest and most thrilling product to realise this to date is the 911 Soundbar.
Converted from an original rear silencer and twin exhaust of the 991 GT3 – a 911 with perhaps the most distinctive shriek at a heady 9,000rpm – the 911 Soundbar is a 2.1 virtual surround system subwoofer, with 200-watt performance and Bluetooth radio technology. As audio for the home goes, surely there’s none more thrilling than this.
All too soon, our visit to the Porsche Design store on Brompton Road is over and we’re heading for home in our 911. Leaving the bright lights of the busy city behind us, we can’t help but embrace our infatuation with the company and its truly exquisite products. And that’s precisely the point.
No longer a high-end fashion company that otherwise has little in common with the sports car outfit sharing its name, Porsche Design carries forward the finesse and integrity associated with the Porsche 911 and rightfully instills those traits in all of its products. For the Porsche fanatic, it means sheer Porsche utopia is more than a reasonable possibility. Butzi, I’m sure, would be proud.