The TAG Heuer Carrera Porsche Chronograph dropped yesterday. HoDinkee and the rest of the whoreillogical press was all over it. No surprise there. Watch writers are car guys. One problem: this Porsche design isn’t a Porsche Design design. It’s a . . .
44m TAG Heuer Carrera Sports watch with double digit indices, a pavement textured dial, a red stripe on the crown, the word Porsche on the bezel (replacing “Tachymeter”), a Porsche steering wheel rotor and a model-specific leather strap (bracelet optional).
It’s a whole lot less Porsche than the $26,250 titanium-cased TAG Heuer X Aston Martin Carrera Chronograph is Aston. That TAG collaboration sports Aston’s logo on the dial and engraved on the caseback – not to mention rose-gold plated accents and a tourbillon.
Like it or loathe it, Porsche’s TAG watch – rather TAG’s Porsche watch – is a cynical commercial gambit. It betrays Porsche Design’s legacy of elegant, distinctive designs; the earliest of which literally changed the face of watchmaking and introduced titanium cases to the mass market.
Porsche Design began life in 1972 under Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, grandson of Porsche’s founder. Left to his own devices, “Butzi” hooked-up with Orfina to design and launch the world’s first black dial watch.
From 1978 to 1997, Porsche Design produced groundbreaking watches with IWC. In 1998, PD switched suppliers to Eterna. In 2007, Porsche the carmaker assumed control of Porsche Design, but stayed “hands off.”
In 2014, just before a Chinese company swallowed the remains of the once noble Swiss Eterna brand, Porsche Design struck on its own, manufacturing its own timepieces.
Porsche Design continued to produce watches adhering to their founder’s philosophy: “Optimize function. Reduce the form right down to the essentials. Overcome the familiar to continually discover new and exceptional solutions.”
What does the new TAG Heuer Carrera Porsche Chronograph have to do with any of that? Nothing. It’s a relatively mild reworking of an existing watch that possess no obvious link to Porsche Design’s illustrious past or its current coherent range of deeply admirable timepieces.
The TAG Heuer Carrera Porsche Chronograph costs $5,850 on a custom leather strap, $6,050 on a bracelet. While TAG sells the watch as a collaboration with Porsche – not Porsche design – the timepiece puts an outside supplier in direct competition with Porsche Design watches, confusing consumers and, thus, damaging one of watchmaking’s greatest brands.
The word on the street: Porsche’s lawyers have been threatening to sue TAG Heuer for using the word “Carrera” on their watches for some time. What’s the bet that the TAG Heuer Carrera Porsche Chronograph was born of a compromise designed to settle the longstanding legal wrangle?
Several members of the watch press conclude their fawning introduction to the new TAG/Porsche watch by breathlessly expressing their excitement for future co-productions. Obviously, this writer doesn’t share their sycophantic desire to see Porsche wander off the horological reservation.
If Porsche Design has any reservations about the new watch and the partnership it launches, they’re keeping them to themselves. Meanwhile, they’re busy carrying on the business of honoring Ferdy’s legacy with sleek minimalist models. As well they should.