On learning recently about Porsche having to recall every one of their brand new super saloon, the Panamera, due to seat belt issues, I got to thinking about change and the perception of change to the masses. Until very recently, the name Porsche was eponymous with their iconic rear-engined 911 and subsequent 964, 993, 996 and 997 models which to the untrained eye may as well have retained the 911 moniker – they all share the strong family resemblance, which has it’s own roots in the post-war 356. I know that the Porsche purist will be outraged at such a blanket statement, but it’s just a simple statement of fact – to most folk the Porsche name has always evoked the image of their 911 sports coupe.
In recent years however, the great marque has decided that it should extend it’s catchment to meet the requirements of the well-heeled off-road/SUV customer and even more recently their now-recalled contribution to the executive saloon. In my humble opinion – and upon reading selected reviews – the less humble opinion of many respected motoring journos, the Cayenne and Panamera look like what may have happened to the shoe once the ugly sisters had both squeezed their size – 9s into it – big, bulgy, and bloody fugly.
From being one of the darlings of the motoring press, Porsche almost overnight became the butt of many’s a critical review and I believe that honestly, they should have stuck to what they do best, the 911 and it’s offshoots, and leave the jeeps and limos to the others. I know, I know, it’s industry setting new challenges and it’s all backed up by market research and analysis, but did anyone ask who would actually buy these cars if they got the panning they did from the press? An example from the straight-talking Jeremy Clarkson: “The Panamera, though, is worse. People have tried to be kind, saying that it’s challenging and that it’s unusual. But the simple fact of the matter is this: it’s as ugly as an inside-out monkey. It’s dreadful.“
So change is bad, right? Well, arguably in the case of the Cayenne and the Panamera it’s not been great, but Porsche could do worse than take a look at the new Prologue timepiece from young watchmaker Marc Jenni to get an understanding behind the reason for change, the philosophy behind change. Because the Prologue brings something new to the game, it’s not change for change’s sake, it’s about a revision of perceptions and expectations of the watch and it’s functionality.
Marc Jenni’s Prologue watch was unveiled recently at BaselWorld 2010 on no less a platform than the Horological Academy of Independent Creators (AHCI) booth; this fact alone underlining that there was indeed something worthy of attention here to see.
In creating his first watch under his own name, Marc Jenni has been labouring away for over two years on his concept prior to it’s unveiling at the AHCI stand and if his Prologue (literally meaning the opening to a story that establishes the setting and gives background details) is anything to go by, then it’s a good omen of things to come in future chapters.
The Prologue has no crown. No obvious means of winding, of time setting or of changing the date. Just a button of some kind at the four o’clock position, there must be some way to perform these functions.
The genius of the Prologue is in the approach to these functions, for it’s world’s first lateral winding mechanism is incorporated in the black ring which surrounds the flanks and passes through the lugs of the watch and which can be rotated smoothly in either direction. Pressing the unusual black square button at the four o’clock position allows the wearer to wind the watch, or to select the time or date setting, again by rotating the ring.
Once time and date are correct, the watch is set to ‘wind’ and this will be verified in the triangular ’subdial’ near the 3 o’clock on the dial, where ‘time’ and ‘date’ refer to the setting in use. The réserve de marche is displayed without fuss at the 9 o’clock.
The 44mm case is available in 18Kt white or rose gold and houses the Calibre 2010 automatic movement which has a 42 hour power reserve. The ‘turning ring’ is made in 18Kt gold, but has a soft, grippy coating which I imagine would also serve to protect the ring from picking up scratches. A sapphire caseback reveals the 22Kt oscillating weight which also continues the triangle motif found on the subdial, perpetuating a centuries-old family coat of arms going back to 1780 when Jenni’s descendant , Johan Jakob Jenni was a watchmaker by profession.
I like the imagination behind such a concept. Like visionary watchmaker Urwerk, Marc Jenni has integrated modern thinking into a traditional practice, they have gone about their craft differently to the great majority of their contemporaries and it stands to their credit that they have the ability to visualize new ways of reinventing an age-old profession.
Such change comes about through passion, great skills and I’m sure a barrel-full of doggedness to see innovation through to it’s conclusion.
I think much more of Marc Jenni’s Prologue than I do of the Porsche Panamera. Plus, it has the added advantage of not looking “as ugly as an inside out-monkey”!
Hey Porsche! Four doors?? Leave it to someone who does it with passion!