The real story behind BMW's logo

Luke Pereira
The truth behind BMW’s iconic logo

Was BMW’s logo really styled after an aircraft propeller? BMW reveals the origins of its blue and white roundel


Photos by BMW

Was BMW’s blue and white roundel actually designed after a propeller? The common belief has it as this, since BMW got its start making airplane engines before it became a well-known car and motorcycle manufacturer.

Rapp Motorenwerke GmbH was BMW’s ‘ancestor’, a German aircraft engine manufacturer based in Munich, Bavaria. Founded in 1913, the firm later changed its name in 1917 to Bayerische Motoren Werke GmbH, which later translated to Bavarian Engine Works Company. Rapp first began producing aircraft engines in 1913 during the First World War as cars had not yet broken through into the mainstream and if you wanted to travel long distances on land, you usually went by train – or horse.

On 5th October 1917, this first BMW badge was registered in the German Imperial Register of Trademarks, retaining the round shape of the original Rapp logo. The outer ring of the symbol was bounded by two gold lines and bore the letters BMW.

The truth behind BMW’s iconic logo
The first BMW badge registered in 1917, with an outer ring bounded by two gold lines that bore the letters ‘BMW’.

The company’s home state of Bavaria was also represented on the company logo. The quarters of the inner circle on the BMW badge displayed the state colours of the State of Bavaria – white and blue. But they were in the inverse order as the local trademark law at the time forbade the use of state coats of arms or other symbols of sovereignty on commercial logos.

So how did the propeller myth come about?

The truth behind BMW’s iconic logo

“Many people believe the BMW logo is a stylized propeller. But the truth is a little different,” said Fred Jakobs, Archive Director of the BMW Group Classic. The myth of the BMW propeller came about years after the first company logo. In 1929, a BMW ad was released showing an aeroplane with the BMW logo in the rotating propeller.

The ad was trying to promote a new aircraft engine that BMW built under license from Pratt & Whitney, and it became widely interpreted as the brand’s inspiration for its logo – and likely where the popular myth began.

The truth behind BMW’s iconic logo
 In 1942, BMW linked the propeller to its company symbol in an article in a BMW publication titled “Flugmotoren-Nachrichten” (Aircraft Engine News).

The current BMW logo was introduced in 2020, removing the 3D effects that had been used in renderings of the logo, and BMW says it stands for the mobility of the future. The now-current logo will only be used on BMW’s branding but not on its vehicles.

The truth behind BMW’s iconic logo
The evolution of BMW’s logo over the years.

With BMW’s new transparent logo, Jens Thiemer, Senior Vice President of Customer & Brand for BMW said that “BMW becomes a relationship brand. The new communication logo radiates openness and clarity, and we want to invite our customers more than ever to become part of the BMW world. We are equipping ourselves flexibly for the wide variety of contact points in communication at which BMW will show its presence online and offline in the future. The additional communication logo symbolises the significance and relevance of the brand for mobility and driving pleasure in the future.”

Source: BMW


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About the Author

Luke Pereira

CarBuyer's content producer loves producing entertaining, relatable content. He spends all year waiting around for Mariah Carey. Rumour has it he was married twice and is 'Luke Perry' incarnate are unfounded. @lukeypereira

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