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The emblem is commonly identified as a propeller…but is it?

BMW has been around for a century, producing powerful and luxurious vehicles for people around the world–and all those vehicles have the iconic blue-and-white badge front and center. Regardless of what feelings that logo stirs in you, its identity is unmistakable.

But what’s the history of the BMW logo, and where did it originate?


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The Hunt for the Origin of the BMW Logo!

There are plenty of stories surrounding the history of the BMW logo, mostly based on what it looks like. Is it something nautical, like a life preserver? Or a stylized hubcap? A coat of arms?

What’s your guess?

The most popular idea is that its a rotating air screw, based on the cover of a BMW aircraft engine manual from 1929 below.

History of the BMW Logo Originate plane magazine cover

Photo: BMW via Youtube

Makes sense, doesn’t it? The circular, blurred form actually looks like a propeller in motion. Does that mean BMW had something to do with planes?

Actually yes, but the logo came ten years before that artwork, back when BMW was taking over another aircraft engine manufacturer: Rapp.

History of the BMW Logo Originate Bavarian Ad

Photo: BMW via Youtube

Intentionally standing in for the logo it was replacing (Rapp’s black horse), the BMW logo was made circular, with lettering imitating that of Rapp’s. This resulted in the logo’s first appearance on the Bayern-Flugmotor manual in 1918, and the first time on the road in 1923 on the R32 bike.

The blue-and-white heart of the logo? Not an aircrew but actually the checkered flag of Bavaria.

The most interesting thing is how little the BMW badge has changed after 100 years:

History of the BMW Logo Originate old 1917 History of the BMW Logo Originate old 1933 History of the BMW Logo Originate old 1953 History of the BMW Logo Originate old 1979 History of the BMW Logo Originate current

You don’t see many differences, do you? There’s the loss of serifs on the lettering, the changing blue tones, the recent addition of light source shading, and the changing outline colors. But apart from that, the history of the BMW logo is clearly one of  consistency and commitment.

You can see the whole history discussed in detail in this mini-documentary from BMW. Give it a look!


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Enjoy learning about BMW? Check out the rest of our Behind the Badge” series examining automotive brand logos!
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