Audemars Piguet Releases Its First Marvel Branded Watch And People Have Thoughts

Audemars Piguet Releases Its First Marvel Branded Watch And People Have Thoughts

The Le Brassus-based brand crafted a limited-edition Royal Oak Concept “Black Panther” Flying Tourbillon to launch the first timepiece produced in its partnership with Marvel. But has Audemars Piguet gone a horological bridge too far?

By Hyla Bauer

Just weeks ago, Audemars Piguet announced it had entered into a partnership with Marvel Entertainment, one of the world’s most prominent character-based entertainment companies. The watch world has waited and wondered: Will the watch be a new iteration of one of Audemars Piguet’s main collections? How will Marvel’s visual motifs be woven into a watch? Now we have answers.

This past Saturday, the brand held a live webcast from Los Angeles to introduce the limited-edition Royal Oak Concept, which included a live auction with all of the proceeds going to two charities: First Book and Ashoka. Audemars Piguet CEO François-Henry Bennahmias hosted the event with actor, comedian, and watch collector Kevin Hart. Audemars Piguet went full-out with the first watch produced from the partnership. The brand, of course, is known for its expertly crafted complications, and the new limited-edition piece does boast a flying tourbillon. But the watch community's reaction to it has been decidedly mixed, to put it nicely.

A Character and a Complication – A Match Made in Heaven?

Opinions about the new Black Panther timepiece in the horological grapevine have been…uncomplimentary. From its announcement, many have suggested that the partnership with Marvel was a bit "lowbrow" for the brand, especially considering Audemars Piguet’s stellar reputation and history in watchmaking. And the release of the Royal Oak Concept “Black Panther” only confirms the worst fears of many.

Among the many complaints expressed on social media is that the Black Panther figure on the dial overshadows its flying tourbillon, a highly refined complication, which is enchanting to watch in its own right. So, will the new watch disenchant some of Audemars Piguet’s collectors?

Perhaps it will, but the brand's time in the horological doghouse is likely to be brief. The brand has – and will continue to be – a member of watchmaking’s “Holy Trinity” alongside Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin. “In tough times, even luxury brands need to rethink their age-old strategies,” wrote Paul Sullivan in the New York Times.

Tradition, Innovation, and the Black Panther

“The limited-edition Royal Oak Concept ‘Black Panther’ Flying Tourbillon celebrates the manufacture’s long-held values of tradition, innovation, and family [that are] embodied by Marvel’s Black Panther character,” Audemars Piguet said in a statement. “The futuristic design of this 42mm watch, powered by Calibre 2965, recalls the cutting-edge suit of the Marvel Superhero.” And what better hero to start with than the Black Panther, played by the late, great Chadwick Boseman?

The image of the Black Panther is carved in 18K white gold and appears in mid-leap, looking like it is about to pounce and absolutely dominates the dial. Although it is behind the watch’s sapphire crystal, the hand-painted figure has a truly menacing look, thanks to its incredibly detailed rendering and the depth-of-field its placement and stance create. A contrasting purple flange bezel with its applied hour markers further sets off the Black Panther to full effect.

There’s One One-of-a-Kind, But It’s Sold for a Good Cause

The 250-piece limited edition Royal Oak Concept “Black Panther'' Flying Tourbillon will retail for CHF 150,000 and features a sandblasted titanium case and black ceramic bezel. However, one generous person bought a one-of-a-kind version of the watch at the auction. The unique piece features an 18K white gold case and bezel, engraved entirely by hand and sold for an astonishing $5.2 million. With 100% of the watch’s sale price going to charity, its new owner has done a good deed as well as added a unique Audemars Piguet watch to his collection.

Other than the unique watch, three Audemars Piguet brand ambassadors, real-life heroes in their own right – tennis superstar Serena Williams, champion golfer Ian Poulter, and two-time heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua – auctioned unique in-person experiences. In all, the four lots raised a staggering total of $8,000,000. It’s a testament to the power of the world’s oldest family-owned watch brand combined with the Marvel superpowers.

Power to the People

Nonprofits First Book and Ashoka are the fortunate beneficiaries of the auction’s proceeds.

First Book focuses on education equity and has distributed more than 200 million books and educational resources serving children in need.

Ashoka promotes ideas and solutions for environmental, cultural, and social challenges. The Ashoka Fellows, in their own words, “recognize the critical role of empathy and young changemaking in building a world where everyone is powerful.”

So, no matter anyone's opinion of the new watch, Audemars Piguet’s real-life watchmaking team-up with Marvel’s superpowered characters is certainly contributing to a better tomorrow.

(Images © Audemars Piguet)

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