Audemars Piguet’s Concept watches are rarely subtle. Like their equivalents in the motoring world, they stretch convention far beyond core collection pieces by experimenting with form, function, materials and design.
A partnership between Audemars Piguet and Marvel’s Comic Universe, announced in March, was flagged as an opportunity to create another Concept watch, leading to speculation of how radical or safe the brand would go.
The answer, out this week, is the Royal Oak Concept “Black Panther” Flying Tourbillon, and it is hard to imagine a more radical first watch from a collaborative watch.
Remarkably, for an AP Concept limited edition, there will be a healthy 250 pieces made.
It was launched with the sort of fanfare normally reserved for Hollywood premiers, with comedian Kevin Hart and Audemars Piguet CEO François-Henry Bennahmias hosting a live(ish) event in Los Angeles with stars including LeBron James, Serena Williams, Ian Poulter, Anthony Joshua, Lu Han, Jon Gray and Mark Ronson in attendance over video links.
Audemars Piguet’s website was recently overhauled, and it looks like the flexibility to make a massive splash online with a new watch was important to the new platform. The home page is entirely given-over to the Black Panther Concept watch, with Marvel-style animations bursting across the screen.
It is hard to imagine any other major Swiss watchmaker, with the possible exception of Breitling, taking such a radical approach.
Nothing about this watch launch is aimed at the traditional (older) buyer for high five-figure watches, and that could prove to be a smart long term play with so much wealth creation now in the hands of tech billionaires who grew up immersed in cinematic universes like Marvel’s.
Royal Oak Concept “Black Panther” Flying Tourbillon
Some watchmakers would have designed one of their core collection watches in black with a subtle etching on the case back to show it is a Black Panther limited edition.
AP went the other way, with a hand painted white gold rendition of the Marvel character looking like it lept straight off a cinema screen and onto the dial where it seems to be leaping over a flying tourbillon at 6 o’clock.
The dial sits in a futuristic 42mm titanium case with a black ceramic bezel and is worn on a bold purple rubber strap.
It uses AP’s in house calibre 2965, visible through a crystal case back, so you can see the sandblasted geometric titanium bridges coated with grey and black PVD, the back of the flying tourbillon cage and part of the gear train.
“This collaboration is a dream come true,” says Mr Bennahmias. “It is an honour today to pay tribute to Marvel’s heroes and further the strong connection Audemars Piguet has always had with the entertainment industry. This collaborative adventure promises many surprises to come,” he teases.