While much of the watch media world’s attention was riveted to the recently concluded Watches & Wonders exhibitions, and the array of noteworthy timepieces making their debut there, independent high-watchmaking maison Audemars Piguet was making major news of its own, apart from the fairs in Geneva and Shanghai. On April 10, at a star-studded virtual event in Los Angeles, broadcast worldwide, the brand announced the beginning of a partnership with Marvel Entertainment and unveiled the first timepiece to emerge from the collaboration: the Royal Oak Concept “Black Panther” Flying Tourbillon, a limited edition of 250 pieces.
The watch’s 42-mm case, made of 18k white gold, feature a hand-engraved motif inspired by the high-tech uniform of its namesake, Marvel’s Black Panther, aka Prince T’Challa of the futuristic, fictional African nation of Wakanda. (It’s unclear what, if any, impact Audemars Piguet’s new Marvel partnership will have on the latter’s existing partnership with Japan’s Citizen Watch Co.) The character is also fully rendered on the dial as a carved, hand-painted 3D figure in the same white-gold as the case. The hallmark octagonal bezel of the Royal Oak collection, with its eight visible hexagonal screws, surrounds an inner bezel in purple, accented with black-PVD-coated white-gold hour markers. The thick hour and minute hands are luminous-coated and the screw-locked crown is made of black ceramic.
The movement inside the avant-garde, angular case is Audemars Piguet’s hand-wound manufacture Caliber 2965, whose flying tourbillon cage at 6 o’clock on the dial side of the movement shares the main stage with the figure of the Black Panther. On the opposite side of the movement, visible through a sapphire caseback, the Wakandan decorative motif continues on the bridges. Composed of 242 parts and beating at 21,600 vph, the movement stores a power reserve of 72 hours.
The Royal Oak Concept Black Panther Flying Tourbillon is mounted on a purple rubber strap and fastens to the wrist with an 18k white gold folding clasp. The watch is set to retail at 150,000 Swiss francs. Audemars Piguet also produced a Unique Piece, with a fully engraved case and bezel and hand-painted details on the Black Panther figure, which was auctioned at the virtual launch event. Its proceeds supported a long-term educational program that Audemars Piguet has established in partnership with charitable organizations First Book and Ashoka, with the goal of serving “students from low-income families and historically excluded communities.”