Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Black Panther Flying TourbillonApril 12, 2021 By mysun08481 Off
Following the announcement of its long-term partnership with Marvel Entertainment, Swiss Haute Horlogerie manufacturer Audemars Piguet have revealed the first iteration of its Marvel heroes watch series, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept “Black Panther” Flying Tourbillon, limited to 250 pieces. Inspired by historical character watch designs, the Manufacture wanted to pay tribute to a new generation of inspirational heroes and chose to focus on the powerful Marvel universe.
Rooted in ancestral craftsmanship and futuristic technology, the Royal Oak Concept “Black Panther” Flying Tourbillon brings forward the awe-inspiring creativity of complicated timepieces. This 42 mm piece speaks to Audemars Piguet’s long history of design experimentation and connection to the larger cultural world. Never standing still, the brand has continuously pushed forward the limits of its craft and looked beyond Haute Horlogerie for inspiration, notably in the realms of pop culture and the entertainment industry.
The watch’s futuristic design recalls the cutting-edge suit of Marvel’s Black Panther. Honed from titanium, the rounded case is topped off with a black ceramic octagonal-shaped bezel and crown for a high-tech look. Although unyielding, these light materials nicely complement the case’s ergonomic curvature matching the natural shape of the wrist. The Royal Oak Concept is presented in a 42 mm case diameter.
Deeply steeped in traditions, the ultra-resistant case is adorned with refined hand-finishing. The black ceramic bezel has been decorated with the brand’s trademark alternation of satin-brushing and polished chamfers. The titanium case presents a textured look with sandblasted surfaces juxtaposed to satin-brushed and chamfered titanium inserts. The satin-brushed steel hexagonal screws brazenly securing the bezel on the case further the two-tone aesthetics, while the visible purple gasket adds a vivid touch of colour.
The sapphire caseback, similarly finished with sandblasting and satin-brushing, reveals part of the micro-mechanics ticking within. The dial brings together the pulsating flying tourbillon at 6 o’clock with a highly contemporary hand-painted rendition of Marvel’s Black Panther, comprised of white gold.
New tools have been developed for the realisation, assembly and fitting of the hero on the movement. The silhouette and volume of the character have been preliminarily cut in a white gold disc by CNC machining. Numerous recesses have been created under the character in order to leave enough space for the movement components, while simultaneously keeping enough rigidity to prevent deformation and achieve optimum aesthetics.
The texture of the dauntless hero’s suit has then been carved out by laser. This stage is complemented by meticulous hand-engraving. The myriad of details adorning Black Panther’s body, from his hands and claws, to his muscles and facial features, have been sculpted by hand by a single engraver.
The next steps, performed by a single painter, consist in painting the eyes and applying numerous layers of diluted dark paint on the suit in order to reach the perfect balance of texture and graded contrasts. In addition, small details on Black Panther’s suit have been left unpainted to further the contrast and add depth. These apparent white gold surfaces have been polished to provide a subtle play of light. The resulting alternation of matt and mirror surfaces adorning the character echoes Audemars Piguet’s trademark hand-finishing. 30 hours of work in total were necessary for the engraving and painting of Marvel’s Black Panther, while it took a highly specialised team of 4 engravers and 4 painters to decorate the characters of the collection’s 250 pieces.
The laser-textured titanium bridges finished with black and grey PVD coating, appearing in the background, recall Black Panther’s faceted suit. The dial also reveals the movement’s openworked barrel at 10 o’clock, granting exceptional view on the coiled mainspring – the watch’s power source. The vivid purple inner bezel, enhanced by a colour-coordinated gasket and rubber strap, foregrounds the dial’s dark tones, while infusing it with the mystic and vibrant flair of Vibranium.
This pioneering watch is powered by Calibre 2965, the latest evolution of the hand-wound mechanism with a flying tourbillon, originally released by Audemars Piguet in 2018 in the Royal Oak Concept collection. The contemporary two-tone design of the tourbillon cage matches with the watch’s overall aesthetics, granting the movement a unique 3D effect. The sapphire caseback provides another window onto the watch’s seamless blend of technological advancement and traditional savoir-faire. The back movement’s sandblasted geometric bridges in titanium adorned with black and grey PVD coating reveal components of the watch’s futuristic beating heart, including the back of the flying tourbillon cage and part of the gear train. The sandblasted purple inner bezel on which is engraved “Royal Oak Concept Limited Edition of 250 Pieces” offers a powerful juxtaposition.
With 72 hours of power reserve and water-resistance to 50 m, this timepiece will also appeal to the adventurous at heart ready to defy gravity with style. Truly, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Black Panther Flying Tourbillon is a complicated timepiece dedicated to all superheroes at heart.
First hinted at in a late-2019 interview its chief executive, the debut of the Audemars Piguet-Marvel partnership was delayed by almost a year – and now it has finally happened. Together with American comedian Kevin Hart, Audemars Piguet boss Francois-Henry Bennahmias revealed the very first product of the Marvel tie-up yesterday during a live-streamed event in Los Angeles.
Inspired by the superhero who’s also the ruler of the fictional kingdom of Wakanda, the Royal Oak Concept “Black Panther” Flying Tourbillon is also notable beyond the comic-book character depicted in hand-engraved white gold sculpture on its dial. It is a more compact version of the historically extra-large Royal Oak Concept wristwatch, making it the most wearable Concept to date.
And just after the reveal of the watch, a live auction took place, with all proceeds going to charity. The auction included several experiences with sportspeople who are Audemars Piguet (AP) ambassadors, like lunch with tennis champion Serena Williams, but the closing lot was the highlight. It was a unique version of the Royal Oak Concept “Black Panther” Flying Tourbillon in an 18k white gold case decorated with a hand-engraved Wakandan motif.
After spirited bidding by buyers from several countries, the winner clinched the watch for US$5.20m – over 30 times the retail price of the standard model – an all-time record for an AP watch sold at auction.
The Royal Oak Concept “Black Panther” has been widely and vociferously panned online – largely unfair criticism in my view.
The design approach the watch is very similar to the Gerald Genta Fantasy watches of the 1990s, which featured printed or painted Disney characters on the dial and were popular amongst some of the world’s most important watch collectors. As with the Genta watches, the interpretation on the Black Panther watch is quite literal. The dial does have a cartoonish aspect to it, which is the doubtlessly the desired outcome given the comic-book inspiration.
At the same time, the watch is not that different from the Richard Mille timepieces with miniature sculptures of dragons and tigers, except for being substantially more affordable, relatively speaking.
And the execution of the watch is unquestionably high quality, as AP timepieces typically are. While there are watches that look superficially similar in having comic-book characters on the dial, the new Royal Oak Concept has a solid-gold Black Panther figure rendered by hand in great detail, in a manner that would usually be labelled metiers d’art.
There’s also the watch itself, which at 42 mm wide is the most manageable Royal Oak Concept ever. Earlier Concept models were uncomfortably large, and even the most lightweight models were clunky on the wrist. In contrast, the Black Panther edition is sized almost like an ordinary Royal Oak Offshore, which will improve ergonomics tremendously.
And while it was never explicitly mentioned by Mr Bennahmias or anyone from AP, there was no doubt that the watch and its launch event carried a subtle political and social message.
The Black Panther is African, most famously portrayed by the late African-American actor Chadwick Boseman. At the same time, a slim majority of the celebrities who took part in the launch event were not white; they included Kevin Hart, Serena Williams, basketball LeBron James, boxer Anthony Joshua, as well as Chinese singer Lu Han.
In an industry that is largely white European – despite most clients being Asian – the watch and its launch were atypical. Perhaps it is related to the fact that Audemars Piguet vice-chairman Olivier Audemars, who’s also a member of the founding Piguet family, is of mixed parentage (and he is reputedly next in line to be chairman of the board). Mr Bennahmias and his colleagues should be commended for at least that much.
Clad in his trademark suit made of Vibranium – a super-metal that is resistant to everything – Black Panther is reproduced on the dial in miniature. The figure starts out as a disc of 18k white gold that’s milled out on a CNC machine to form the rough blank. That’s followed by a laser etching to create the fine, fabric-like texture of the character’s suit.
And finally the figure is engraved by hand to realise the smallest details like the eyes and claws, before being painted, again by hand. Black paint is applied in layers to create shading, while certain portions of the costume are left unpainted, revealing polished white gold surfaces for contrast. Both the engraving and painting takes some 30 hours according to Audemars Piguet.
Measuring 42 mm wide and 14.6 mm high – thin for a Royal Oak Concept – the case sticks to the sculpted, angular style of past Royal Oak Concept watches – characterised by a slightly arched profile – but with the modest addition of vented titanium inserts on the lugs that are inspired by Black Panther’s costume.
Made entirely of titanium, the case is topped by a black ceramic bezel. Both are finished in the traditional Royal Oak manner, which means alternating brushed and polished surfaces done to an extremely high standard.
Inside is the cal. 2965, a hand-wind movement with a flying tourbillon regulator and 72-hour power reserve. Similar to the movement found in last year’s Royal Oak Concept Frosted Gold Flying Tourbillon, the calibre here features strikingly textured bridges on both the front and back.
Visible below the Black Panther figure on the dial, the titanium base plate is inlaid with panels of uneven, relief polygonal surfaces that are modelled on the superhero’s suit. Also in titanium, the bridges on the back are sandblasted and engraved with a similar pattern, but achieved with channels on a flat surface instead of relief. The bridges are further treated with a black and grey coating to highlight the engraved pattern.