Last month, Audemars Piguet replica, one of the “holy trinity” of haute horlogerie Swiss dial names, announced it was collaborating with Marvel Entertainment. The internet was immediately alive with speculation. Perhaps, some suggested, the watchmaker would simply unveil a set of thematic dial colours. After all, we had just been introduced to the green Royal Oak, so would this new watch be a knowing “Hulk green” twist on that – something subtle?
Reader, it is not something subtle.
On Sunday, at a watch launch unlike most watch launches – star-studded (Kevin Hart! Serena Williams! Anthony Joshua!), CGI-fuelled and streamed live from Los Angeles – AP presented a watch unlike most watches.
The best quality fake Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept “Black Panther” Flying Tourbillon is an all-out, go-hard-or-go-home superhero “character watch”. Housed in a 42mm titanium case, secured via a purple strap, almost the entirety of the dial is given over to a sculptural Black Panther, carved from white gold, straddling a pulsating tourbillon. The figure has been painstakingly realised to show the contours of his musculature, the texture of his suit, the sharpness of his claws – hell, you can even see the pupils in his eyes.
A single craftsman is responsible for all of that detail, taking the Black Panther’s laser-cut form and engraving it by hand. Next, an artist paints the metal as one might a Warhammer miniature, adding lighting effects and bringing out its three-dimensionality. The process takes 30 hours and AP employed eight people to create these figures for the limited run of 250 watches.
Behind the theatre on the dial, there’s some serious engineering at work. Specifically, the Calibre 2965 movement, which holds 72 hours of power in its tanks. Flip the watch over and you can see the mechanism, in all its titanium and PVD-coated glory, courtesy of an exhibition case back.
Normally, a luxury replica Audemars Piguet watch like that would be hard to upstage. But AP has also made a one-off version of the watch featuring a white-gold case engraved with Wakanda-inspired symbols, containing a special Black Panther painted with purple highlights. This unique piece was auctioned for charity at the launch event. The hammer price? $5.2 million. That’s an all-time record for an Audemars Piguet watch sold at auction.
Character watches are nothing new in high-end watchmaking. In 1984, for instance, the great Gérald Genta, creator of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, unveiled a series of Disney-themed watches with $10,000 price tags. Nonetheless, AP’s Black Panther watch is so unlike the rest of its collection, it has inevitably sparked debate – as the Le Brassus-based maison would undoubtedly have expected.
Whether you would wear the watch, however, is a question of taste. Clearly, to the buyer in China who bagged the one-off model, it is a timepiece worth the same as some of the rarest Pateks ever to see the inside of an auction house.
A more interesting question is why AAA quality Audemars Piguet replica watch entered into this partnership. Luca Solca, senior research analyst in global luxury goods at wealth management firm Bernstein, is unequivocal in his assessment. “I think this is a very smart move by AP,” he tells GQ. “It is clear that there is very high demand for unique pieces and limited editions – especially of a nonconventional and less-formal profile. AP is tapping into that, in a similar vein to what Louis Vuitton and Gucci – at materially lower price points – have done with their streetwear collections. This is a way for the brand to attract attention as well, judging by the amount of debate the initiative has stirred. I also believe it has very little chance of putting off more conservative consumers, as the price points of AP x Marvel are so significantly higher.”
At Sunday’s splashy launch event we learned that the partnership does not stop at this Swiss movement Audemars Piguet copy watch. AP’s collaboration with Marvel will bring forth a whole range of superhero watches. So now the speculation is: which character’s next?