Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. At face value, there's nothing controversial about one of the most lauded luxury watch designs of all time. But the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Black Panther Flying Tourbillon (26620IO.OO.D077CA.01) became one of the most controversial luxury watches of all time. With its link to Marvel's "Black Panther" franchise, a huge wrist presence, plenty of purple, and an engraved white gold miniature of the T'Challa himself, the Royal Oak Concept waded into controversy from the first.
As "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever," rolls into theaters, it's worth examining the initial fruits of Marvel's collaboration with Audemars Piguet.
Let's be clear, a $162,000 luxury watch is silly by nature. The literal presence of a comic book character doesn't make the watch any more "comical"; that's not possible! Nobody needs such a thing, so a Black Panther watch isn't less legitimate a "luxury" watch than a comparably priced F.P. Journe Resonance Chronometer. Both are articles of luxury, and "luxury," by definition, is surplus to a person's basic needs.
That said, any 42mm purple panther watch is going to stir controversy. Luxury watch collectors tend to be a conservative group. Staid Rolex sports watches outsell the adventurous flights of fancy from Grand Seiko; F.P. Journe's classical designs outsell the avant garde of Urwerk, MB&F, and De Bethune. So a large watch with a prominent superhero on the dial invites obvious second-guessing.
Technically speaking, the AP Black Panther is a cool machine. A flying tourbillon gyrates while T'Challa watches in admiration. The Audemars Piguet caliber 2965 is a manual-wind 72 hour power reserve that incorporates a tourbillon regulator bereft of its upper bridge. Finishing is haute horlogerie throughout, and fascinating "Wakandan" motifs adorn the bridges. On the dial side of the watch, AP watchmakers expose the mainspring by skeletonizing the barrel in matching Wakandan motifs.
Dial side design is dominated by the figure of the Panther himself. The character is laser-cut and then hand-engraved. Additional detail arrives courtesy of a painter skilled in miniatures. Due to the extraordinary amount of manual craftsmanship, no two figures will be identical. A purple rehaut hammers home the Panther's signature color, and additional Wakandan grids are depicted on the dial base.
While the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Black Panther Flying Tourbillon was priced at $162,000 for retail buyers, all 250 examples of this limited edition have been sold; the sellout was immediate. Used / preowned prices are variable, but no sellers are offering this watch for less than $350,000. Used prices of almost $500,000 have been documented. Despite the initial controversy over an ultra-luxury Marvel Comics watch, the people have spoken: Wakanda Forever.
All of this plus watch collector wrist shots will be featured in this episode of "Watches Tonight!"
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