Audemars Piguet Marvel Watch

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Marvel watch - AP Black Panther

I’ve taken Grand Seiko to task for their Godzilla and GT-R watches. “After years of building timepieces far superior to their Swiss rivals without proper recognition or sales,” I wrote, “Seiko’s marketing mavens lost their minds.” So what are we to make of the $160k 42mm Limited Edition Royal Oak Concept Black Panther Flying Tourbillon? A watch that isn’t powered by Vibranium, because Vibranium doesn’t actually exist . . .

Hard to believe, but this watch does. I repeat: this is not a late April Fool’s joke. The same storied watchmaker that aspires to replace Patek Philippe at the top of the Swiss watch triumvirate – or at least maintain its status as a member of The Holy Trinity – has just released a timepiece based on the Marvel universe character The Black Panther.

It’s yet another variant on the once pure Gerald Genta-designed Royal Oak. In case you don’t want to watch the video of the ROCBPFT’s genesis, here’s watchpro.com’s tl;dw version.

“I first imagined working with Marvel 15 years ago but we owe the current collaboration to an unexpected conversation with Don Cheadle, a long-time friend who in 2017 called Marvel on the spot to arrange a meeting. It just goes to show that the most inspiring collaborative adventures result from meaningful human interactions and a strong will to never give up,” recalls [AP CEO François-Henry Bennahmias].

Actor Don Cheadle adds: “When François told me about his long-standing interest in teaming up with Marvel, I said, ‘No time like the present. Let’s give them a call.’ As an Avenger and a long-time friend, it was a no brainer.”

Audemars Piguet Marvel watch - Black Panther

No brainer indeed. As you can see, the focus seems a lot lower on The Black Panther’s anatomy. Although the P man’s laser carved from white gold and the titanium case was “inspired by the Black Panther’s cutting-edge suit,” there’s still something a little off about seeing him so  . .  agitated astride a tourbillon. And something a lot insane about the price.

There are plenty of significantly less expensive Marvel-themed watches vying for fans’ money. Japan’s Citizen watch brand sells eleven Marvel maniacal timepieces, including Spiderman, Captain Marvel, Deadpool, Captain America and Black Panther (below). Not to mention not one but two Tony Stark models.

Black Panther Marvel watch

Both indeed all of the Marvel themed watches are offered on Citizen’s website for less than $500. As you’d expect; the cartoon character watch genre is as far from high horology as you can get without buying a sundial (no commission on link). A lesson the now defunct R J Watches brand learned the hard way with their $97,700 ARRAW Spiderman Tourbillon.

Citizen bought the rights to the Marvel cinematic universe’s horological manifestation two years ago, just as Timex bought the rights to the Peanuts cartoon characters. So Audemars Piguet cut a separate deal with Disney and/or Citizen.

And then spent big bucks dressing up the Black Panther watch with a stupid “back story” and animating it to look like a superhero’s wristlet. I reckon that makes it even more of a brand defiling abomination. The Marvel cart-and-pony show drags the Royal Oak into the gutter of contemporary culture. Needless to say, HoDinkee doesn’t see it that way . . .

When the Black Panther made his debut in Fantastic Four #52, I doubt Stan Lee or Jack Kirby (the OGs of Marvel) ever conceived their character would end up here. Then again, you could say the same for Jules Audemars and Edward Piguet, who surely didn’t see this coming when they started back in 1875.

But hey, isn’t it fun to be surprised? Isn’t it refreshing to see both comics and watches stretch to their outer limits? The only way either moves forward is through experimentation. Besides, watches and comics are both hobbies we pursue for sheer escapist pleasure. Anyone who gets too upset about a comic watch is missing the point.

The point is, I believe, rubbing elbows with celebrities (who are never late). The point should always be: protect the brand.

AP could have done that by resisting the urge to create a watch that elicits YouTube comments like “love this Invicta homage” and “Wakanda forever but should’ve been designed to have that regal futuristic look of Wakanda culture and less kiddy watch.” Ouch.

Wakanda forever!

The world being what it is, I predict all 250 Royal Oak Concept Black Panther Flying Tourbillons will sell, yielding the watchmaker $40.5m.

I also predict the watch will damage AP’s rep, removing a big chunk of the gravitas upon which all high-priced Swiss mechanical watches depend. Leaving Patek Philippe and Vacheron in an unassailable position.

CODE 11.59 BY AUDEMARS PIGUET MINUTE REPEATER SUPERSONNERIE

The AP Code 11.59 went over like a lead balloon. The Black Panther watch is a bold (i.e. bone-headed) move to draw attention away from the failure with a watch that makes Richard Mille’s bling “kiddy” watches seem grown-up and demure.

As we await other watches in Audemars Piguet’s Marvel series it’s clear that AP has ignored its past to literally carve out its future. As the Brits say, there will be tears before bedtime.

26 COMMENTS

  1. Oh, my goodness. I really cannot believe this. While poor hooomans are relegated at making the c**k helicopter with one (shortish) appendage, our friend Iron Man boasts two, and way longer.
    I can’t wait to spend six figures of money to get a watch that looks like it came out of a bag of chips.
    Even Genta made tongue-in-cheek watches showing Disney characters, but hey – AP with Marvel stuff on it?

  2. A Marvel-themed AP is designed for the many modern adults who think and act like children – and also happen to be millionaires. At least I’ll have one less watch brand on my aspirational list. Actually, that’s not true. I have never cared about AP just as I have never cared about Patek. I do, however, own a few Citizens.

    • Thanks for sparing me from making a similar lamentation. What is the crime of making such a watch compared to the crime of someone that would buy one?

      That said, I would not turn down an old Mickey Mouse Rolex even in the hands are not cartoon mouse hands. It also dawns on me that AP is suddenly as misguided as Timex in trying to elevate their brand while simultaneously selling comic character watches, a house divided among itself.

  3. As Oscar points out above, Mickey Mouse Rolexes were a thing. I get your point that it’s like spinning rims on a Bentley, but this isn’t without historical precedent for a high end brand.

    • Rolex and Disney are two of a kind. Two of the most recognizable brands in the world. Two companies that developed enduring icons of contemporary life. What in heaven’s name do Audemars Piguet and Black Panther have in common?

      • I really don’t have a dog in this fight, but I’d say the goal posts have moved. Back in the day, money to burn + whismy = Mickey Mouse Rolex. Now, money to burn + whimsy = Black Panther AP.

  4. The photoshop used in this article aside the actual result will probably be closer to the Omega / 007 collaboration, which has ranged from tasteful (ref 233.32.41.21.01.001) to tacky (everything else), but never gone as far as to include an image of James Bond.

    I don’t know a lot about this Bennahmias guy, but supposedly he is rude to traditional watch “journalists”, which is one plus for him.

    However, he would do well to make the 11.59 as dead as Iron Man.

  5. I’m confused. Did we merge two articles? How did the comments from the March article end up under the April article?

    In any case… my “artist’s rendition” wasn’t that far off with the whole “cock helicopter” concept, eh? LOL!

    • Explanation: when the Marvel watch dropped, the traffic surged on the old article. Rather than create a new piece and have newbies read the old article, I refreshed the old one.

      Sorry I ditched your rendering, but needs must.

  6. AP and VC are now nearly on opposite ends of the spectrum. VC getting grander, AP getting shittier (?sic). I only look at AP to try to keep up, but have even less interest in a “Royal” Oak or in their manufacture. I’m taking a relook at the GS Godzilla–red, titanium, somewhat stern looking with no hint (besides imagination and what you’re told) of Titanus Gojira.

  7. The Holy Trinity is a new-ish concept in watches – I doubt that anyone would have reffered to these Maisons like this in the Seventies. But yes – it seems our friend Benny is doing his best to let AP leave that third place to reach a different “positioning”. Next to Invicta, perhaps.

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