AP Black Panther Auction -$650k Flip?

Marvel watch - AP Black Panther auction

“Christie’s Hong Kong is claiming to be the first auctioneer in the world to sell an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept ‘Black Panther’ Flying Tourbillon at what it is calling its Marvel(ous) online sale running from August 24 until September 7,” watchpro.com reports. As our headline portends, Christie’s reckons the Black Panther auction will be a 400 percent flip on a $165k watch. So many questions . . .

Will Audemars Piguet punish the flipper or the dealer?

Christie's product shot Black Panthr auction

Crosstown rival Patek Philippe looks seriously askance at any authorized dealer who knowing sells a watch to a flipper. No more soup for you! Or, at the least, no more grail watches.

Rolex will terminate a dealer for such louche behavior. They will also hunt down and blacklist the flipper, barring them from any further Rolex purchases.

I don’t think Audemars Piguet gives a sh*t about the flip. The CEO’s PR exhibits an egomaniacal predilection for closerthanthis encounters with celebrities. Buyers who posed with the boss for the BP Hollywood launch included LeBron James, Serena Williams, Ian Poulter, Anthony Joshua, Lu Han, Jon Gray and Mark Ronson.

As most of the 250 Black Panther horological abominations sold to ballers of one sort or another, I don’t see François-Henry Bennahmias taking punitive action against the dealer or buyer responsible for the Christie’s auction.

In fact, I reckon Benny is delighted that the brand defiling watch – complete with two sex organs – will score serious aftermarket money. I bet he sees it as both positive PR for AP and personal vindication for creating the Marvel watch in the first place. Here’s his reasoning, according to watchpro.com . . .

Audemars Piguet Marvel watch - Black Panther auction

Nothing about this watch launch is aimed at the traditional (older) buyer for high five-figure watches, and that could prove to be a smart long term play with so much wealth creation now in the hands of tech billionaires who grew up immersed in cinematic universes like Marvel’s.

My take: AP’s Marvel merchandizing is a short term play that will have long term negative effects on the watchmaker’s rep. Not that Mssr. Bennahmias cares. He’ll be retired long before Audemars Piguet takes the hit, admiring framed pics of once famous folks on his home office ego wall.

What will this do to Black Panther prices?

Black Panther auction chrono.24 price

chrono24.com has two BP’s for sale at around $470k. The $650k at the top of this post represents Christie’s high end estimate for the novelty watch. They lowball the hammer price at $380k.

Is anyone be stupid enough to exceed the pro-dealers’ asking price? Real world auctions are known for enabling rich people pissing matches. This one’s online. So I think Christie’s high end estimate is overly optimistic, in a what-do-we-care-as-long-as-we-get-publicity kinda way.

Even if Christie’s AP BP “only” doubles in value, some proportion of owners will see the tidy profit margin on tap and cash in. Driving prices lower.

The BP tourbillon is a gimmick. Will it become more desirable over time, like the first Mickey Mouse watches? Time will tell. But I say no. It’s way too trashy.

That said, chrono.24 has 795 Richard Mille watches for sale and prices remain on the far side of ridiculous. So there is that.

Will Audemars Piguet make more Marvel watches?

Invicta Marvel Tony Stark Men's Quartz watch

Benny has already said he will ($76.30 Invicta Marvel Tony Stark Men’s Quartz watch above). 

Yes, well, it’s hard to think of a Marvel character who’s more PC than Black Panther, so it’s hard to see how AP can generate as much buzz with the BP watch’s follow-ups. Not that they should, but could they sell 250 Hulk watches at $165 a pop? Sorry, $165k? Thor? Thanos?

The more Marvel watches AP produces, the less the perceived value of the Black Panther watch. Which is a shame. It will remove the possibility of a collector twenty years hence pulling one out of his safe for a newbie saying “You’re not going to believe this . . .”

Is Christie’s the big winner?

Christie's catalogue

You betcha! christies.com:

A buyer’s premium is payable by the successful buyer of an item at auction, based on the hammer price of each lot sold. The current buyer’s premium rates are an amount equal to 25 per cent of the hammer price of each lot up to and including £450,000/US$600,000;

The auction house will earn Christie’s between $95k to $162.5k for brokering the deal. Not to mention hundreds of thousands of dollars in free publicity. Or the commission charged to the seller:

Christie’s charges a single Seller’s Commission rate for the services we provide. The commission is calculated on each item as a fixed percentage based on the eventual hammer price at auction. This rate includes marketing costs and insurance cover (except for Wine sales, where marketing and insurance are charged separately). If your item sells for over the high estimate we agree with you, there will also be an additional 2% Performance Commission fee.

You may also be charged for other external services such as shipping, restoration and framing, but these will be discussed and agreed with you beforehand. VAT (value-added tax) or applicable duties or taxes may be due on such fees based on the jurisdiction of the auction site.

Bottom line: it’s good to be king. And one of the chosen few “allowed” to buy – and sell – a Black Panther watch. But anyone paying $650k for the BP risks evoking the age old adage “a fool and his money are soon parted.”

5 comments

  1. The complicated politics* of the Black Panther make this an art watch, not a co-branded watch. But any further Marvel watches will undermine that legitimacy and drag AP down into the brand dilution that is co-branding. Further Marvel branded watches will still not be as embarrassing as being owned by Richemont, but it would be a bad move.

    *On face value the Black Panther represents black power, but under that he is an anti-immigrant ultranationalist. The bad guy, Killmonger, is the one that sounds like the typical woke Twitter person taking more than four years to study something worthless in college.

    1. I’m not that into this capeshit but I’m familiar enough with Thanos to know how delightfully controversial that would be.
      For anyone’s who’s been spared all these movies, he’s either a sustainability hero or a depopulation villain, so very topical for the plutocrats.

  2. Black Panther is many things, but he is not politically correct or woke. The character was a reliable member of Marvel’s “B” list of characters for years, and has a respectable artistic “pedigree”: Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the character in the sixties; Don McGregor, Billy Graham, and Rich Buckler collaborated on a successful run in the seventies; Christopher Priest wrote another successful five year run in the 90s; and Ta-Nehisi Coates revamped the character back in 2016. There is a legitimate coterie of Black Panther fans. Both Marvel and DC do bait and switch progressive gestures (DC publicist: “Green Lantern is gay! DC marketing rep to the licensors: “Not the REAL Green Lantern. He’s straight. The golden age Green Lantern is gay.”) But if Black Panther is not a legit superhero that caters to a legit segment of the market, then neither is Iron Man or Captain America, both “B” list characters that got a boost because Marvel/Disney didn’t have access to the “cool” (at the time) characters (Spider-Man and the X-Men) for films that Sony and Fox had.

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