The Royal Oak Concept “Black Panther” Flying Tourbillon is the first model in the “Marvel Heroes” watch series, the fruit of a long-term partnership penned between Audemars Piguet and Marvel Entertainment.
“This collaboration is a dream come true! It is an honour today to pay tribute to Marvel’s heroes and further the strong connection Audemars Piguet has always had with the entertainment industry. This collaborative adventure promises many surprises to come!” François-Henry Bennahmias, CEO of Audemars Piguet, announced following the watch’s unveiling.
The first Royal Oak Concept – Launched in 2002 as a one-off limited edition of 150 pieces to commemorate the Royal Oak’s 30th anniversary – brought together experimental design, high-tech materials and watchmaking savoir-faire. The overwhelmingly positive response from collectors and critics gave birth to other concept models, and is today a highly coveted collection of mechanical art.
“The Royal Oak Concept collection provides the ultimate opportunity for our watchmakers, case makers, technicians and engineers to be untethered from the conventional industry. These models are all about embracing futurism and charting new territories,” says Michael Friedman, Head of Complications at Audemars Piguet.
This year’s Concept explores the suit of Marvel’s Black Panther. The rounded, 42 mm titanium case is topped off with a black ceramic octagonal-shaped bezel and crown, giving the timepiece a high-tech, futuristic feel. This light, 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 add to the two-tone aesthetics, while the visible purple gasket adds a vivid touch of colour. Beneath, the case has an ergonomic curvature designed to match the natural shape of the wrist.
The dial is the theatrical stage of a watch. On the Black Panther Concept, this statement takes on a literal sense. The dial of the Black Panther Concept brings together the flying tourbillon at 6 o’clock and the hand-painted 3D rendition of Marvel’s Black Panther.
The silhouette and volume of the Black Panther are preliminarily cut from a white gold disc by CNC machining. Recesses are created under the character to leave enough space for the movement components. Black Panther’s figurine is then carved out by laser. The minute detailing that adorns the Black Panther figurine, from his hands and claws, to his muscles and facial features, have been sculpted by hand by a single engraver.
The next step, performed by a single painter, consists of painting the eyes and applying several 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 for contrast and to add depth.
The white gold surfaces are then polished to provide a subtle play of light between the matt and mirror surfaces. Some 30 hours of work in total was necessary, we are informed, for the engraving and painting of each Black Panther. Overall, it took a highly specialised team of four engravers and four painters to decorate the 250 pieces of the collection.
Visible through the transparent dial, at 10 o’clock, are the laser-textured titanium bridges finished with black and grey PVD coating, and the movement’s open-worked barrel. The vivid purple inner bezel, enhanced by a colour-coordinated gasket and rubber strap, foregrounds the dial’s dark tones.
The Black Panther Concept is powered by AP’s Calibre 2965 with 72 hours of power reserve. It is the latest evolution of the hand-wound mechanism with a flying tourbillon, originally released 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 3D effect.
The sapphire caseback provides another window to some of the movement’s components. Sandblasted geometric bridges in titanium are adorned with black and grey PVD coating. The back of the flying tourbillon cage and part of the gear train are also visible. The sandblasted purple inner bezel is engraved: “Royal Oak Concept Limited Edition of 250 Pieces.”