Credit: Audemars Piguet

When Audemars Piguet announced that they would be working in collaboration with Marvel to create a new series of Marvel inspired watches people were excited. What interesting things can such prestigious watchmakers do with such iconic characters? Just an expensive version of what you could find at the bottom of a cereal box.

The Royal Oak Concept Black Panther Flying Tourbillon is an unfortunate disaster of a watch. It had such promise and plenty of enthusiasm from Audemars Piguet CEO Fraçois-Henry Bennahmais. Despite being made with white gold and titanium the watch looks like an expensive toy.

The reaction online has been overwhelmingly negative. Some have said that it looks too much like an Invicta, others have been harsher, asking if the watch comes with a happy meal.

This collaboration has been 15 years in the making. Before the MCU had even been established, François-Henry Bennahamais dreamed of this collaboration. To top it all off it only came together by a chance meeting whilst standing in line.

François-Henry Bennahmais & Don Cheadle | Credit: Audemars Piguet

In 2017, Bennahmais and Don Cheadle, AKA War Machine, were waiting in line at the Tony Awards when the idea of a collaboration came up. Cheadle said of the moment,

“…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 call and put your dream into motion.’ As an Avenger and a long-time friend, it was a no brainer.”

Right on the spot, Cheadle called Marvel and arranged a meeting. Since then, they were discussing the ins and outs of the collaboration. While no member of the public knows what went on during those meetings, many have been speculating online that Marvel had a large hand in the decision-making process. It couldn’t possibly be Audemars Piguet who approved this design? I think that they did.

The design is said to take inspiration from Gérald Genta’s Disney inspired timepieces from the 1980s. Those watches saw iconic Disney characters like Mickey Mouse and Daffy Duck on the dial. Their arms often supplemented the hands of the watch adding an incredibly playful element to the watches. These design influences are incredibly apparent on the Black Panther Flying Tourbillon.

The reason why they work on the Genta pieces is the overall design. The case and dial were often in traditional styles and the characters were all used as a direct part of the dial design instead of just being pasted on top of it. Black Panther’s design is decidedly futuristic and playful in the same way a child’s watch may be.

Black Panther has a cutting-edge suit so his watch must also be cutting edge. The idea is good. The Black Panther Tourbillon takes the futuristic theme of the character and makes an effort to implement it onto the watch. It’s an experimental take on the Royal Oak line but the experiment just doesn’t work. Cheap is what it ends up looking like. And it certainly isn’t cheap.

Ref. 26620IO.OO.D077CA.01 | Credit: Audemars Piguet

The dial features a hand-painted rendition of Black Panther comprised of white gold. The details surrounding his hands, claws, muscles and facial features have all been sculpted by hand. The paint has been added by hand to ensure a perfect balance of texture, contrast and depth. It is impressive and the detail on the Black Panther himself is amazing on its own. It’s the implementation of the rest of the watch I believe to be causing the negative reaction. If they were making a figurine of Black Panther, then we wouldn’t be talking about this.

You just can’t help but wonder who this watch is for? Die-hard Marvel fans? It’s likely many couldn’t afford it. A rich Marvel fan? Likely would be spending their money on one of Audemars Piguet’s other models. So, the limited 250 watches need someone who’s a massive Black Panther fan with a lot of money and bad taste. Given the popularity of Black Panther, maybe it isn’t so crazy to find 250 people who like this watch. But the public have spoken, and it is an almost unanimous thumbs down.

It’s sad to see Bennahmais’ dream enter the world with on such a negative note and you have to wonder if they will continue with their planned series of Marvel watches.