With the Royal Oak Concept Black Panther Flying Tourbillon, Audemars Piguet steps into the realms of pop culture
April 11, 2021

Following the announcement of its long-term partnership with Marvel Entertainment, Swiss Haute Horlogerie manufacturer Audemars Piguet have revealed the first iteration of its Marvel heroes watch series, the Royal Oak Concept “Black Panther” Flying Tourbillon, limited to 250 pieces. Inspired by historical character watch designs, the Manufacture wanted to pay tribute to a new generation of inspirational heroes and chose to focus on the powerful Marvel universe.

Rooted in ancestral craftsmanship and futuristic technology, the Royal Oak Concept “Black Panther” Flying Tourbillon brings forward the awe-inspiring creativity of complicated timepieces. This 42 mm piece speaks to Audemars Piguet’s long history of design experimentation and connection to the larger cultural world. Never standing still, the brand has continuously pushed forward the limits of its craft and looked beyond Haute Horlogerie for inspiration, notably in the realms of pop culture and the entertainment industry.

The watch’s futuristic design recalls the cutting-edge suit of Marvel’s Black Panther. Honed from titanium, the rounded case is topped off with a black ceramic octagonal-shaped bezel and crown for a high-tech look. Although unyielding, these light materials nicely complement the case’s ergonomic curvature matching the natural shape of the wrist. The Royal Oak Concept is presented in a 42 mm case diameter.

Deeply steeped in traditions, the 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 brazenly securing the bezel on the case further the two-tone aesthetics, while the visible purple gasket adds a vivid touch of colour.

The sapphire caseback, similarly finished with sandblasting and satin-brushing, reveals part of the micro-mechanics ticking within. The dial brings together the pulsating flying tourbillon at 6 o’clock with a highly contemporary hand-painted rendition of Marvel’s Black Panther, comprised of white gold.

New tools have been developed for the realisation, assembly and fitting of the hero on the movement. The silhouette and volume of the character have been preliminarily cut in a white gold disc by CNC machining. Numerous recesses have been created under the character in order to leave enough space for the movement components, while simultaneously keeping enough rigidity to prevent deformation and achieve optimum aesthetics.

The texture of the dauntless hero’s suit has then been carved out by laser. This stage is complemented by meticulous hand-engraving. The myriad of details adorning Black Panther’s body, from his hands and claws, to his muscles and facial features, have been sculpted by hand by a single engraver.

The next steps, performed by a single painter, consist in painting the eyes and applying numerous 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 to further the contrast and add depth. These apparent white gold surfaces have been polished to provide a subtle play of light. The resulting alternation of matt and mirror surfaces adorning the character echoes Audemars Piguet’s trademark hand-finishing. 30 hours of work in total were necessary for the engraving and painting of Marvel’s Black Panther, while it took a highly specialised team of 4 engravers and 4 painters to decorate the characters of the collection’s 250 pieces.

The laser-textured titanium bridges finished with black and grey PVD coating, appearing in the background, recall Black Panther’s faceted suit. The dial also reveals the movement’s openworked barrel at 10 o’clock, granting exceptional view on the coiled mainspring – the watch’s power source. The vivid purple inner bezel, enhanced by a colour-coordinated gasket and rubber strap, foregrounds the dial’s dark tones, while infusing it with the mystic and vibrant flair of Vibranium.

This pioneering watch is powered by Calibre 2965, the latest evolution of the hand-wound mechanism with a flying tourbillon, originally released by Audemars Piguet 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 unique 3D effect. The sapphire caseback provides another window onto the watch’s seamless blend of technological advancement and traditional savoir-faire. The back movement’s sandblasted geometric bridges in titanium adorned with black and grey PVD coating reveal components of the watch’s futuristic beating heart, including the back of the flying tourbillon cage and part of the gear train. The sandblasted purple inner bezel on which is engraved “Royal Oak Concept Limited Edition of 250 Pieces” offers a powerful juxtaposition.

With 72 hours of power reserve and water-resistance to 50 m, this timepiece will also appeal to the adventurous at heart ready to defy gravity with style. Truly, the Royal Oak Concept Black Panther Flying Tourbillon is a complicated timepiece dedicated to all superheroes at heart.

by Anil George
Avid follower of all things tech. In between his quest for the ultimate gizmo, Anil fiddles with light meters, collects rare books and feeds his fetish for Jap horror movies. As Managing Editor of T3 Middle East for the GCC, Anil oversees content direction across print and digital. He was a CES 2020 Innovation Awards Judge, reprising his role as an Innovation Awards Judge at CES 2018, CES 2017, 2016 and 2015. Anil is also the Middle East's first Brand Ambassador for Ashdown Engineering. Reach him at: editor@t3me.com.
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