But oh, how the world has changed. Not only are these “character watches” now accepted in the six-digit ticker world, they are now actively researched and adopted. Earlier this year at Geneva Watch Days, Bulgari paid tribute to Genta’s rebellious creation by unveiling the Gerald Genta Arena Retrograde with Smiling Mickey Mouse. The 150-piece limited edition uses Mickey’s left hand as a mono-retrograde minute hand and features jumping hours at 5 o’clock, giving the mechanics something else to smile about.
It’s safe to say that Mickey Mouse is old and iconic enough to be pardoned on a luxury watch, but the same can’t be said of Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak Concept “Black Panther” Flying Tourbillon. The Marvel hero is crafted in white gold, appearing to crouch above a flying tourbillon at 6 o’clock. If the design is polarizing, the finish is unmistakably first-rate, requiring 30 hours of work by four engravers and four painters on each of the 250 pieces produced. A unique version in 18k white gold with a hand-engraved case sold for US $ 5.2 million (S $ 7 million) to a bidder in China in April – a record price for an Audemars Piguet at the auction.