It's Kobe time(pieces): the Black Mamba MVP watch can be yours for $285K
Over the years, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant has had endorsement deals for all sorts of brands from foodstuffs like Nutella, Coca-Cola and McDonald's to sports labels like Nike and Spalding.
And now it's Kobe time -- as in a blinged out limited-edition line of luxury timepieces from Basel-based Nubeo now available for pre-order as long as you've got at least a cool $20,900 to spare.
And to hear Bryant tell it, as he did to a select group of reporters recently, holding court in a private dining room at the newly opened Phillipe West Hollywood, he's not just lending his likeness. "It’s a full-on partnership in every step of the way.”
Bryant, who says he's constantly pitched all kinds of offers, told me he and the company (which, I have to admit, I'd never heard of before) "shared a similar vision" for the watch and "had the same attention to detail." He agreed to collaborate on a watch “only if we could work together as a team,” he said.
But don't think that means the NBA Finals MVP was exercising his gemological expertise in hand-selecting the 48 baguette-cut, trapezium-shaped sapphires for each MVP-style watch, or sourcing the titanium, ceramic and rubber materials that compose the 131 parts of the skull-cracking case.
While he had a hand in deciding the overall look and function of the watches, Bryant served mainly as inspiration for the Black Mamba collection. "It's named after my alter-ego, the Black Mamba," he said. "We kind of envisioned as a super-hero kind of thing." And looking at the Black Mamba MVP on his wrist, the black rubber strap did have a certain serpent-like vibe to it.
Beyond drawing on Bryant’s self-bestowed nickname and reputation as a quick and deadly opponent, the collaboration symbolically incorporates the basketball player by the numbers: only 810 watches of the basic model will be sold (a reference to the 81 points he scored in January 2006 game against the Toronto Raptors); versions of the Black Mamba Ultimate (available with diamonds, whiskey sapphires, orange sapphires and black sapphires set in the dial's outer ring) are limited to 240 pieces; and the mostly highly-prized edition of them all, the Black Mamba MVP (with 168 gems, 10.98 carats) limited to 24 pieces each -- all references to Bryant's jersey number.
Since I'm not a status watch guy, I'll leave judgment of the more technical details (the assorted chronograph push buttons, "bracelet fixation turbines," and "infinity-head titanium screws") to others. But I will point out that any wristwatch that requires a 63-page media kit, is a complicated piece of machinery.
It's anybody's guess if there's an appetite for watches with an entry-level price tag that approaches that of a Toyota Prius and tops out at $285,000 -- no one's giving official numbers (though my sources tell me a handful of orders have already been placed), since the watches won't be out until January and can currently only be pre-ordered. (Locally, orders can be placed at the Westime luxury watch boutiques in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills.)
In the meantime, here's another symbolic number: 114. That's how many Laker games you could watch from a $2,500 courtside seat at Staples Center for the cost of a single top-of-the-line Black Mamba MVP timepiece.
-- Adam Tschorn
Photos: (top) Nubeo's Black Mamba collection includes this MVP model, which has a bezel set with 48 baguette-cut, trapezium-shaped whiskey sapphires, an outer ring dial set with another 48 whiskey sapphires and a dial counter set with 72 round, brilliant-cut natural black sapphires. It contains a total of 168 gems, at 10.98 carats. The retail price is $285,000. Credit: Nubeo. (Bottom) Kobe Bryant at the Oct. 12 unveiling of the Black Mamba watch collection he created in partnership with Basel-based Nubeo. Credit: Jason Merritt / Getty Images.