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8 Best Affordable Reverse Panda Dial Watches (Buyers Guide)

Posted on January 20 2021

Reverse Panda Dials

 

The reverse panda dial is a distinctive and popular layout for chronograph watches. It’s as simple as it sounds - the reverse of a black on white panda dial. In this case, the dial colours are a black background with white sub-dials.

Like a lot in the watch world, it was a style popularized by Rolex. I’ve highlighted Panda Dials in a previous post, and the white on black versions pretty much cover the same ground.

The History of the Panda Dial Watch


There isn’t a great deal of history to the Panda Dial watch - it is just a dial layout and colour scheme that has been given a nickname in the same way that we have a Rolex Hulk or Kermit. They’re not groundbreaking designs - instead, they’re popular variations that have been renamed by fans and collectors.

The Panda Dial - and therefore the reverse colouring - can be traced back to one of the most iconic watches ever, and the world’s most expensive watch. Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona.

This version of the Rolex classic had the Panda dial colouring and the styling that we’ve come to associate with Racing Chronographs. Paul Newman was a racing driver and his watch is the epitome of a racing watch. That styling and ethos are very much what we’re after when looking for an affordable reverse Panda dial watch.

The 8 Best Affordable Reverse Panda Dial Watches


This list overlaps my piece on Panda dial watches - there are similar brands and designs. I’ve selected watches based on aesthetics, price and quality and suggest that you take a closer look at each.

 

Hoffman Racing 40 Watch

 

The first watch on my list is very reminiscent of the Rolex Daytona. As the name suggests, it’s a racing watch and it does a great job of recreating that period.

Hoffman watches is a New York-based brand that I haven’t featured much. Launched in 2016 by WIll Hoffman and his friend, the company have released a couple of watches including a sold-out vintage diver and this motor racing model.

There were two versions of this Racing 40 - a mechanical and quartz. I’m focusing on the quartz model.

Although it does remind me of the Rolex, there are a few extras that stand out. The dial is dual-layered and features a white upper dial and a black lower dial. Additionally, the sub-dials are textured. All nice little details that help this watch stand out.

Overall it is an attractive vintage-inspired piece that, like some others on the list, uses a cutting edge hybrid movement. It's modestly sized - the case is 40mm wide and 12 thick - and has a mineral crystal and 50M water resistance.

Hoffman Racing 40 RQ-11

  • 40mm Diameter
  • 12mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Japanese Quartz movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 50M Water Resistance

 



Accurist Retro Racer Watch

 

British high street brand Accurist may not be your first thought when shopping for a watch. You’re probably most familiar with their most inexpensive models available from large retailers. However, like most well-established watch brands, there’s a fair bit of history and innovation.

The company can trace its roots back to London in the 1940s. A husband and wife team created this brand, with the idea of producing distinctive and affordable watches made from Swiss components. Accurist would continue as a family run business for another 70 years - with the high point being when The Beatles and Twiggy were wearing their watches.

The Retro Racer is a very affordable hybrid-quartz watch that unashamedly harks back to that era. It is designed to recreate the great racing chronographs popularised by Paul Newman and others.

Admittedly the specs aren’t particularly special. But they’re not bad considering this watch isn’t much over £100.

It all comes down to the design for me. It’s marketed as a retro-styled racing chronograph and it really does look the part - including the reverse panda dial we’re after. The 43mm cushion case is just the right mix of square body and rounded corners and the symmetrical dial adds enough colour to be sporty, while still being a simple contrast of black and white.

There are versions of the Retro Racer with stainless steel Milanese bracelets, but I prefer this variation with the leather racing strap. It feels a little more authentic. It’s a great place to start if you’re new to Accurist.

Accurist Retro Racer 7367

  • 43mm Diameter
  • Stainless Steel
  • Seiko VK64 Mechanical-Quartz Hybrid movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 50M Water Resistance

 



Gigandet Speed Timer Watch

 

Gigandet is a brand with some Swiss heritage, having been founded there around 100 years ago. It seems that the brand has been relaunched recently and is now German-owned and based. They make affordable watches that get decent reviews and are often powered by Japanese Seiko movements.

This Speed Timer is a beauty. Like the Accurist, it successfully recreates an earlier era, and again, has a very strong motorsports styling.
There’s a more sporty and informal look than some of the others. This is in part due to the use of orange on the second hand and stitching on the strap, but also because of the busy bezel.

It’s a bold look that the Gigandet pulls off well.

They have opted to update the case to a more contemporary 44mm, which makes for a large watch. Although, it is still a slim 11mm. And rather than use the Seiko movement of the previous two watches, this is powered by a different Japanese piece, a Miyota 6S21.

Gigandet Speed Timer G7-010

  • 44mm Diameter
  • 11.8mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Japanese Quartz movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance

 



Rotary Avenger Watch

 

Like Accurist, Rotary may not be an obvious choice for the watch geek. If your familiarity with the brand comes from seeing their more inexpensive watches on the high street, then you’ve probably not stumbled upon the best of the brand.

Rotary has a Swiss heritage stretching back more than 125 years and still manufactures some of its watches there. This gives the company a real back story and something that they’ve used when celebrating their 125th anniversary.

Like many watch fans in the UK, I see Rotary as a bit of a home brand.

Their head office is in London.

The British connection goes back to the early days of the brand. They opened their first British office in the late Victorian era. So they’re a brand that I grew up with but, probably like you, I neglected.

There are a few of their watches that I really like at the moment and a couple are from the Avenger collection - designs inspired by the original Rotary Avenger watches of the 1960s. The collection comprises a couple of divers, some retro dress watches and half a dozen chronographs.

Again, this watch has a strong retro appeal, including an attractive black dial with two contrasting silver sub-dials. It’s the classic reverse panda design - in its most basic form.

To attain that simplicity there are indices rather than numerals and two neat, symmetrical dials. The small date window is at 6 o’clock rather than 3, maintaining the symmetry.

It is all subtle and understated. A nice touch is the cross-hatch markings on the chronograph pushers - reminiscent of vintage Super Compressor watches.

Although noted as a sports watch, I see this piece working just as well with formal dress. Still, with Rotary’s Dolphin Standard water resistance it can be worn in water if you do lead an active lifestyle.

Rotary Avenger GS02730/04

  • 40mm Diameter
  • 11.4mm Thick
  • 18mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Quartz movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance

 



Stuhrling Monaco 933 Watch

 

Where Rotary can boast of over a hundred years of history, Stuhrling is a new face. They’re a little under twenty years old but claim to have sold over fifteen million watches in that time. What is more, the watches that they launched the brand with were a tourbillon collection. That’s some feat.

Founder Chaim Fischer is based in New York, but the watches are proudly manufactured in Shenzhen, China.

I say proudly because the website features articles detailing the reasons for choosing China, including videos of the watch manufacturing process. That’s important to me. When I launched Northwind Watches I also chose a Chinese company to build my brands’ watches and it wasn’t always easy to explain the decision to a critical audience.

Many brands choose the same process as Stuhrlings - watches produced in China but with imported Japanese movements.

Most of the Stuhrling collections are powered by Japanese movements, including the chronographs that use Seiko’s VK63 meca-quartz - it’s a movement that we’ve already seen in a couple of watches on this list.

Maybe more interestingly, the glass used in their watches is called Krysterna crystal, something I was only aware of in passing. It’s a very tough and durable glass originally used in eye-wear and unique to Stuhrling.

The name of this watch gives away its inspiration. It’s another vintage-style piece influenced by the heyday of motorsports. But it’s not a Daytona clone.

It’s more sporty than the Rotary, the leather strap adding to that aesthetic, and it’s reasonably large at 44mm wide. The red second hand and accents give the impression of a functional watch - it’s reminiscent of a stopwatch. And the large crown and pushers reinforce this.

It’s quite an informal design and a good contrast to the more spartan Avenger.

Stuhrling Monaco 933.02

  • 44mm Diameter
  • 12mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Seiko VK64 Quartz movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 50M Water Resistance

 



Zeppelin LZ127 Watch

 

German company Zeppelin produce quite a wide selection of watches with the majority having a vintage styling. At the core of the range are the German pilot and Bauhaus models - very much marking the brand out as a German manufacturer.

The LZ127 takes inspiration from this aviation connection and was named after a German passenger-carrying, hydrogen-filled airship. The design reflects this background and it’s much less sporty than the motorsports inspired models.

The watch itself does have a subtle aviator style. The dial is busier than some of the others and both the hands and numerals are familiar as aviation classics. They’re off-white and are lumed - the subdials as well as the numbers.

Overall, this is a pleasing watch. It’s busy but still manages to be understated - partly by the simple use of colour and the plain leather strap, and partly through the traditional design.

Zeppelin LZ127 Graf 8674-3

  • 42mm Diameter
  • 12mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Quartz movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 50M Water Resistance

 



Bulova Accutron 63C011 Watch

 

Bulova also has an aviation connection.

The Bulova Lunar pilot was one of a select few watches to be worn on the surface of the moon. Launched in 1960, the Accutron series were electronic watches that used a tuning fork to regulate the time - it was far more accurate than the mechanical watches available at the time.

This contemporary model is from the Accutron line and takes design cues from those earlier watches, without actually using a tuning fork movement. Instead, it uses a Swiss-made ETA automatic movement - the main reason this watch is priced significantly higher than the previous quartz models.

The design is stunning. It is a beautiful combination of old and new, form and function. It does things that I don’t like. Having the sub-dials cut through the numbers, and those numbers being cumbersome roman numerals.

But despite this, it all works. The sum really is better than its individual parts. The design feels classic and timeless, but with recognisable Bulova traits. One of the sub-dial hands is shaped like the Accutron logo and this style is repeated for the lugs on the case.

They’re bold features, seamlessly woven into the design. I love it.

Bulova Accutron Gemini 63C011

  • 42mm Diameter
  • 15mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Automatic movement
  • Sapphire Crystal

 



Certina DS Podium Watch

 

The final watch that I want to feature is a bit of a wildcard.

It ticks the box to be a reverse panda dial watch but interprets the style differently. It’s more angular, more modern and stands apart from the others on the list.

Until recently I hadn’t paid a great deal of attention to Certina. But my friend, David at Doubleowatches showed me his DS Action Diver. It’s a nice looking watch that inspired me to explore the brand more and I ended up doing a feature on the company.

Their history will be a familiar story if you’ve paid interest to other Swiss heritage brands.

Based in the historic watchmaking city of Le Locle, they are often described as an entry-level luxury brand. Founded the late 1800s, they have been at the forefront of watch innovations - creating a number of world firsts.

Inevitably, they are now owned by Swatch Group.

Certina produces a line of watches that are built around the core concept of Double Security - a collection of features that ensure the robustness of each watch. Their range is comprehensive and they are particularly strong with dive watches and dress designs.

This watch feels modern, with little touches like the addition of crown guards, creating that impression. The bezel reinforces this. It’s contemporary and suggests a diving style. The numbers on the dial are bold and use a simple, clear font.

The only real colour is on the hands, with the second hand being particularly large and colourful. It’s not designed for everyone - I’m normally the first to associate the word chronograph with the word vintage. But this watch works for me.

And the specs are very good too.

It’s Swiss-made, with a sapphire crystal and a Swiss-made automatic movement. It’s affordable too and well worth closer inspection.

Certina DS Podium C001.427.11.057.01

  • 42mm Diameter
  • 15mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Automatic movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance

 


Conclusion


Like panda dial chronographs, the reverse versions are popular, distinctive and often vintage-inspired. Historically, they trace their roots back to Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona and it’s this iconic design and the motorsports culture of the time that inspires modern watch manufacturers.

There are some great vintage-inspired black and white affordable chronographs - but I hope that I’ve demonstrated that you’re not limited to this style if you want a reverse panda dial watch.

Importantly, I also wanted to present a wide selection of price points. The watches featured in this list begin around £100, with the pricier models nearer the £1000 threshold.

Please add your own thoughts below - I’m always to keen to hear about watches that I missed or models that you believe would be more suitable on this list.

 

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