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Black and White Chronographs - The Best Affordable Panda Dial Watches

Posted on September 28 2020

The Rolex Daytona has been hailed as the most iconic watch of the 20th Century. Of all the variations, it was the model worn by Paul Newman that cemented its legacy. Newman’s Rolex had a white dial and three sub-dials in a contrasting black. When it sold at auction it was the most expensive wristwatch ever sold (more about affordable alternatives here).

Aside from being a Rolex, what made Newman’s watch so eye-catching?

The answer is the panda dial. By that we mean the white dial with black sub-dials.

It’s a popular look that originated in the 1960s and has had something of a resurgence in recent years. The simple colouring - black on white - is functional, but also works stylistically. The pattern instantly gives a chronograph an vintage feel, and as I noted here, vintage-style chronographs are among my favourite watches.
Paul Newman Daytona

For many, the Daytona is an unrealistic purchase. But the Panda dial design is available from more affordable manufacturers. I’ve picked out a selection of my favourites below. With these watches having been built to a budget they’re mostly quartz models, although I would suggest that each watch represents good value for money.

 

Orient Panda Dial Watch

 

Along with Seiko, Orient is a brand that I regularly feature on this blog (more here). Orient Watch is wholly owned and operated by Seiko Epson Corp, one of the three pillars that make up Seiko Group. However, although related, there's no real involvement between the two watch brands.

They are both similar companies that produce high-quality mid-priced watches, often inspired by iconic designs. A big selling point for Orient is that they manufacture their own in-house movements. Again like Seiko, they have a large range, with designs that cover most watch types. They are as renowned for their rugged divers as they are for the contrasting minimalist Bambino design.

This particular model has proven popular, in part due to the panda dial layout. It’s sporty design, in keeping with the Daytona’s racing heritage. The dial is quite busy and the date positioning is unconventional, but it all comes together well.  

Orient WV0041TX

  • 42mm Diameter
  • 11.7mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Japanese Automatic movement (Solar)
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance


 

Dan Henry 1964 Panda Dial Watch

 

Dan Henry is another young watch brand. It was founded on a very simple concept. Dan is a collector of watches who shared details of his latest finds with fellow enthusiasts. He then decided, rather than just continue to help his fellow collectors find the pieces they desired, he’d start to produce them.

Each vintage-style model is named after the year it was inspired by.

The 1964 is available in a number of Bicompax or Tricompax variations - either with two or three sub-dials. This white panda Bicompax is probably my favourite model.

The design is very much inspired by the racing and motorsports watches of the 1960s. It’s proudly vintage and in keeping with the aesthetics of that era is a modest 38mm in diameter. As with all chronographs, there’s the additional width of the pushers, meaning it won’t wear too small.

As we’ll see in this post, The Seiko Meca-Quartz movement is a popular option for chronographs at this price-point and Dan Henry has opted for this too. It combines the accuracy of quartz with the smooth operation of a mechanical movement.

The 19mm beads of rice bracelet is a nice touch, as is the rear case engraving of an Aston-Martin DB5. The watch comes with an additional leather strap.

Dan Henry 1964 Gran Turismo

  • 38mm Diameter
  • 12.9mm Thick
  • 19mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Seiko VK63 Meca-quartz movement
  • Sapphire coated mineral crystal
  • 50M Water Resistance


 

Undone Type 20 Panda Watch

 

I made my own watch.

Undone sent me a complimentary code that I used to make a vintage styled chronograph. My review of the process is here.

The concept, if not revolutionary, is at least distinctive.

They believe that customisation - the production of bespoke products - is the sign of luxury. Not price or brand name. Luxury is the process of having a product personalised.

What I concentrated on in that piece was the doing. The steps it took to create the watch. So much of the fun of this process was the afternoon I spent with a friend designing it. It was reasonably straightforward. In a nutshell, Undone allows you to choose the main parts of your watch - case, dial, hands and strap. And then they put it together for you.

The Type 20 Panda is a vintage-style chronograph that you can buy as is, or modify yourself.

Again, this watch is marketed as a throw-back to the 1960s, and like the Dan Henry, it uses the Seiko meca-quartz movement. Undone describes this model as an aviation piece, and it does have some of the touches. The over-sized onion crown for example.

As I mentioned in my previous review of Undone, I'd not be too quick to modify the watch. Undone does a pretty good job of designing the off-the-shelf pieces. You can change the dial - but then it wouldn’t be a Panda - the bezel, hands and strap. But with this, I’d be tempted to stick with the base model.

Undone Type 20 Panda

  • 41.5mm Diameter
  • 12.5mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Seiko VK64 Mechanical-Quartz Hybrid movement
  • K1 Crystal
  • 30M Water Resistance


 

Hoffman Racing 40 Panda Dial Watch

 

Hoffman watches is a New York based brand that I haven’t had much experience with. 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 a quartz. I’m focusing on the quartz model.

This watch is very reminiscent of the Rolex Daytona. As the name suggests, it’s a racing watch. It does a great job of recreating that period. But 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.

The result is an attractive vintage-inspired model that, like the others, uses a cutting edge hybrid movement. Again, it's modestly sized - the case is 40mm wide and 12 thick. 

Hoffman Racing 40 RQ-11

  • 40mm Diameter
  • 12mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Seiko VK64 Mechanical-Quartz Hybrid movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 50M Water Resistance


 

Accurist 7275 Panda Dial Watch

 

Accurist had never been featured on this blog until I focused on the Rolex Day-Date here. They’ve since caught my attention a couple of times.

This panda style model is currently available for a little over £50 new, so it’s definitely worth a closer look.

This British brand was launched immediately after WW2 and built its reputation on its Britishness. At one point during the 1960s both the Beatles and Twiggy were wearing their watches. So the brand is not without history.

This model is very similar to the Citizen below, in colouring, design and sizing. With a simple quartz movement, it’s a very affordable watch. Indeed, it may be the cheapest watch listed here.

The dial is well laid out and manages to position the three sub-dials so as not to crowd out the other features. The date is moved from the traditional position at 3, and with the 6 o’clock position also taken, it has been neatly squeezed in at 4. It all works and allows the logo to remain at the top of the dial as I prefer.

There's not much that you can buy for £50. A vintage-inspired Panda chronograph has got to be a good use of that money.

Accurist 7275

  • 41mm Diameter
  • 12mm Thick
  • 21mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Quartz movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 50M Water Resistance


 

Citizen Panda Dial Watch

 

Dan Henry, Undone and others are the types of companies that keep me interested in watches. There’s an appeal in the quirkiness, as there is with the microbrands that I collect. I’m a sucker for a good brand story or just buying into one man’s vision of his small business.

But as I’ve noted before with Bulova and Seiko, sometimes it’s all about the watch. Citizen is another one of those brands that I don’t set out to feature, but then they put out a watch that grabs my attention.

This time it’s the Chandler.

Citizen need no introduction. They specialise in well-manufactured watches that you’ll see on every high street. The first thought that comes to mind when discussing the brand is ‘Eco-Drive’. This is the company's solar technology that charges the watch through exposure to light. As expected, the Chandler is a part of the Eco-drive line.

Regardless of the name on the dial, this is a great looking watch. The sub-dials are in black to contrast with the cream dial - a vertical rather than horizontal Panda layout. With the refined look of the case, it all works. Where the Undone successfully presented a dial with minimal markings, the Chandler is equally as successful in incorporating the tachymeter into a busy dial that doesn’t become overcrowded.

A unique feature is obviously the Eco-Drive technology. This is the only watch on the list to use light as a power source, so the Citizen is worth your consideration for that alone.

Citizen Chandler CA7020-07A

  • 43mm Diameter
  • 13.6mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Japanese Quartz movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance



Gigandet Speed Time Panda Dial 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 Dan Henry, 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 this watch is powered by another Japanese piece, a Miyota 6S21.

Gigandet Herrenuhr Chronograph Speed Timer G7-006

  • 44mm Diameter
  • 11.8mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Miyota Calibre 6S21 Quartz movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance


 

Rotary Avenger Panda Dial Watch

 

The Avenger collection is another that is based on a design from Rotary’s own archive - a design from the original Avenger line from 1960. The collection consists of a couple of divers, some retro dress watches and half a dozen chronographs.

This variant has a strong retro appeal, including an attractive silver dial with two contrasting black sub-dials. It’s a classic, clean layout that is quite simple for a chronograph. There are indices rather than numerals, two neat, symmetrical dials and a small date window at 6 o’clock. It is all subtle and understated. A nice touch is the cross-hatch markings on the chronograph pushers - reminiscent of vintage Super Compressor watches (more here).

Although noted as a sports watch, this piece would work just as well with formal dress, particularly this variation with the leather strap. With Rotary’s Dolphin Standard water resistance it can be worn in water.
Read more about Rotary watches here.

Rotary GS90130/06 Avenger

  • 40mm Diameter
  • 12mm Thick
  • 18mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Quartz movement
  • Domed Sapphire Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance

 


 

Stuhrling Formulai 891 Panda Dial Watch

 

In an industry where companies can sometimes boast of over a hundred years of history, Stuhrling is a new face. They’re a little under twenty years old and 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.

Where are Stuhrling watches made?

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 (more here) 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, for example, Chronographs using Seiko’s VK63 meca-quartz.

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.

This model is another that is a homage to the Rolex Daytona. Stylistically, it takes all its major features from the Rolex, but that is no bad thing.

So the specs are as we’d expect. A 42mm stainless steel case that houses a Seiko chronograph movement. The glass is Krysterna crystal and the watch has a decent 100M water resistance. This is definitely a watch to consider if you want not only a Panda dial, but a Daytona style Panda dial.
Read more about Stuhrling watches here.

Stuhrling Formulai 891

  • 42mm Diameter
  • 12.2mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Seiko VK63 movement
  • 100M Water Resistance


 

Zeppelin Night Cruise Panda Dial Watch

 

German manufacturer Zeppelin is another brand that focuses on modern interpretations of classic designs. In keeping with their German roots, there’s an emphasis on their aviation and Bauhaus collections.

This model is somewhat of a departure from those looks. It’s a Swiss ETA powered chronograph that is more sporty than military. There’s a lot going on with the design, including a prominent crown and pushers. The dial is rather busy too, when compared to the Undone for example. But it’s nowhere near overwhelming. It just about manages to include the three dials, tachymeter and touches of red, without losing the tool watch aesthetic.

It’s another plus 40mm watch and as mentioned above, it has a Swiss quartz movement.

Zeppelin Night Cruise 7296-1

  • 42mm Diameter
  • 13.8mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • ETA Quartz movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance


 

Conclusion

 

The Panda Dial version of the Rolex Daytona is one of the most iconic watches ever. But it’s out of the grasp of most watch buyers. The design is a classic and has influenced other brands, many of whom do very affordable watches.

The ten watches high-lighted here give a comprehensive list of the best affordable Panda Dial watches. There’s a good selection of styles - all with that black on white aesthetic that has proven so popular since the 1960s.

If you’ve anything to add, comment below.

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