Actual pandas are a rare and vulnerable species, only recently removed from the endangered list, but so-called “panda dial” watches — loosely described as chronographs with black subdials on a predominantly white main dial — are more ubiquitous than ever, especially in the wake of the record-breaking auction sale of perhaps the world’s most famous panda-dial watch, the “Paul Newman” Rolex Cosmograph Daytona once owned by Newman himself (though that timepiece, of course, had other exotic details beyond its color scheme that made it special). Here we round up 10 currently available panda-dial chronograph watches (and for the sake of simplicity, we’re keeping it to the classic panda rather than the also-popular “reverse panda,” i.e., black main dial and white subdials), plus one honorable mention.
AUDEMARS PIGUET ROYAL OAK CHRONOGRAPH
Audemars Piguet marked the 20th anniversary of its Royal Oak Chronograph in 2017 with the launch of several new models, among them the silver-and-black “panda” version above. The dials recall vintage examples of Audemars Piguet chronograph watches from the 1930s to 1960s, with subdial colors that contrast the color of the main dials, along with the hallmark Grand Tapisserie motif on the main dial. The watches all contain Audemars Piguet’s automatic Caliber 2385, with 37 jewels, a 21,600-vph frequency, and a minimum 40-hour power reserve when fully wound. The cases have glareproofed sapphire crystals and screw-locked crowns that help ensure a water-resistance of 50 meters. Click here for more details and more models in the 2017 collection of Royal Oak Chronographs.
BREITLING SUPEROCEAN HERITAGE II CHRONOGRAPH
At Baselworld 2018, Breitling released a host of new Superocean Héritage II models in new 44-mm cases, including three chronograph watches (silver-and-black “panda” version pictured above) with a 3-6-9 tricompax dial layout and powered by an in-house movement, Caliber B01. The movement, which is visible through a sapphire caseback, is a COSC-certified chronometer with a 70-hour power reserve. The dial features a date window at 4:30 and the watch comes on Bretling’s Aero Classic black rubber strap, which echoes the look of a Milanese bracelet. Click here for more details on Breitling’s new Superocean Heritage II collection.
BREMONT ALT1-C CLASSIC CHRONOMETER
While some purists believe that a “true” panda dial requires three subdials, the Bremont ALT1-C Classic Chronometer is one of two bicompax watches that made our list. Introduced at the British brand’s New York Townhouse event along with a host of other novelties, the watch introduces several updated elements from the original ALT1-C, such as applied indices replacing Arabic numerals, Super-LumiNova on the hands, and an enlarged steel “Trip-Tick” case to fully showcase the movement, the COSC-certified chronograph Caliber BE-50AE. Remaining from the earlier versions include the vintage-aviation-style crosshairs motif on the small seconds subdial at 9 o’clock and the 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock. Click here for more from Bremont’s 2018 collection.
CITIZEN TSUNO CHRONOGRAPH RACER
Japan’s Citizen commemorates its 100-year anniversary in 2018 with the release of a vintage-look “bullhead” chronograph, the Tsuno Chronograph Racer (Tsuno means “horned” in Japanese), which takes its design cues from models the brand produced in the early 1970s. The watch has a round, 45-mm case in a classical bullhead construction, with a crown and two chronograph pushers at its top; lugs integrating seamlessly into its bracelet; and a second crown at the 5 o’clock position to adjust the watch’s alarm function. The dial has an inclined tachymetric scale and four black subdials for 1/5th-seconds counter, 12-hour counter, power-reserve indicator, and running seconds indicator, along with a small date window an on/off indicator for the alarm function. These various complications are made possible by a Citizen Eco-Drive movement, which harnesses natural or artificial light energy to power the watch. More detail and versions can be found here.
GIRARD-PERREGAUX LAUREATO CHRONOGRAPH
Girard-Perregaux’s new Laureato Chronograph comes in a variety of materials and sizes, including the panda-dial model pictured here. All the new models are distinctly recognizable as from the Laureato family, with a polished octagonal bezel, Clou de Paris hobnail motif on the dial, and integrated bracelets and straps. They also feature subtle details like octagonal-shaped chronograph pushers shaped like the bezel and snailed finishes on the three subdials, two for the chronograph minutes and hours counters, the third for the small seconds display. The larger model, in the 42-mm case, has its hour markers secured to the minutes circle and a clear sapphire caseback; the smaller, 38-mm versions has separate hour markers and a solid caseback. The movement is the self-winding GP03300-01 caliber, with 63 jewels, a 28,800-vph frequency, and a 46-hour power reserve. To see more versions of the Laureato Chronograph and learn more about Girard-Perregaux’s new timepieces for 2018, click here for our SIHH report on the brand.
IWC INGENIEUR CHRONOGRAPH SPORT EDITION “76TH MEMBERS’ MEETING AT GOODWOOD”
At the 76th Goodwood Members’ Meeting in March 2018, IWC debuted its IWC Racing Team, becoming the first watch brand to race in classic car events with its own car. Commemorating this milestone achievement is the new Ingenieur Chronograph Sport Edition “76th Members’ Meeting at Goodwood.” Limited to 176 numbered pieces, it has a 44-mm titanium case that offers exceptional protection against magnetic fields thanks to its soft iron inner cage. The lower part of this cage is visible through the caseback and designed to resemble a brake disk; a “76” in honor of this year’s 76th Goodwood Members’ meeting, is inscribed in its center. The silver-plated dial features black subdials at 12, 9, and 6 o’clock, an outer tachymeter scale, and contrasting blue chronograph hands. Beneath this panda-style tricompax dial beats the in-house Caliber 69380, with a 46-hour power reserve. Click here for more details.
LONGINES HERITAGE 1973
The other two-register watch on our list, the Longines Heritage 1973, is based on a historical model and possesses a cushion-shaped, 40-mm diameter steel case with rounded chronograph pushers, black subdials on a silvered dial, and applied hour indices dotted with Super-LumiNova. Surrounding the dial is a minute circle composed of fine black lines and a tachymeter scale in blue. The original watch on which the Longines Heritage 1973 is based was fitted with a mechanical chronograph movement, Caliber 30CH. The contemporary watch, released in 2013, contains the Longines Caliber L688, with automatic winding and a column-wheel chronograph, which is produced exclusively for Longines by ETA. The Heritage 1973 is also available in a model with a “reverse panda” dial, which you can check out here.
MONTBLANC TIMEWALKER MANUFACTURE CHRONOGRAPH
The new panda-dial version of the Montblanc TimeWalker Manufacture Chronograph, introduced at SIHH 2018, channels both the look and the legendary chronograph expertise of the Swiss company Minerva, which was acquired by Montblanc and repurposed as Montblanc Manufacture. The integrated chronograph Caliber MB 25.10 inside the steel-cased watch including many interesting features, such as a monobloc oscillating weight made of black rhodium-plated tungsten and designed in the shape of a steering wheel; a traditional column wheel mechanism; horizontal coupling; and a stop-seconds function. Visible through the caseback, it also boasts classical haute horlogerie finishes including côtes de Genève, circular graining, and blued screws. The perforated calf leather strap is hand-crafted at the Montblanc Pelletteria in Florence. For more details and photos, and more on Montblanc’s 2018 offerings, click here.
OMEGA SPEEDMASTER CK 2998 LIMITED EDITION
The Omega Speedmaster CK 2998, limited to 2,998 pieces, is based on a model that hit the market in 1959, and features a new white-and-black color scheme and new pulsometer bezel that distinguishes it from its blue-and-white-themed predecessor with a tachymeter bezel from 2016. The new watch, launched in 2018, features vintage-inspired Alpha-shaped hands, a symmetrical 39.7-mm stainless steel case with alternating brushed and polished finishes; and a dark-colored bezel made of polished ceramic with white enamel markings. A sand-blasted finish gives the silvery dial its subtly gritty texture; the blackened hands and hour indices are coated with Super-LumiNova. The central chronograph seconds hand stands out against the panda dial layout with a red varnished finish. This watch, appropriately, contains a historical Speedmaster movement, the manual-winding Caliber 1861, which has a 21,600-vph frequency and a 48-hour power reserve. For more info and images, click here.
TAG HEUER AUTAVIA JO SIFFERT LIMITED EDITION
Developed in cooperation with Calibre 11, one of the most popular online forums devoted to Heuer and TAG Heuer watches, the Autavia Jo Siffert Collectors’ Edition is modeled after a vintage Autavia model made famous by Formula 1 racing legend Jo Siffert, who throughout the late 1960s and 1970s wore both a Heuer logo on his racing suit and a Heuer Autavia 1163T Chronograph on his wrist. That reference of the watch, produced before “TAG” was added to the company name and logo, was recognizable for its black subdials, blue central hand, and subtle hints of blue throughout the dial, most notably at the end of the indices. The watch contains the Heuer 02 automatic chronograph used in modern Autavia watches and adds vintage flairs such as the use of the historical Heuer logo on the dial and the black calfskin strap with Heuer tang buckle. Modern adjustments include the crown being moved to the right side between the chrono pushers, and, of course, the three-subdial arrangement (the vintage watch had only two). Otherwise, it’s a very accurate replica of the watch that Siffert wore during his racing career. To learn more about the watch and its history, click here.
ZENITH CHRONOMASTER EL PRIMERO 36,000 VPH
Zenith released both a panda (pictured) and reverse-panda version of its flagship Chronomaster El Primero 36,000 VPH collection in 2017, both notable for their use of a 42-mm case made of black ceramicized aluminum, a material that Zenith introduced to watchmaking with its El Primero Range Rover Limited Edition in 2016. The sunray-patterned, silver-toned dial hosts three contrasting ebony subdials, luminescent faceted hour indices, and red details on the chronograph hands. Inside the watch beats — what else? — Zenith’s high-frequency El Primero caliber, a descendant of the self-winding column-wheel chronograph movement that burst on the scene in 1969 and helped define the Swiss brand for the 20th century and beyond. The movement’s 36,600-vph frequency allows it to record intermediate times to 1/10 second, with modern versions of the watch even able to display these stopped times on the dial. The watch comes on a black perforated rubber strap with a titanium-and-black-PVD-coated triple-folding clasp.
HONORABLE MENTION: ROLEX COSMOGRAPH DAYTONA
The list would not be complete, of course, without a modern example of the Rolex Daytona, the watch that Paul Newman helped make famous. The latest version of the Daytona, launched in 2016 with a number of aesthetic and technological upgrades, can’t really be considered a panda — only the rings around the chrono subdials are contrasting black, rather than the subdials themselves — but it’s still decidedly panda-esque, especially with the black Cerachrom tachymeter bezel echoing the black subdial rings. The 40-mm stainless steel case houses the Rolex manufacture Caliber 4130, a self-winding column-wheel chronograph movement that is also a COSC-certified chronometer. The bracelet incorporates Rolex’s Oysterlock safety clasp, which prevents accidental opening, and the patented Easylink quick-extension system that allows the wearer to easily increase the bracelet length by approximately 5 mm without the use of a tool. For more on the revamped Daytona, including more about that Cerachrom bezel and and why it’s special, read our report on the watch from Baselworld 2016.
What do you think of panda-dial chronographs? Are there any important models we missed? And would you like to see more of them or are we already seeing more than the market can (ahem) bear? Let us know in the comments section below.