When considering different options for the best budget panda chronograph, there were a few that kept popping up in my search.
I came across this beauty, the Orient Panda Neo70s, (model number wv0041tx), a solar chronograph with a meca-quartz movement and a gorgeous panda dial.
Instantly, I was struck by the bug and had to have it.
When I saw someone list a very gently used one for sale on a watch exchange forum just a few days later, I knew it was meant to be.
The Neo70s is generally readily available on Amazon most of the time, though due to popularity, it does tend to go in and out of stock at times.
So, what exactly makes this watch so special? We’ll get into that and more in this hands-on Orient Neo70s WV0041TX review, but first…
What is a Panda Dial?
A panda dial is a light-colored dial (usually white or silver, cream in this case) with much darker subdials. Most often, it’s chronographs that get referred to as pandas, since they tend to be the watches most commonly seen with multiple smaller subdials.
The contrast of the light dial and dark subdials, especially when the subdials are configured in a triangular shape, can slightly resemble the face of a panda (if you squint hard enough). Two eyes, a nose… Eh, you have to squint REALLY hard. But you get the point.
The most popular panda dial, the Rolex ‘Paul Newman’ Daytona has certainly made all panda dials more desirable by collectors, and for good reason. It is a beautiful dial configuration and color scheme. The one problem? The Rolex Daytona cost millions, and most affordable panda dial alternatives tend to lack in some regard.
While the Orient Panda Neo70s certainly isn’t perfect, it’s a great budget alternative to the previously mentioned panda Daytona. Here’s why.
Upon first inspection, I was immediately greeted by something that none of the many reviews, pictures or videos I’ve seen of this watch have demonstrated.
The case finishing is done extremely well.
Not that I’m entirely surprised, as this is my third Orient watch, and all of them have had superb case finishing, especially for the low price of these affordable watches.
Even so, I was very impressed. The deep brushed surfaces around the lugs contrast very nicely with the extremely well polished (for the price) bezel and hour markers that really give the watch enough pop and shine, without being overly blingy.
The sides of the case are polished, consistent throughout the sides of the bracelet. This makes for a watch that is somewhat subdued but definitely has some sparkle.
The case itself is very geometric with sharp angles on the sides and a slightly rounded bezel.
Very retro and 70s, exactly what they were going for, clearly, as the ‘Neo70s’ name suggests.
Dial and Chronograph Subdials
The panda dial on this watch is very interesting, as most panda dials tend to have a white or silver dial.
The Neo70s, on the other hand, has a creamy off-white dial that has some very subtle vertical texturing to it that’s nearly unnoticeable except upon close inspection.
Still, it adds a bit of visual depth and interest to the watch. It’s one of those things that you just ‘can’t quite put your finger on’ why you like it, but you just do. It certainly makes the watch more dynamic.
Framing the dial is a silver border that again, adds a bit of contrast and visual interest to the dial, followed by an either VERY dark navy or black chapter ring (excuse my color blindness) with small minute markers in white, circling around the dial.
The dial itself is laid out very nicely with three subdials for the chronograph and other functions.
There’s a ticking seconds subdial on the left, a 24 hour subdial on the right, and a slightly smaller, 60-minute chronograph timer subdial on the bottom.
Personally, I would have much preferred a larger chronograph subdial than the 24-hour subdial, which, in my opinion, .doesdon’t really have much use except for being able to quickly distinguish AM vs PM.
I also think having a smaller subdial at the bottom is an interesting choice, and personally, I like it, as I already own a few chronographs that have three perfectly symmetrical subdials, so this makes this watch that much more different and special to me. But if you’re the kind of person who prefers everything uniform and the same, that might bug you a bit.
Hands and Orient Logo
The skeletonized stick hands are lumed and hollowed out, which I think really helps with the legibility of the subdials, making them that much more readable, even when the hand is covering one of them. That was a very subtle, yet smart, design touch by Orient.
You can tell they really care about the details and that’s why I’m such a big Orient fan, especially when considering the price of this watch. Really, it’s only Orient and Seiko that consistently produce such high-quality watches at this lower price point.
The Orient logo at the top of the dial is hit or miss, depending on how you feel about it.
Personally, I like their logo and think it is done very tastefully. Of course, it reads Orient, and underneath ‘Chronograph’ in a script font that, again, I personally find to be very tasteful and compelling.
Something about the script font combined with the creamy not-quite-white dial creates a slightly ‘classy’ vibe on an otherwise sporty watch.
Underneath ‘Chronograph’ reads ’10 bar’ which demonstrates the 100m water resistance, which is actually quite good for a chronograph.
100m of water resistance on the Neo70s means you can likely go swimming with this watch, no problem, which also means showering, and especially washing your hands, will not even phase the thing.
Of course, it’s very important to NEVER push down the chronograph pushers when the watch is getting wet, as that will almost always allow some water in, no matter the water-resistance of your watch. This goes for any chronograph watch, not just the Orient Panda in particular. Please be careful!
Odd Date Window – The Neo 70s One Big Flaw?
The one complaint that seems to pop up about this watch time and time again is the recessed date window between the 4 and 5 hour markers.
One big complaint is that it is TOO recessed, which I do agree with. It’s like the date wheel is so far back behind the dial, it almost creates a 3D effect, and has some depth, but also makes it slightly more annoying to read, as the dial can sometimes cast a shadow over the date wheel when viewed at certain angles.
In addition, the date wheel is a stark white, which contrasts with the warm and milky off-white dial in a not-so-complimentary way. The date window is relatively small, so you may be unbothered, or it might just drive you crazy if you’re a very detail-oriented enthusiast (and as watch enthusiasts, I’m sure we all are detail-oriented, to an extent).
Aside from that, I think the date window is simply too small for a watch this size. It almost looks like it was put there as an afterthought, and honestly, if there was one thing at all I would change, or say I dislike about the watch, it’s the date window.
Personally, I think the watch would’ve been better off without including the date window at all, or at least to have the option to purchase it with or without.
Chronograph Pump Pushers
The chronograph pump pushers are a detail that many reviews I’ve read and watched have overlooked.
I love the fact that they pump pushers, and not a screw-down pusher like some more modern iterations, as I found those to be cumbersome and annoying to use, having to unscrew them every time you want to use the chronograph function.
They, unfortunately, don’t have the most tactile feel, like if you were comparing it to the feel of a fully mechanical chronograph watch. But it doesn’t feel too mushy either. It’s an okay middle ground. It could absolutely be better, but I’m a nitpicker. It’s what I do. And here I am, nitpicking.
- Diameter: 42mm
- Lug width: 22mm
- Lug to lug: 48mm
- Thickness: 11.8mm
The Orient Neo70s is a chronograph on the larger side, especially when considering the vintage nature of the watch. Typically, vintage watches, even sporty chronographs, are seen under 40mm.
The Orient Neo70s has a more modern and slightly larger 42mm diameter, including the crown. The dial itself, however, is only about ~38.5mm, which makes the watch look a tad smaller than the dimensions would suggest.
It has a 22mm lug width, which is appropriate for a watch this size, but I think a 20mm lug width would have worn just as well, and is my personal lug width of choice for most watches I own.
With only a 48mm lug to lug measurement, the watch definitely has some wrist presence, but isn’t too overwhelming on the wrist for most wrist sizes.
The case also curves neatly toward the edges, hugging the wrist very comfortably and making the watch a joy to wear.
I think for anyone with a 6 3/4″ wrist and above, the watch will most likely suit you very well. Or if you have smaller wrists and just prefer larger watches, that’ll be fine too.
It’s a relatively thin watch, considering the complications involved, coming in at just under 12mm thick. About average for a sporty watch this large, in my opinion, but not exactly ‘dress watch’ material, and not one that can easily fit under the cuff of a dress shirt.
Solar Meca-Quartz Movement
As fellow bloggers Two Broke Watch Snobs mentioned in their Neo70s review, the movement in this watch is a bit puzzling.
The reason being, it is listed as an Orient KBS00 movement but is much more likely just a renamed Seiko movement, which they believe to be the Seiko Solar V175, as they share all of the same specs.
What’s interesting about this movement, is that it’s a solar meca-quartz movement.
Solar meaning it’s powered and charged from light. It has the accuracy of a quartz watch, which is very precise, keeping time within +/- 15 seconds a month, and can hold a charge for up to 6 months.
The really sweet thing about meca-quartz movements, like this one before us, is the smooth sweeping chronograph second hand that sweeps smoothly like a mechanical watch.
So you have the precision of quartz accuracy, a long, 6-month power reserve, and still the smooth sweeping second hand that you would get from a fully mechanical watch. Kind of the best of both worlds, if you ask me.
Mind you, the second hand on the small seconds sub-dial (left sub-dial) does tick like quartz and does not sweep like a mechanical watch. But since it’s only on the small sub-dial and has a very small hand, it is not very noticeable most of the time, I can live with it.
One of the few real disappointments on this watch is the bracelet.
It is decent, not the worst bracelet I’ve worn at this price range, but it’s also not too enjoyable nor comfortable to wear.
It feels light and flimsy, a bit jangly and rattly, even.
Like the watch itself, it is finished pretty well, brushed throughout the front and back and polished on the sides.
The clasp is a stamped button-deploy clasp that has a surprisingly satisfying and assuring click, but the clasp itself is lower quality than those that are completely machined. You can see this one was simply stamped out, and as a result, is a bit flimsy and thin.
It only has 3 micro-adjustments, which is a bit of a bummer, but should be enough to help you get the right fit.
A few more micro-adjustments would’ve been nice to continue to adjust the size of the bracelet throughout the seasons, as your wrist swells and shrinks in different temperatures, without having to remove or add a bracelet link altogether.
Anyway, the bracelet is just ok. Not good, not bad.
Personally, I removed it nearly as soon as I got the watch, opting for one of many other strap choices that suit the watch that much better.
Watch Strap Choices
While I don’t own as many 22mm straps as I would like, there are plenty of different leather straps that pair perfectly with the Orient Neo70s Panda.
Despite the fact that the included bracelet is mediocre, the watch is an absolute strap monster and looks great on a huge variety of straps, so you can really have fun dressing this watch up or down.
My one suggestion is to try to find a watch with a bit of padding. While thin dress watch straps can work on this watch, it is approaching the thicker side, and thus looks right at home on any strap around 3mm in thickness.
My Personal Picks
My personal preference is a 22mm Milanese Mesh bracelet that I think perfectly emphasizes the vintage styling of the watch.
Any leather strap especially those with an emphasis on vintage styling comes to mind. I own a dark chocolate brown that really emphasizes and complements the rich creaminess of the dial, whereas darker, black straps or stainless steel bracelets tend to make the watch look a little more monochromatic.
I’ve also worn the Orient Neo70s on a rally-style rubber strap in the summer since it’s very comfortable even in the warmest temperatures.
Finally, I often wear it on a black alligator strap for a timeless and classic look. Of course, a refined black leather or genuine lizard or alligator strap will almost always dress up a watch, perfect for more formal occasions. Go for something with a bit of shine if you are trying to dress the watch up, or something with a more matte finish if you plan to wear the watch more casually.
For some other options, try a two-stitch vintage or distressed leather strap in black or dark brown for a classic, yet still rugged look.
To complement the vintage 70’s racing aesthetic of the watch, a racing or rally leather strap in either black or tan looks great. The holes in the rally strap also promote air ventilation, making it a good choice for even slightly warmer temperatures, where a leather strap usually would be too hot to be comfortable.
Lastly, consider a padded exotic leather strap, such as a padded alligator strap, to emphasize the sporty nature of the strap. Since the watch is generally neutral in color, you can have a little fun with the colors.
A dark navy alligator strap with cream stitching would emphasize both the navy blue subdials and cream dial perfectly. But you can try something like emerald green, or a dark burgundy if you want to get a little funky.
Basically, this watch is so neutral in color and versatile when it comes to straps, you can wear it on almost anything and it will look absolutely killer. Just make sure the straps have a 22mm width to fit properly.
The lume on this watch is pretty awful, though I’m surprised it even has lume at all. So I guess the fact that it does is a positive in itself.
It’s lumed just barely on the edge of the hour markers, and on the tips of the skeletonized hands. It’s not very strong, nor bright and doesn’t last very long. I’d say it’s more of a “little bonus” than a functional, usable lume, that will help the legibility of the watch in the dark.
Why they put any lume on this watch in the first place is beyond me. If you’re going to add lume, you should add lume bright and strong enough to actually make it usable. Oh well. Can’t win ’em all.
Other Budget Panda Chronographs Alternatives
There isn’t a huge variety of affordable and good looking panda dial chronographs on a budget, though I’ve written an entire article about them here.
No lie, I love panda chronographs so much, that at the time of writing this, I own every watch that I’m about to mention. Yes, I have a problem. I’m working on it!
I will say, what you’re getting with the Orient Neo70s panda that the other alternatives just don’t offer is originality. All of the other watches I’m about to mention are homages of other, very classic and noteworthy, chronograph watches.
The Neo70s seems to be a completely unique design, at least. as far as I know. Feel free to correct me in the comments if I am wrong.
It’s built completely in-house from Orient (aside from the possibility of the ‘Orient’ Solar movement actually being a Seiko movement, but we aren’t certain about that).
To summarize the panda dial alternatives available, however, the Parnis Daytona is one that comes to mind, paying blatant homage to the iconic and modern Rolex Daytona, at a fraction of the cost. It also has a mecaquartz hybrid movement, just like the Orient Neo70s, however, it is not solar powered. It also has a ceramic bezel and sapphire glass which makes it look a little bit more modern than the Neo70s. It is based off the new Rolex Daytona, after all.
For a more retro flair, check out either the Dan Henry 1964 Gran Turismo or the Alpha Daytona, both of which have panda dial variations available.
The Dan Henry 1964 Gran Turismo is yet another meca quartz movement, with a ticking second hand and sweeping chronograph timekeeping hand.
The Alpha Daytona, on the other hand, is completely mechanical, and runs on a Seagull movement, the same one used in the very classic Seagull 1963 chronograph. It’s a pretty awesome movement, and considering the price is about the same as the Neo70s, you do need to decide what you value more. Do you prefer the beautiful aesthetics and unique design of the Orient Panda? Or do you prefer to have a watch with a fully mechanical movement?
- Solar meca-quartz movement combines accuracy and a large power reserve of a quartz watch, but the smooth second hand of a mechanical.
- Great looking watch with a relatively original design, even though it is clearly inspired by many classic chronographs.
- The case finishing is superb for the price.
- Reasonably priced.
- Looks great on a huge variety of straps. Seriously, this thing is a strap monster.
- 100m water resistance. Nice!
- Unique color offering. Creamy white dials are rare, especially in modern affordable watches.
- Hard to find and seems to go in and out of stock.
- 42mm diameter is a tad too large for my personal preference.
- The included bracelet could be a bit more solid and substantial.
- Mineral crystal. Sapphire would’ve been amazing.
- Oddly placed and recessed date window. The white of the date window contrasting with the creamy dial might also be a turn off for some. It’s also a bit too small.
I think the Orient Neo70s Panda Chronograph WV0041tx is one of the best panda dial chronographs on a budget.
It’s a very well built and well-finished watch, of which, I’d expect nothing less from the Orient brand.
It retains some style cues from some iconic watches with hints of Rolex Paul Newman Daytona and Omega Speedmaster to an extent but still manages to implement a completely new take on the style.
It has a very 70’s flair, with a modern twist and sizing, that makes it perfect for the new-retro watch lover.
The dimensions could be a touch smaller, but it is wearable enough that almost anybody with wrists larger than let’s say 6 3/4″ will have a great time wearing this watch. If your wrist is smaller, it might be worth it to give this watch a second consideration, as at 42mm in diameter, it’s not the most wearable for those with small wrists.
The solar meca quartz is of course not the first choice for the mechanical watch enthusiast, but it’s rare to find a fully mechanical chronograph in this price range.
Not to mention, the accuracy and large power reserves of a solar-quartz watches are convenient to have, even if they aren’t the most exciting. Of course, a bit of that is relieved with the smooth sweep of the chronograph second hand, giving you that feeling of a mechanical chronograph, without actually having to deal with the hassle and costs of servicing a mechanical chronograph (which can sometimes be quite costly).
Overall, I think the Neo70s offers lots of great value for your money, with a few other options in the price range, but none quite as original as the Neo70s.