If you’ve spent some time searching for affordable panda dial chronographs, you might have learned your options are rather limited. That’s why I put together this buying guide of some of the best affordable (~under $500) panda dial watches on the market.
Orient NEO 70s WV0041TX
The best budget panda dial chronograph is the Orient Neo 70s Panda, in my opinion. It’ is a lovely watch that has got many hours of wrist time on my own personal wrist. What an honor!
The Orient Neo70 has a milky dial that’s colored somewhere between white and cream and makes the watch look oh so classy.
It definitely takes some design inspiration from the popular Paul Newman Daytona but has enough design queues of its own, such as skeletonized stick hands, an off-center date wheel, and an internal black bezel with minute markers that give the watch some extra contrast and a unique flair.
The watch is powered by a Seiko solar quartz movement. It charges under direct light and has a power reserve of up to 6 months
Read my full, in-depth review on the Orient Neo70s.
While not a mechanical watch, the stopwatch second hand has a smooth sweep like that of one. The chronograph has a 60-minute stopwatch feature.
Once you switch out the stainless steel bracelet for a 22mm vintage leather style rally strap in brown or black, it becomes a truly marvelous-looking piece that looks and feels way more expensive than it really is.
Although it can sometimes be hard to find in stock, there are newer variations of this model more readily available on Amazon if the Neo70s is out of stock.
The Seiko Prospex Speedtimer SSA813 is a solar-powered panda chronograph with a racing-inspired charm.
With its black tachymeter bezel, and tricompax design, the Speedtimer is very reminiscent of popular luxury chronographs such as the Rolex Daytona and Omega Speedmaster, but still has enough unique design elements to set it apart.
With a case shape reminiscent of vintage, 60’s chronographs, but with modern touches, such as a curved sapphire crystal, sandblasted dial, and bracelet with both brushed and smooth polished surfaces, the Speedtimer has that classic, timeless chronograph look.
Coming in at 39mm, the Speedtimer is a moderately sized watch that has some wrist presence, without being overbearing, and can confidently fit appropriately on just about any wrist size.
Overall, the Seiko Speedtimer is a perfect one-watch collection if you’re a fan of the modern racing-inspired chronograph.
The Sugess 1963 is a mechanical, hand-wind panda chronograph using the well-decorated column-wheel ST19 movement.
Based on my own experience with the Sugess, the watch looks fantastic on a wide variety of straps, has impressive build quality with a domed sapphire crystal, and even unique accents, like the 38mm version I own with a star counterbalance on the second hand. One of my main gripes is the all-polished case which, like any polished case, show scratches easily.
Overall, the Sugess 1963 is a new chronograph contender on this list, but one not to be overlooked. Its ST19 movement is highly regarded, beautifully decorated, and reputable. The overall design takes design queues from the Seagull 1963 and combines them with that of racing chronographs from the 60s into a great value-for-the-money package.
Alpha Daytona Paul Newman
The Alpha Daytona Paul Newman is yet another homage heavily influenced by the original Paul Newman ‘Panda’ Daytona. I’d argue it’s the best Paul Newman Daytona homage on the market.
It uses the exact hand winding, mechanical column-wheel chronograph as the Seagull 1963 watch, which is again, pretty rare to find at this price point.
It has very similar dimensions to the original Paul Newman Panda, with a 20mm lug width to match.
It also has a slightly domed acrylic crystal which adds some nice distortion and visual interest at different viewing angles and helps add to the ‘vintage’ aesthetic.
It’s not an automatic watch, so you’ll have to hand wind it every day or so, to keep the watch running, but to some, that’s part of the charm of owning a mechanical timepiece.
Parnis ‘Panda’ Daytona
The Parnis Daytona has a very close resemblance to the modern and recent Rolex Daytona models. You could definitely consider this one a homage as it has very few design queues of its own.
But what does set the Parnis Daytona apart, is the build quality, for the price.
You’re getting a mecha-quartz movement which is a mechanical and quartz hybrid that keeps excellent time but still has the smooth second-hand sweep of a mechanical watch.
The Parnis Daytona also has a ceramic bezel, sapphire crystal, and a somewhat decent stainless steel bracelet with brushed and polished links, very reminiscent of the modern Daytona.
They also offer a reverse panda dial
This is the model to get if you love the current Rolex Daytona, but just don’t have the cash.
Seagull 1963 Panda
The Seagull 1963 Panda is a modernized remake of the exact chronograph model made for the Chinese Airforce in 1963. The original is highly sought after by watch collectors for its strong history as well as its classic design.
The Seagull 1963 is a hand-wind, fully mechanical chronograph. It uses a column wheel, which is an extremely coveted and desirable chronograph movement by most watch lovers, as it takes fine craftsmanship to build, is extremely durable, and ultimately very rare to find at such a low price point.
The chronograph has a 30-minute timer on the right sub-dial.
They also offer a reverse panda dial (black dial with white subdials) and a more military, retro-inspired, off-white colored with golden hour markers.
Dan Henry 1964 ‘Gran Turismo’
The Dan Henry 1964 Gran Turismo is a bit of a wildcard pick. It’s not a panda dial chronograph in the traditional sense, in that it has a silver and black dial as opposed to white/cream and black.
But that doesn’t at all take away from its charm.
It’s a moderately sized 38mm chronograph which gives the watch a vintage appeal, period-correct to the 1964 model name. It’s also quite refreshing compared to the modern state of watches, often too large for my taste and honestly, sometimes gaudy.
The watch has a mineral crystal with a sapphire coating and anti-reflective treatment to help preserve the somewhat pronounced domed crystal. The domed crystal adds some distortion and visual interest when viewing the watch at an angle, and certainly adds to the vintage charm.
This watch gives you just the right amount of wrist presence. Being reasonably sized with a stunning sunburst silver dial and a blue second hand that adds a pop of color, it’s hard not to stop and stare.
They offer a variety of color combinations, including a reverse panda dial with a black dial and silver sub-dials.
What is a Panda Dial Chronograph Watch?
A panda dial is a dial on any watch with a white (or off-white) colored dial, and black colored sub-dials.
More recently, other watches with a very light dial and very dark subdials of any colors are sometimes nicknamed ‘panda dials’ even though they are not panda dials in the traditional sense.
An example of this is the Dan Henry 1964 Gran Turismo, where the dial is silver and the subdials are black. This isn’t the traditional setup of a panda dial, however, some still call it a panda dial because of its resemblance.
A panda dial watch is most typically found on a chronograph, which almost always features 2 or more subdials, which are colored differently from the main dial, to give it that ‘panda’ appearance.
What is a Reverse Panda Dial?
A reverse panda dial is simply the reversed colors of a panda dial. On a reverse panda dial, the main dial is a much darker color, usually black, than the sub-dials, usually white/cream.
What is the Paul Newman Daytona and Why is it so Popular?
The Paul Newman Daytona is the nickname given to the Rolex Daytona Reference #6239.
One particular Paul Newman Daytona, owned by the legendary actor Paul Newman himself, was auctioned off for over $17,000,000 (yes, you read that right) in New York City, 2017. Source.
What is a Chronograph?
A chronograph is a watch, mechanical or quartz, that has an additional chronograph complication.
The chronograph functions as a stopwatch, measured using both sub-dials inside of the larger watch dial to keep track of larger increments of time (usually up to 60 minutes) and the large main second hand that keeps track of the seconds elapsed.
A chronograph watch usually has a small subdial dedicated to the current second, while the larger, main second hand is used to determine the time elapsed when using the chronograph stopwatch feature.
A chronograph usually has two pushers on the side of the watch, usually the right side.
The top pusher often functions as a start/stop button for the chronograph, and the bottom pusher often functions as a reset. This can vary from model to model, so be sure to look up the documentation for your specific watch if you’re looking for a guide on how to use your chronograph.
Some chronographs, like the modern-day Rolex Daytona, for instance, have a screw-down crown surrounding the pushers that keep water from entering. These watches are usually water-resistant, but not always.
Regardless, even with a water-resistant chronograph, you should never ever unscrew the crown, or use the chronograph pusher while the watch is submerged in water. This will almost always allow water to enter your case and damage your watch.
The Final Verdict – My Favorite Panda Dial
Panda dial watches with white dials, and dark, contrasting sub-dials are truly some of the coolest watches you can get. Inspired by racing watches from the ’60s, they’ve stood the test of time, and continue to be classic watch designs that will be emulated for years to come.
My favorite affordable panda dial chronograph is currently the Orient Neo70s Panda thanks to its well-executed design and a rather affordable price tag.
If you’re looking for other chronographs under $500, check out this article as well.
Let me know if there’s any watch you think should be added to this list in the comments below!