Panda dial watches began emerging in the 1960s and 1970s and their popularity hasn’t waned since. Although the various styles have evolved with the times, their charismatic faces tend to hold their value quite well and certainly add a touch of class while improving readability at the same time. On this page, we’ll explore the various styles of panda dial watches, provide a bit of history about them, and cover some of the most popular models on the market today.
Types of Panda Dial Watches
Classic Panda Dial
The classic version is seen most often on chronographs, but it can occur on any type of timepiece with three windows or sub-elements, typically placed at the 9, 6, and 3 positions. In these cases, the dial itself will be white and the sub-elements will be black. If you’re collecting with the hope of flipping later, this is likely the type you’ll want to aim for, simply because finding classic 1960s and 1970s panda dial watches is a bit of a challenge, but obviously, you’ll want to do your homework anytime you’re purchasing as an investment versus picking up something you genuinely enjoy.
OMEGA Speedmaster LTD Edition in Japan Automatic Watch 3510.52
The reverse panda has the same configuration as the classic, but the dial is black and the sub-elements are white.
There are a couple variants of the semi-panda. In some, the configuration will be the same and it will still be in high-contrasting colors, but not always black and white. For example, blue and white or blue and yellow are popular. In others, there may be two sub-elements rather than three.
With the vertical version, the sub-elements will be in the 9, 6, and 12 positions, rather than 6, 9, and 3. Or, in the case of a two-sub-element piece, they’ll be positioned at the 12 and 6, rather than the 9 and 3.
Why Panda Dial Watches are So Collectible
The initial panda dial watches weren’t really “a thing.” Breitling kicked off the trend in 1957 with the Breitling SuperOcean Chronograph ref. 807. The company is known for its impeccably-crafted aviation timepieces and has always had an innovative mindset when it comes to precision and design. That particular model was a reverse semi-panda, not a classic, and the style largely emerged out of the necessity for integrating features while ensuring maximum readability. It was a success, and Breitling later went on to craft the AVI 765 Co-Pilot, a reverse panda with three sub-dials released in 1961. And thus, a legend was born. It wasn’t long before other Swiss watchmakers were producing their own versions and toying with designs.
Panda Dial watches soared in popularity during that era and then never totally went out of style. Nowadays, there’s a huge trend toward vintage pieces, so not only are the timepieces crafted in the 1960s and 1970s highly sought-after by collectors, but watchmakers are releasing newer versions. In some cases, it’s difficult to tell if the piece is new or one of the early releases, while other times they’re modernized with bold color combinations and innovative materials, such as rubber straps and ceramics.
10 Panda Dial Watches Worth Exploring
1) Rolex Cosmograph Daytona
The Rolex Daytona is arguably the most well-known panda dial watch in existence. Initially released in 1963 for racecar drivers who needed the high-contrast pieces because precious seconds couldn’t be lost eyeballing a wristwatch, it has undergone some modernization over the years. Although the classic layout has been kept, the trend is toward semi-panda, particularly with black and gold. The highest-contrast piece in present production features a silver dial with black elements and hosts the in-house calibre 4130, a self-winding mechanical chronograph movement which is certified by the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute. It’s specially-designed to handle shocks and temperature variations well, plus the buttons and winding crown can be screwed down for water-tightness, making it waterproof to 100 meters. The brand tops it off with an Oysterflex bracelet, which is Rolex’s more refined way of saying “rubber.” Pricing for this particular model starts at around $29,000. Sometimes vintage and pre-owned versions are quite a bit less, though it depends on the rarity of the piece. For example, Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona, a classic black and white variety, is clearly a collector’s item. It became the world’s most expensive wristwatch sold at auction in 2017 when it fetched $17.8 million. This sale further spurred the revival of panda dial watches and helped increase the value of similar pieces.
2) Heuer Carrera
Modern Tag Heuer Carreras don’t follow the right color scheme to qualify as pandas even though the layout and the look are right. Instead, Tag Heuer is mostly producing monochrome and low-contrast pieces within the line, which coincidentally has roots in racing just like the Rolex Daytona does. That being said, if you can get your hands on a reference 2447 SN or 2447 NST from the 1960s, which are classic and reverse panda dial watches, you’ve got yourself a serious collector’s item. Bear in mind these were produced when the brand was known simply as “Heuer,” without the Tag.
3) Heuer Heritage
Tag redeemed itself after straying from the classic with the Carrera by going with the panda in several other collections. Perhaps the most notable is the Autavia. In 2017, the brand relaunched the 1966 version (Ref 2446) which was worn by Formula 1’s Joschen Rindt. That particular model was a reverse, though Tag is still producing variants to the Autavia which are classic and semi. The brand presently has an Autavia, the Jack Heuer 85th Anniversary Limited Edition, which looks very similar to the Rolex Daytona mentioned above in silver with black, but it comes with a steel strap and sells for a little over $6,000. If you’re a fan of the brand but aren’t feeling the Autavia, the Calibre Heuer 02 could fit the bill as well. Their Formula One line includes some verticals too.
4) Breitling Chronoliner
It’s probably not surprising that the brand which started it all is still creating some of the best panda dial watches available. The Chronoliner collection was inspired by models Breitling put out in the 1950s and 1960s and features vertical sub-elements. Entry models start at about $8,000 and include dual time zones and a date window. These host a self-winding chronograph movement certified by the COSC and are water-resistant to 100 meters. There’s also a souped-up version crafted in red gold with blue features starting at a little over $32,000. That being said, several Breitling lines include panda dial watches, from the Navitimer through the SuperOcean Heritage, so it’s a brand worth exploring if you like the look, appreciate quality, and/or prefer a piece with real history.
5) Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Chronograph
Omega has quite a few panda dial watches, especially within the Speedmaster Collection. The Moonwatch chronograph, in particular, has one variant with the classic configuration; a white dial (Omega calls it “silvery,” but it looks white) with black sub-elements at the 9, 6, and 3. It requires manual winding but comes with a bit of history too, as the movement used in the piece is the same one worn on the moon. It’s also modeled after the OMEGA CK 2998, which was released in 1959. However, there were fewer than 3,000 of this version released, so it will be more difficult to locate. If you like Omegas and can’t find either of the first two models, check out their Racing collection, particularly the Speedmaster Racing Co-Axial Chronograph.
6) Zenith Chronomaster El Primero
El Primeros are a bit more retro. Instead of spacing out the sub-elements, they overlap a bit. There are quite a few variants which are technically considered panda dial watches, but are semis. However, the ceramicized aluminum version displays a beautiful reverse for about $5,000. Specs vary, though more modern pieces have a date window and automatic movement with 50-hour power reserve.
7) Girard-Perregaux Laureato Chronograph
The Laureato line from Girard-Perregaux emerged in the mid-1970s and is easily distinguished by the octagonal bezel, numberless hour markers, and GP logo at the 12. The chronograph versions add another layer of design with texturing on the face and sub-elements. For a more avantgarde take on the classic, opt for the stainless-steel version which is black on silver with blue accents on the hands and hour markers. It hosts a self-winding mechanical movement and is water resistant to 10 ATM, plus has a power reserve of 46 hours. Expect to pay about $14,000 if you’re buying new.
8) Montblanc TimeWalker Manufacture Chronograph
The Montblanc TimeWalker Manufacture Chronograph is a stunning piece which carries features of a 1970s model, such as a stainless-steel case and bracelet. Inspired by the dashboards of classic racing cars, the wristwatch is topped off with a black ceramic bezel etched with a tachymeter scale and features a classic panda dial of black on white with a red second hand to accent. It hosts a MB 25.10 automatic chronograph movement and offers a 12-hour counter, 30-minute counter, and date disc at the 9, 6, and 3 points, respectively. It’s also water resistant to 100 meters, which makes it ideal for daily wear. Pricing for the Montblanc TimeWalker Manufacture Chronograph starts at about $5,700 new.
9) Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore
One could get dizzy looking over all the versions of the Royal Oak Offshore Audemars Piguet currently produces. The line is distinguished by its larger case and octagonal bezel with screws at each corner. The “tapisserie” pattern on the dials as well as elongated push pieces and guards complete the look. There are classics, reverses, semis, and verticals to choose from. The ref. #26231ST.ZZ.D010CA.01, for example, is a stunning classic panda for the ladies with diamonds on the bezel and a self-winding movement which starts at $29,300. Over on the men’s side, there’s a vertical semi-panda in a 42mm 18-carat pink gold case. Paired with a grey ruthenium-toned dial, light sub-elements to give contrast, and a gray alligator strap, it’s incredibly masculine and brings a small touch of modernity to a vintage-looking piece. These start at $40,700.
10) Hublot Classic Fusion Chronograph
Ordinarily, panda dial watches have three sub-elements, but because the original variants had just two, we’re including the Hublot Classic Fusion Chronograph, which features two, in the mix as well. Much of the collection is either low-contrast or monochrome, but in the not-too-distant past, the brand released Juventus and Chelsea football club timepieces, which bring a bit more to the table. The Juventus limited-edition piece, with just 200 watches released, is incredibly sporty. It starts off with a 44mm black ceramic face and then layers on a checkerboard-print bezel made of PVD titanium and black carbon fiber. The dial is black with silver sub-elements and the strap is black alligator with white stitching, making for an incredibly eye-catching piece. Its heart is a HUB1143 caliber self-winding Chronograph movement and it’s water-resistant to 50 meters. This particular piece starts at about $14,000. However, if you opt for one of the monochrome ones; the black, opalin, or racing grey in titanium, pricing drops down to $10,800, though they are not limited-edition pieces.
Discover Panda Dial Watches on Value Your Watch
Do panda dial watches appeal to you too? You’re not alone—they’re one of the biggest draws for collectors today. Particularly with vintage pieces, they hold their value (or gain) incredibly well and look charismatic on the wrist, especially when a chronograph is incorporated. These are truly great pieces which carry quite a bit of nostalgia and are loved by long-term collectors and first-time buyers alike. That said, finding a good piece at a fair price can be a bit of a challenge. Value Your Watch is a site designed for watch enthusiasts by watch enthusiasts, and as such, our marketplace hosts a large selection of quality timepieces and is constantly being updated with new pieces, and we make it easier for collectors to sell, so the pricing is generally better than you’ll find elsewhere. Browse our collection of panda dial watches and other fine timepieces or list your own piece with us today.
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