Making their entrance into the watch industry about 60 years ago, the Panda dial is one that has never really gone out of style and has continued to increase in value over the years. Having concluded our research on some of the best watches with the Panda dial, we bring you the best ones under $500.
Orient Neo 70’s Panda
The Orient WV0041TX popularly known as the Neo 70s seem to be a popular choice among watch collectors and budget-conscious people looking for a panda dial watch that’s both aesthetically and technically reliable.
With a 42mm case diameter and 12mm thickness, the Neo 70’s Panda might feel a little large, but it certainly wears well on the wrist.
It takes on the Panda theme with milky white background and black subdials. The same clean black and white color scheme can be seen throughout the watch, excluding the Orient logo at the 12 o’clock position. A minimal but well-applied lume can be also be seen on the hands and indices.
The Neo 70’s panda boasts of a solar power movement with a reported power reserve of 6 months. The Chronograph pushers also seem to be spot on making reference to vintage designs.
As a value proposition, the Orient Neo 70’s Panda takes the spotlight for a simple yet functional watch.
Now we move to Nezumi Voiture, the watch that modernizes vintage, figuratively though. Nezumi Studios has a trend of taking cues from the past and using it to build modern timepieces. The Nezumi Voiture is not an exception to this trend; it’s a vintage-inspired racing style chronograph watch with a general level of complexity seen all through the watch.
Coming at 40mm x 47mm x 6.75mm, it wears slightly smaller, but its proportions and classic curvy lugs allow it to fit the wrist comfortably. The Voiture VQ2.101 is offered in an Off-white and black dial and subdials. The contrast of the white dial background AND the black tachymeter works together to give it the classic panda charming look.
Although the hands, markers, and chapter ring is suggestive of the Paul Newman Daytona, other design features are Nezumi’s. The chronograph features the Seiko SK V63 mechanical-quartz movement, a double-domed sapphire crystal with AR-coating, and a racing leather strap.
One drawback to the Nezumi Voiture is legibility issues. The amount of lume present on the hands and hour markers is not sufficient enough to read the time at a glance, especially in low-light conditions.
No doubt the Nezumi Voiture signifies a good design, legibility might be a little issue but thanks to all the little details and features embedded in this timepiece, it may survive a wrist-check alongside other microbrand chronographs that cost far more.
The Straton Synchro is a 70s-inspired watch that seamlessly combines the aesthetic of a dive watch with that of a racing chronograph. The 200-meter water-resistant case is offered in both 40mm and 44m and has a thickness of 14.9mm.
Over the dial is a domed sapphire crystal which complements the unidirectional bezel which is domed itself. The dial of the Straton Syncro is embellished with lots of details – the lumed Hour indices, a tachymeter inner bezel, and the brushed and applied company logo ‘S’ at the 12 o’clock position.
Movement wise, the Syncro line offers two movements, Seiko’s mechanical NE88 automatic caliber, and Seiko’s VK64 Meca-Quartz movement. A lot of customizable details are left to the customers, starting from the choice of movements, dial colors, strap colors, bezel insert options to the case finish.
The Straton Syncro is what we can call a meld of multiple ideas, as it shows resemblance to some iconic 70s chronographs. It can be a good watch alternative to those looking for the classic ’70s look with a modern touch.
Alpina Startimer Pilot Big Date
When the name ‘Alpina Startimer’ is heard, what comes to mind is a pilot watches with bold numerals and a solid dial. The Alpina Startimer Pilot Big Date is a sleek watch with a large wrist presence, with its case coming in at 44m width and 13 mm thickness. The stainless case features both polished and brushed finishes; the polished parts direct one attention towards the dial.
The dial on the Startimer Pilot Big Date can be described as bold and legible; it is a reflective black with the subdials set against a contrasting silver finish. All elements on the watch follow the black-white theme asides the red Alpina triangle counterweight and the subdial hands. This arty touch adds a nice pop to the dial design.
The chronograph registers are adorned with circular graining, a detail similar to that on the Carrera 12 Dato. Inside the watch is an in-house high precision caliber, the Alpina Calibre AL-372 with a power reserve of about 48 months, and timing to 1/10th of a second. The only watch closer to this is the Zenith’s El Primero Striking Tenth, although it costs about 30 times the Startimer Pilot Big Date.
One feature generally accepted other than functionality in a chronograph is simplicity and the Alpina Startimer Pilot Big Date can be said to fulfill this requirement.
Victorinox Swiss Army Chronopro
Although the Chronopro model was launched in 2004, the Victorinox Swiss Army tries to redesign this mechanical chronograph with each design improving on the level of sophistication and Swiss-made craftsmanship. The Swiss Army Chrono Pro 241187 is housed in a stainless steel case with a 42mm width and 15mm thickness.
Major upgrades such as a dual finish bezel, larger numerals and luminescent hands, and a tachymeter scale on the outer dial. The dial design is enhanced by the red 60-second counter hand, which aids reading time at a glance. Over the case is a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal with an anti-reflective finish which protects the dial face.
The Victorinox Swiss Army Chronopro stands out for its distinctive profile and use of classic elements in the design of the watch.
Mercer Lexington EMG DL53
Mercer Watch Co. named after the Revolutionary war hero Hugh Mercer, have produced some impressive timepieces so far since their first release in 2014. The Mercer Lexington which was added to the brand’s collection just last year is classically styled, a manual-wind chronograph that also costs below $500.
From the shape of the case, its slender lugs, to its all-polished case treatments, the Lexington EMG DL53 evokes the 1960s retro vibe. The only feature that’s arguably not from the 60s is its case thickness, coming in at 13.5mm, it looks like something the Ubiquitous ETA 7750-based would have. However, the case still wears comfortable on the wrist.
The dial as you’ve predicted is the classic black and white “panda” dial surrounded by a black tachymeter. The silver faceted Indices are polished with inward facing points and the hour and minute hands are given similar treatment but with a fine application of lume. Dial text is minimal but symmetrically balanced with the red colored ones adding a bit of extra pop.
Inside the Lexington, EMG DL53 is the China-made Seagull ST1901 movement. It is a column-wheel movement that shows impressive pedigree than most Chinese movements. The movement is nicely decorated with Côtes de Genève finishing and can be seen through the caseback.
Seagull 1963 Panda
The Seagull 1963 panda is a watch that caught the attention of many watch enthusiasts now it’s a unique vintage character that pays homage to non-Swiss watch-making history. Seagull then decided to produce a follow-up model to the original 38mm version with just a few noticeable changes.
The new version of the Seagull 1963 panda comes larger with a 42mm case diameter and a 13mm thickness. There is little to talk about the case other than its large circular shape with minimal finishing and the domed acrylic crystal on top of it. Similarly, the chronograph pushers look plain and generic, and the crown is unsigned. The see-through caseback displays the inner workings of the ST19 movement inside.
The dial looks no different than the original 38mm version; just the elements have been scaled up in proportion to the 42mm cased. However, the dial seems more decorative than the case due to its interesting play of colours. The dial features a matte white background, contrasting black subdials and silver applied hour index. On the outer edge of the dial is the chronograph seconds index with precision to 1/5th of a second. The watch’s engine, the Seagull ST19 column wheel movement is based on the Swiss Venus 175 movement. It’s quite reliable and should be able to keep time for a long period.
Certina DS Podium
The DS (Double Security) Podium collection was launched by Certina 1888 almost 12 years after the first models came out; it marked the collaboration between them and the F1 team Sauber Petronas. This panda dial model C0016392705700 is a 42mm watch enclosed in a stainless steel 316L case water resistant up to 100bar. Aside from its polished bezel, other parts of the case are brushed, which is quite understandable considering the sportiness of the timepiece.
As you’d expect from a sports watch, the dial looks a bit busy but still easy to read, thanks to the bold index and hands. Over the dial is a flat sapphire crystal protecting the intricate workings of the dial elements.
Powering this timepiece is an ETA G10.212AJ Precidrive movement with chronometer certification. This movement keeps the price below $500 as a mechanical movement will increase its price substantially.
Overall, the Certina DS Podium is a beautiful sport watch, with a robust and sports-quality DS (Double Security.) case.
The Seiko SSC446 is by no means a small and subtle watch with its case coming in at 43.5 x 13 mm. The hardlex crystal.used over the dial is not a surprising choice bearing in mind the watch’s price. Other parts of the watch seem to be in the right proportions; it’s still very wearable despite its size. The 20mm stainless steel band with a fold over with safety release clasp helps ensure this.
The dial of the Seiko SSC446 features a color scheme that includes white, black, blue and yellow Gold. A faint application of lume can be seen on the hands and markers.
As you can almost predict, the Seiko SSC446 is powered by a Japanese movement, the Seiko Caliber V175. A Quartz movement that makes the hands revolve smoothly and accurately for precise, reliable timekeeping.
The Seiko SSC446 suggests a perfect blend of function and style and can be a very useful timepiece for daily use. It also has a water resistance of up to 330 feet/100 meters, which makes it suitable for surfing and other water sports. I wouldn’t take a stainless steel watch near water, though.
From the above watches, we’ve seen white and black backgrounds with either red or silver accents. The only panda dial watch with yellow accents on this list is the Seiko SNDF93. It inspires a new aesthetic approach to panda dials as the colors are seen to be balanced all through the watch.
Like the Seiko SSC446, it’s no small watch with the case coming in at 43 x 12mm. Attached to the case is a Black Leather Band ( SNDF9 = leather bands) ). The strap itself is very well executed, made of supple leather with a croc texture. The dial design showcases simplicity free of sharp, clunky or futuristic text.
Perhaps a unique and striking detail is the 70s style chronograph pushers used. It’s a nice little detail that makes the watch to look more expensive than it actually is. If you’re looking for a timepiece that suggests the 70s or classic motorsport, you should probably go for the Seiko SSC446.