13 expert-approved Panda dial watches to put on your grail radar

One of the most unanimously loved watch styles, the Panda dial resonates ‘Icons Only’ vibes – but there are lots of very affordable options
13 Panda dial watches to put on your grail radar

Pandas don’t just exist in the wild. Or the zoo for that matter. No, you can find them on the wrist, aptly dubbed Panda dial watches. Fear not, you don’t need to be well versed in the complexities of horological language to translate the jargon. It’s simply a white dial with (typically) three black sub dials, symbolising a pair of eyes and a mouth, and a reverse Panda, the opposite.

History prefaces the Rolex Daytona 6239 as the catalyst of Panda Dial hype, thanks to some American actor (Paul Newman) and his penchant for panda patterns of watch dials. As the ultimate muse of the movement, incited during peak Simon and Garfunkel era, the watch world hasn’t stopped salivating over the veggie-eating cuties since.

Already convinced you wanna bag a panda for yourself? These are some of the most grailworthy Panda dial watches on the market right now, vouched for by the experts, to kickstart or complement your watch collection.

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona

There’s no Panda without Paul Newman, and there’s no Paul Newman without Rolex. A one brand/one watch man, “the Rolex ‘Paul Newman’ Cosmograph became the most desirable watch of all in the late-1990s,” shares our fave Barbie bestie in the watch world, Ken Kessler. “It wasn’t the first ever Panda, but it is hands down the most famous, so it’s also the most influential.” Since its conception in 1963 through to today, it still cuts as one of the most celebrated Pandas in the zoo that is watchmaking. £12,700. At rolex.com

Tudor Black Bay Chronograph

Adieu to the slur that this is a poor man’s Paul Newman. There’s nothing pastiche about it; and since its first launch in 2012, the Tudor Black Bay model represents a modern manifestation of iconic diving watches. While Pandas rarely choose to swim underwater, the BB is an accomplice for any elements. Just don’t get lost in the online forums deciphering the watch name. It goes anywhere from “hidden coves,” to “areas in Greenland” and “just cos.” £4550. At tudorwatches.com

Parmigiani Tonda GT Chronograph Steel

Joining the menagerie of watchmakers keeping the Panda extant, Monsieur Parmigiani (who good does that word sound btw) has a 42mm version, with satin-finished stainless steel, in a silvered dial – a lovely lil mod twist on the trad white. A quick sweep of Google Translate throws up ‘Tonda’ as “inestimable worth or priceless one,” pitching this Panda model, with a 45-hour power reserve as a beastie with flare. CHF 22'500. At parmigiani.com

Girard-Perregaux Laureato Chronograph

Die-hard Formula 1 fangirlies amongst us know Lance Stroll loves a Laureato, putting the GP in Grand Prix. But Girard-Perregaux's Panda in steel, accompanied by a Clous de Paris pattern (a series of small pyramid-like squares for the uninitiated) boasts to be the victor of all Laureato models. Scoped in 42mm and a 46-hour power reserve, it continues to build the legacy of the animalistic timepiece, contributing to the sky-rocketing popularity of the trend. “The reignited interest in F1 and motor racing adds to the ever-climbing prices of these rare pieces,” share watch connoisseur, Karissa, behind @watchandwoman. “The watches that won races like Le Mans really contribute to the demand and fame of the Panda dial.” £15,800. At girard-perregaux.com

Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph

Perfection of the Panda comes into play at Vacheron Constantin as one of the oldest watch manufacturers in the world. In 22 karat magic, a column-wheel chronograph captures the essence of why Pandas are richly valued as haute commodities. Star power isn’t always about the fanfare, but about ease. “They have a timeless appeal [because] the contrast [in colours] makes them very legible and easy to read, that is, if anyone still actually still uses the Chronograph for its intended function in 2023,” notes vintage watch specialist, Mike Nouveau. Whether its for form or function, there’s no extinction of this model in sight. €38,900. At vacheron-constantin.com

Bremont Supermarine Williams Racing WR22

Bremont’s Panda is gifted and talented covering all grounds from motorsports to marine life with the WR22. While you’d be outright surprised to see a Panda in the UK, the British watchmakers joined the pageantry of the Panda dial with a model that speaks to the role as Official Timing Partner to Williams Racing. With an original wheel nut for historic Williams race cars, the WR22 Panda proffers around durability and high performance, ironically tagged to an animal not too well known for its high speeds. That is until the survival instinct kicks in. £6295. At goldsmiths.co.uk

Tissot PRX Automatic Chronograph

Everyone loves an underdog – and a watch that doesn’t require a mortgage. At Tissot, the Panda PRX Chrono nods to the laissez-faire attitude of the '70s sports watch with the brand’s signature integrated bracelet. “While the Paul Newman Rolex fetched $17.8 million at auction in 2017, [other] Panda dials are considered rare, which is ultimately what attracts collectors,” reflects Swiss watch expert, Michel Jeannot. “Anyone can quickly understand what a "panda" watch is. It's easier than grasping the subtleties of an equation of time! This is one of the reasons why watch lovers are so interested in the 'panda' versions.” £1620. At tissotwatches.co.uk

Seiko SSC813 Prospect Speedtimer

Bringing Eastern flair to the Panda dial – a country where you can actually find the mammal – Seiko was the brainchild of an intrepid 21-year-old entrepreneur looking to repair watches in a store in central Tokyo. Such audacious spirit continues to manifest at the Japanese brand today, with a Panda dial that is both curious and playful, just as its namesake suggests. Powered by solar activity, operating for around six months when fully charged, the Prospect Speedtimer takes a bold approach to new luxury, proving sustainable actions shouldn’t have to break the bank. £590. At seikowatches.com

Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph

“Brands like Breitling [helped] pioneer the popularity of this iconic dial. At one point, chronographs weren’t even that popular, with a limited production of certain models,” says Karissa. Putting the desire back in the sub-dials, good old Willy B set the tone with the Navitimer in 1952, honouring the wrists of pilot’s so that they could perform all necessary flight functions. And Breitling honours the lives of Panda’s too. £7,300. At breitling.com

Swatch Great Outdoor

There’s haute horology and then there’s out right hawt horology. The latter, Swatch nails every time. “As panda dials are associated mainly with serious, desirable chronographs - though plenty of cheap 'n' cheerful panda dial watches exist - they thus have plenty of watch credibility,” notes Kessler. Swatch does just that, offering an affordable take on an epochal model with silver sun-brushed finishing and black creusé fin counters for an endearing price. £160. At swatch.com

TAG Heuer 60th Anniversary Calibre

“One of the Panda dials is of course the Carrera Panda dial. That for me is amazing, with that white dial and the black sub-dials. It really is a great combination of colours but it also highlights the sub-dials in such a beautiful way,” reflects Bamford Watch Department founder, George Bamford. Limited to 600 pieces, this rare species celebrates the TAG Heuer Carrera's birthday while honouring the monochrome animal in a silver sunray dial. £6,100. At tagheuer.com

Zenith El Primero Chronograph

A pillar in Zenith’s portfolio, the El Primero, fosters the neo-vintage Panda paradigm with a whole lotta history behind it, dating back to 1969. A watch of firsts – the clues in the name – Zenith achieves the feat of combining two precision watches in one. An automatic watch with a calendar and timer-chronograph that, at conception, allowed time measurements to the tenth of a second, this Swiss Panda is a signature model of the Maison and a grail good enough to add to your collection. £7,900. At zenith-watches.com

BAPE Bapex Type 4

Why celebrate one animal when there’s a whole ecosystem out there? For Japanese vendors A Bathing Ape, paying tribute to this unrelenting '60s trend shouldn’t have to dent your bank account. Arbiters of hyped goods, the Bapex Type 4 invites you to kickstart your watch collection with an affordable timepiece, while paying tribute to a major horological movement. Isn’t knowledge the richest currency of them all? £529. At endclothing.com