High Contrast Pandas

These 7 Chronographs Sport Our New Favorite Colorway


August 7, 2018 Watches By Photo by Omega

It’s funny — as classic as the panda dial is, it’s been a relatively rare sight on modern watches for some time now. The black-and-white, high-contrast design, named after everyone’s favorite bamboo-eating bear, usually refers to a chronograph with a white main dial and two or three black subdials usually at three, six and nine o’clock. It was a staple on chronographs made during the ’60s and ’70s, perhaps worn most famously on the iconic Paul Newman Rolex Daytona. Even for a design that by nature lacks any use of real use of color, it’s an eye-catching look and a favorite amongst enthusiasts. And as watchmakers have realized the love these classic black-and-white chronographs get from watch geeks, they’re slowly, but surely, bringing it back to the industry. Here are seven you could theoretically buy right now (even if you can’t actually afford them).

Le Jour Mark I

Before the so-called “Quartz Crisis,” Le Jour was a French distributor of certain European watch brands, though it mostly sold rebadged Heuer chronographs. The name has been recently revived, though, with a reasonably-priced chronograph bearing a passing resemblance to the Heuer Pasadena the brand once distributed. The positioning of the sub-dials at 12, six and nine o’clock make this more of a sideways panda, but it certainly works for this ’70s-esque timepiece.

Movement: Valjoux 7750 automatic
Size: 42.5mm
Water resistance: 200m

Omega Speedmaster CK2998

Ostensibly, this is an homage to the original Speedmaster reference CK2998 — better known as the first Speedy worn in space (in 1962, well before the Apollo 11 mission). Interestingly, that watch didn’t have a panda dial configuration like this modern limited edition, but we aren’t mad. That and the fact that it still uses the legendary hand-winding movement the Speedmaster has used for decades and the smaller 39.7mm case makes this a trifecta of watch nerd perfection.

Movement: Omega 1861 hand-winding
Size: 39.7mm
Water resistance: 50m

TAG Heuer Autavia “Jack Heuer” Edition

Since its anticipated release last year, the reissued Autavia has been an enthusiast darling, thanks both to the legacy of the original Autavia and the reissue’s spot-on looks. To honor Jack Heuer, who was instrumental in making Heuer a world-class chronograph brand during the mid-20th century, the brand released a special edition that swaps the standard Autavia’s white-on-black dial for a more panda-like black-on silver.

Movement: Heuer 02 automatic
Size: 42mm
Water resistance: 100m

Bremont ALT1-C

Yes, the bi-compax, black-and-white design of this flight-inspired chronograph is beautiful, but it’s backed up by some solid engineering. Bremont’s three-piece Trip-Tik case construction is both unique and the scratch-resistant, and a PVD-coated middle barrel safely houses a COSC-certified movement.

Movement: Bremont BE-50AE automatic (ETA 7750 base)
Size: 43mm
Water resistance: 100m

Zenith Defy El Primero 21

Launched at Baselworld last year, Zenith’s El Primero Defy 21 has not one but two escapements: one for the running seconds hands beating at the standard El Primero’s 36,000 beats per minute and another beating at an astounding 360,000 beats per second for the chronograph seconds hand, allowing it measures times within a one-hundredth of a second. Understandably, a skeletonized dial is available to show off the watch’s mechanical wizardry, but we prefer the clean and classic look of the black and silver option.

Movement: El Primero 9004 automatic
Size: 44mm
Water resistance: 100m

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona

Part of what made the 2016 update to the Daytona such an instant hit was its subtle reference to the Daytona of the 1960s. That’s thanks to combination of a black-ceramic bezel as well as black sub-dial rings on the white dial — a nod to the early Daytona’s panda color scheme. While the white sub-dial centers keep it from being a full-on panda, it’s still an example of why we love the high-contrast colorway so much and no doubt an influencer in the panda dial’s recent resurgence.

Movement: Rolex 4130 automatic
Size: 40mm
Water resistance: 100m

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph

In 2017, Audemars Piguet gave the chronograph version of the stalwart Royal Oak a mild update. While there were few technical changes made, the biggest upgrade for the watch was a slew of two-tone colorways including, you guessed it, black sub-dials on a white background which seems to suit the sleek, integrated design of the iconic sports watch perfectly.

Movement: Audemars Piguet 2385 automatic
Size: 41mm
Water resistance: 50m
The Best Small Watches for Men

grey_placeholder

With a new focus on vintage-inspired looks, watchmakers are starting to shrink their products. Read the Story