No era of watch design is more beloved than the 1960s heyday of the racing chronograph, and few examples of these are as desired as the so-called “pandas.” With black subdials on a white face, these chronographs got their name for their obvious resemblance to the bamboo-eating bear. While the most famous example is the “Paul Newman” Rolex Daytona that sold for over $17 million last year, it’s far from the only great illustration of the genre.
“The aesthetic appeals to collectors of all types and ages,” says Paul Boutros, head of Americas for watches at the Phillips auction house. “The look is sporty and aggressive, especially compared with monochromatic dials. Vintage chronograph wristwatches with panda-style dials are also relatively rare, as only a handful of collectible brands produced them.” Indeed, judging by the soaring prices fetched by early 1960s-era pandas at Phillips’s spring auctions, their popularity has reached a fever pitch. Thanks to this revived interest in vintage chronographs, however, brands have begun releasing new pandas back into the wild, making getting one on your wrist easier than ever.
Vacheron Constantin Overseas Black Dial Chronograph
Despite being one of the world’s oldest watchmakers, the brand’s first take on a panda comes out this summer.
Breitling Superocean Heritage II B01 Chronograph 44
The first-ever panda is thought to be Breitling’s original 1957 Superocean, whose spirit and vintage aesthetic lives on in this year’s new B01.
TAG Heuer Autavia H02 Jack Heuer Limited Edition
One of the most popular pandas of all time, this ’60s racing watch was recently revived due to popular demand, with a silver-dialed limited edition added late last year.
Hamilton Intra-Matic 68 AutoChrono
This reboot of a golden age Hamilton panda chronograph has all the classic styling you could want at a very friendly price.
Zenith Chronomaster El Primero
A more contemporary take on the panda, this one houses its chronograph movement in a black ceramicized aluminum case.