Panda Dial Watches Guide

First released in the 1960’s, the Panda dial is one of the most sought-after dial designs ever. The chronograph design, whose white dial and black sub-dials recall the face of a panda, is anything but meek – in fact, few watches turn heads quite like it.

While it has always been popular among the watch community, it has become the subject of public curiosity in the wake of the record-breaking $17.5M sale of Paul Newman’s ‘Paul Newman’ Rolex Daytona.

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What makes the Panda so desirable? For the curious, here’s a quick guide to the iconic design:
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What is a Panda Dial?

A Panda dial is a watch with a white dial and black sub-registers. The original Pandas have the registers arranged in a 3-6-9 position on the dial, creating what looks like two Panda eyes staring at you, with a nose or a mouth.

It became popular in the 60’s and 70’s, when chronographs grew in demand. The high-contrast style was meant to give the dial easier readability, with the sub-dials and index hour markers arranged neatly, and with standout colors.
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The Allure of the Panda Dial

Beyond its hypnotic, aesthetic appeal, the Panda is sought-after because it’s an uncommon design feature, most commonly found in chronographs from the 1960’s.

Because of this, some of the watches that have the panda dial are now considered iconic and are worth a premium. Let’s take a look at some of them.

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Rolex Cosmograph Daytona 6239
Rolex Cosmograph Daytona ref 6239
No Panda dial list would be complete without the iconic Rolex Cosmograph Daytona. The very first Rolex Cosmograph to be named a Daytona was ref 6239. There were Daytona models released before it, but it marked the first time Rolex used inverse colors for sub-dials, as previous Rolex chronograph dials were monochromatic.
Rolex Cosmograph Daytona ref 6241
This is THE Paul Newman – the watch owned by the famous actor-racer that elevated ‘exotic dials’ to a category worth collecting. Look out for the sub-dial hash marks with a small square on their end and the distinctive red lettering that matches the outer track.
The design wasn’t a commercial success when it was first released, thus making it a rarity.
Heuer Autavia
While the Heuer Carrera is their more popular racing-inspired watch, the company’s first motoring chronograph is the Autavia. Named after their main markets (Automotive-Aviation), it was launched in 1962, a year ahead of the Daytona. The first and most classic of the Autavias had a simple black dial with oversized white sub-dials, lume hour markers, 12 and 6 numerals, and dauphine hands.
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Other Variations of the Panda Dial

The Panda dial has evolved in its half-century existence, with different permutations in color and dial positioning.
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Panda Dial Watches

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  • Reverse Panda – black dial with white subdials
  • Vertical Panda – contrasting dial and sub-dials, but with the dials placed on 6, 9 and 12 o’clock
  • Semi-Panda – contrasting subdials, but not in the classic black and white

With the Panda dial having a renaissance today, we can expect more variations, but one thing is sure – the balanced aesthetic of the Panda has earned its place in a wide spectrum of designs and is here to stay.

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SEE MORE OF THE WATCHES IN OUR VIDEO:

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PHOTO CREDITS: Rolex “Paul Newman” Daytona – 6241 by Charlie J licensed by CC BY 2.0 via Flickr, Heuer Autavia by By Jeff stein [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
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