White on Black? The Iconic Inverse Panda Dial On Luxury Watches

White on Black? The Iconic Inverse Panda Dial On Luxury Watches

THM Desk
5 Sept 2023 |
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The inverse panda dial, with its eye-catching white subdials on a black background, has become a hallmark design in luxury watches. First popularized in vintage 1960s chronographs like the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, the panda dial's striking color contrast and motorsports heritage still captivate watch enthusiasts today.

What is it exactly?

The term "reverse panda" refers not only to watches with three subdials like the Paul Newman Daytona. It can be used more broadly to describe any watch where the subdials are white/silver or significantly lighter in color compared to the main dial. The position and number of subdials does not matter - as long as there is a high contrast between the main dial and subdials, the watch can be called a "reverse panda."

Do all watches with a reverse panda dial have chronograph functions?

The answer is no, not all reverse panda dial watches are chronographs. A reverse panda dial refers to a watch dial that is predominantly black with white subdials. This style of dial is commonly seen on chronograph watches, where the subdials are used to measure seconds, minutes, and hours. However, a watch can have a reverse panda dial without actually having chronograph functionality. The subdials may simply be for display purposes only. So while many reverse panda dials are on chronograph watches, it is not an exclusive feature. There are non-chronograph watch models that have adopted the reverse panda dial design as well.

Here are five modern luxury timepieces that exemplify the allure of the inverse panda dial:

1. TAG Heuer Carrera GlassBox Chronograph 39mm

This distinguished black 39mm version of the TAG Heuer glass box, reimagined from the reverse panda 2447 NS model, captures the Carrera's distinctive form with a contemporary twist. This watch is resolutely motivated to dare thanks to its opulent calfskin leather strap with perforations.

TAG Heuer Carrera GlassBox Chronograph 39mm

2. Omega Speedmaster Speedy Tuesday

For this watch's dial, Omega looked back to its own history, specifically a "Reverse Panda" design first used in 1966. The dial features white opaline-silvery subdials contrasted against a black background. Encircling the dial is a matt-black aluminum bezel ring with a tachymeter scale. Rarely seen vintage Omega logo branding appears on the dial, along with luminescent markings and radial subdials coated in bright luminescent ink. The high-contrast reverse panda color scheme pays homage to a classic Omega aesthetic from the 1960s.

Omega Speedmaster Speedy Tuesday

3. Breitling Superocean Heritage B01 Chronograph

Breitling pioneered the inverse panda dial design before Rolex and Heuer, with the launch of the Superocean Chronograph reference 807 in 1957. This makes the Superocean Heritage B01 Chronograph a fitting modern incarnation of Breitling's historical role in popularizing contrasting black and white dials. The watch features Breitling's renowned in-house B01 chronograph movement inside a 44mm steel case with a 70-hour power reserve. The black dial and bezel provide a stark contrast to the steel case, perfectly balanced by the three silver sub-dials. A date aperture with a black background and white numerals seamlessly integrates into the clean black dial. Overall, the modern Superocean Heritage B01 aesthetically honors Breitling's legacy as the originator of the inverse panda dial in the late 1950s.

Breitling Superocean Heritage B01 Chronograph

4. Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding Chronograph

In 2008, Audemars Piguet released a two-tone dial design for their Royal Oak chronograph watch on its 20th anniversary. In 2022, for the model's 25th anniversary, Audemars Piguet brought back the iconic two-tone dial with some updated details. The latest iteration of the stainless steel Royal Oak chronograph has a black "Grande Tapisserie" patterned dial with enlarged chronograph subdials. It also features new text styles, applied logos, surface finishes, and an enhanced luminescent coating on the hands and hour markers. These changes improve the readability and visual appeal of the watch, while still retaining the classic two-tone aesthetic that was first introduced in 2008 for the Royal Oak chronograph's 20th anniversary.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding Chronograph

5. Tudor Black Bay Chrono

The Tudor Black Bay Chrono combines the heritage of Tudor dive watches with chronograph functionality. This stainless steel model has a 41mm case waterproof to 200m and retains the iconic shape of Tudor's Black Bay lineup. Its black bezel with a tachymetric scale complements the black dial with contrasting off-white subdials. The subdials at 3 and 9 o'clock time the chronograph minutes and hours, while the running seconds subdial is at 6 o'clock. Powering the chrono is Tudor's caliber MT5813 mechanical movement with column wheel and vertical clutch.

Tudor Black Bay Chrono

The inverse panda dial has cemented its place as one of the most iconic and coveted watch designs over the past half-century. While vintage chronographs sporting this high-contrast look have become grail timepieces for collectors, modern watchmakers continue to reimagine the panda dial in new executions that stay true to its motorsports heritage.