A most intriguing visitor appeared on the Calibre321 doorstep last week: The MT & W Panda Vintage Chronograph. Harkening back to the 1970s–an era of high-flying motorsport–the Panda Vintage exudes a retro charm that is hard to resist, as it draws on the tropes and elements of some of the greatest classic chronographs of that age (ahem…the decade of my birth, as it so happens).
Characterized by poor track design and mechanical debacles, it may well be that the 1970s was among the most dangerous and–by extension–the most dramatic period of motorcar racing history. Gilles Villeneuve, James Hunt, Andretti, Fittipaldi, Lauda, and the inimitable Jackie Stewart–to name a few–pushed at the edges of speed, while the likes of Heuer, Breitling, and Rolex created the aesthetic of time which endures to this day.
Hoping to capture a little of that Steve McQueen cool, MT & W have drawn together aspects of those early inventives to produce a line of meca-quartz chronographs. The Panda Vintage, while not a direct homage to any one particular watch, will certainly bring to mind a number of seminal designs–the Autavia and the Daytona, not the least among them.
Made from 316L stainless steel, the Panda Vintage measures 40mm in diameter and is an easy-wearing 48mm lug to lug. By virtue of its meca-quartz heart, the watch also comes in at a smart 12.7mm in thickness. The case is polished throughout, with the exception of its brushed, screw-down case back. The crown is push-pull and signed with the brand logo. However, at 30m of water resistance, you won’t be taking it swimming any time soon.
With the Panda Vintage, the devil is in the details. For one, it sports an attractive piece of K1 hardened mineral glass, through which all kinds of beautiful distortions can be seen. The dial consists of highly polished, applied markers, recessed sub-dials, and a lovely lumed, pencil-style handset. Surrounding this is a highly-legible tachymeter bezel insert.
However, what is central to the MT & W aesthetic is their aging process. Each dial is uniquely patinaed to resemble a vintage timepiece. As such, no two dials are alike.
Like many of Dan Henry’s popular line of chronograph revivals, the Panda Vintage is powered by the VK63 Mechanical-Quartz Chronograph movement. The benefit of this calibre is that you get the mechanical sensation of a more expensive chronograph in the actuation of its pushers, but the accuracy of quartz timekeeping.
The Panda Vintage comes standard on a brown quick-release Genuine Leather Vintage Calf Strap.
|Case||316L Stainless Steel|
47mm Lug to Lug
20mm Lug Width
Screw-down Case Back
30m Water Resistance
|Dial & Crystal||K1 Hardened Mineral Glass|
Aged Lume on Hands
|Movement||Seiko VK63 Mechanical Quartz Chronograph|
3 Sub-dials: Small Seconds,
60-Minute Counter and 24-Hour Indicator
/w Central Chronograph Hand
/w Quick Release
MT & W Panda Vintage Chronograph
Ultimately, the way you feel about the MT & W Panda Vintage will come down to how you feel about “fauxtina.” Many big brands have resorted to the process in a smaller extent, using “old lume” or vaguely tropic dials. But the patina process used by MT & W reminds me of the “road worn” or “relic” guitar craze that began in the mid-90s of the last century. Some people really like the idea of a pre-aged instrument, or, in this case, a watch. Others scoff. I fall somewhere in between. I cannot see myself, for instance, spending thousands of dollars on something that has been artificially–or prematurely–degraded. However, as I said from the beginning of this review, there is a certain charm to the Panda Vintage that is difficult to ignore. And, well…it doesn’t cost thousands of dollars. Some things are simply meant to be taken at face value. The Panda Vintage is one of those. It’s a fun send up of a vintage watch. And frankly the reference featured here is not at all overdone or overtly fake. Whatever process the brand is employing works well.
It is difficult to knock a watch that comes in under $300USD with this level of finishing; however, I will say that in spite of its attractive crystal, I wish the brand had used acrylic rather than mineral glass. Of the three most common crystals, mineral glass is my least favourite because of its propensity for picking up scratches and the inability to do anything about them. While acrylic is also prone to scratches, when the time comes, you can at least easily polish them out. Anyway, if you are aiming for vintage, nothing screams vintage like acrylic.
The MT & W Panda Vintage Chronograph is a whole lotta fun. It has a definite retro cool vibe that is well-rendered and attractive. Its proportions are highly wearable and it has an admirable level of finishing for its price. The VK63 is a solid alternative to more expensive mechanical chronograph movements, providing a reasonable substitute for that organic pusher sensation–if not the real deal. Its unique patina process only adds to the enjoyment. If you are looking for a little taste of the seventies on a budget, the Panda Vintage is a solid offering.
The MT & W Panda Vintage Chronograph retails for $248. For more information, please visit the brand website.
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