Hello all! So, I've been on the search for a true white dial panda, with a motorsport spin to it. Would have been fine spending much more, but turned out that I came across a ridiculously affordable find, thanks to microbrand, Leyden, that was pretty perfect, and ticked most boxes (strap swap solved my main issue).
This is a Kickstarter project from a while back, but it gets difficult trying to keep track of all the various projects out there, and I didn't know it existed, and was just lucky it turned up in an image search of panda chronos. My first thought was the Chris Ward C7 Rapide. I have more than a few CW's and love them (including their previous Rapide, a COSC certified model), and the new Rapide even came with their much more palatable logo, but I just wasn't sure about the textured dial, and the face itself didn't really thrill me. And, nearly $600 for a Ronda quartz seems a bit steep, although I was looking for a quartz, not auto (got plenty of 'em and don't really need more of 'em to babysit, haha). So, had to keep looking. Sadly, so many pandas styles have the "silver" dial, and I wanted the stark contrast of true white and black.
Finally narrowed it down to a few options, that, while not favorites, at least seemed to have close to the look I wanted, in the Orient Neo70's models, but wanted something a bit more substantial, plus prefer sapphire and a leather strap, for the panda look and feel I was seeking. Almost put in for one of the next batch of EMG DL63's, but was just coming off of the discovery of bad ethics by Sea-Gull (not that such should penalize EMG, but, still, I don't care for what Sea-Gull did in ripping off a microbrand Aevig's design submitted in trust) and, yes, a handwound would be an interesting addition, but again, I'd have to keep it wound or constantly update it prior to wear. And, once more, it was mineral crystal, and I just prefer the robustness of sapphire.
So, kept looking, and an image search brought me to Leyden, the Velox Panda Chronograph, with some very impressive specs for a few hundred bucks. Sapphire crystal, ceramic bezel insert, 200m WR, applied indices, the Seiko VK64 Meca-Quartz movement, and just the exact face design I wanted, crisp white dial, superbly balanced appearance, and reviews all looked pretty great.
Pulled the trigger, and, first, much appreciation and respect to Leyden for ease of ordering and outstanding communication regarding shipping. Was able to sign up for notifications, and, within moments of ordering, it was already out for delivery, and arrived to USA from Netherlands within days, with constant real-time tracking updates. Few companies are that meticulous and it gave great peace of mind.
Arrived nicely packaged in a well built little box, boldly displaying their attractive logo:
In person, it was even more beautiful than pics and videos revealed:
A lot of attention to detail, and a solid build. As others have commented in reviews, it's almost the feeling of a diver (not in weight, at all, but just in wrist presence, with the 42mm case and the 13.3mm thickness) which I love.
Nice markings on both the back, and an engraved, screw down crown. Pushers are pleasingly stylized (took that shot of the pushers after swapping straps).
Ceramic bezel insert is a great touch, upping to a premium look and feel. While given as a second time zone keeper, it's less effective in that capacity since it is not an internal bezel, but can still be used for such, plus it doubles as a typical timing bezel (not as easily as one clearly marked for such, but still, it works, and I like that). Bezel itself has smooth, crisp click function. Not 60 or 120 clicks, however. Somewhere in between. Mine had no play in it. I like the notched grip around the outside. Makes it very responsive to use, plus adds to the styling.
Only drawback for me, that needed to be addressed, was the strap:
First, it's not of the finest quality -- is a bit thin, stiff, and cheap feeling (and a bit short, on my 7.5" wrist), but, for me, more problematic was that it doesn't compliment the watch, in my view. The red stitching is trying to pick up the color accented hands of the chrono, but they are honestly much more orange than red, so the colored stitching isn't a match. Plus, I just don't care for the "carbon fiber" leather look. I've never liked it, and, on a non-premium strap (although the strap is genuine leather) to me, it looked tacky, and, rather than add to the motorsport theme, it kind of cheapened the look of the watch, detracting from an otherwise quality build and premium appearance.
For me, the ideal strap would pick up the racing theme and highlight the panda coloring, so, a rich leather black strap with white stitching, in perforated leather, reminiscent of a racing styled steering wheel. I already had the perfect strap in mind, and borrowed it from my Tissot V8 Chronograph (the motorsport edition). It's a strap I just love. Beautiful leather, excellent craftsmanship and on a deployment clasp.
I have a few styles from this brand, and love them. I have ordered a new one (comes from Europe in about a week) and the brand is Meyhofer, and will put the old one back on my Tissot, but definitely this one works. The strap from Leyden was not detailed with their logo anyway, and the premium Meyhofer strap with butterfly deployment clasp just kicked up the overall look, in my opinion, and seemed tailor made for this watch.
Obligatory wrist shots -- fits beautifully, and sits very comfortable on the wrist:
To me, they have really nailed the panda look, and my hat is off to Leyden for the spectacular job of creating this watch. They call it the "ultimate affordable tool chronograph" on their website, and I have to agree 100%!
Beyond the strap, the other issue, as noted by others, is the lume problem. It just isn't great lume. No other way to say it. Here is a shot in partial low light, and nearly no light. It doesn't charge up overly bright, and fades quickly.
Would I rather they charged more, and provided better lume, and beefed up the strap? Not really. The lume isn't crucial and a strap is often personal taste anyway, and I get where they were going with the strap provided. For me, it was just a miss, but that's my view, and the fact that I found a perfect strap makes up for it anyway. In my opinion, the final look achieved is unbeatable, for a motorsport themed panda chrono.
And, regarding lume, it's a daylight wear watch, to be honest, and I don't ever really find myself (with any of my watches) needing heavy lume in darkness. For camping, or any night adventure where I need to know the time, I have several watches with Tritium, that beat any lume anyway. This is not a watch I'll be wearing for such purposes, so, it is not a drawback and the utter perfection of the design more than makes up for the lume's shortcomings.
Other small issues are no date window, and no running seconds. My Bel Moto Track Day has the same movement, which is accurate, reliable, gives the meca-quartz motion of the seconds hand on the chronograph (which is a flyback -- but doesn't have split time function) and the Track Day has a date window, at 6 o'clock, still keeping the balanced look, so, not sure why Leyden didn't opt for it, but not a deal breaker. As for running seconds, that's just my weird quirk -- I like to see my watch running, and it bugs me with the VK64 on my Bel Moto as well. And, yes, an accumulator rather than 24 hour subdial is preferential to some, but not necessary, for me. So, very minor nitpicks when getting a watch I can stare at for hours, and is the ideal panda look I was wanting.
For a few hundred dollars, I'm immensely pleased. Add another $50 for the strap, and it's still a steal. Microbrands really up the game when you can get so much, for so little, and, while many microbrands stick around the starting point of $500, I was frankly flabbergasted to see the price point here, when considering such additions as ceramic bezel insert, solid WR, and, of course, the sapphire crystal.
Hope to see more from this brand in the future. They did fantastic, in my view, with this one!