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Baltany Retro Panda Chronograph S5034 review
If there is one trend in watch design that is ever-present it is the desire to look back. If you look at the most popular watches in 2023, luxury and budget, the majority have traditional designs that are recreations of models from many decades ago.
It is an oddity in an industry where so much investment goes into technological improvements and sophisticated finishing that all of the advancements in the world cannot match the brand name and the history associated with it.
I have fallen for this but can, in a sense, agree that it is genuine. If you like a brand and know a lot about its history, the feeling when you wear the watch is somehow completely real and almost impossible to replicate. You cannot replace reality and for many watch enthusiasts (geeks to the rest of you) the brand and the model name mean everything.
And then we have a watch brand like Baltany which was technically established in 2020, a mere 167 years after Tissot and 121 years after Rolex. The watches are built in China and are available at very low price points around the world, and for many this alone will be enough to ignore them. In the watch world there is a strange notion that Chinese people are somehow less capable of making a good watch than Swiss people, you only need to take a look at your iPhone, your TV, your laptop etc etc. The notion is nonsense and this particular watch proves the case.
At £165 the Retro Panda Chronograph squeezes in an impressive set of specs. A Seiko VK64 Quartz Chronograph Movement, Sapphire Glass with clear AR coating, Swiss Super-LumiNova, 50m water resistance and a build which impresses from the first time you hold it.
From what I can see Baltany offer watches for review to a few different outlets, but I purchased this watch from my very own money and so have no reason to be anything but truthful.
It looks fantastic on the wrist. My Tudor Pelagos costs 25 times more than the Baltany, but in almost every situation the Baltany catches the eye more and, crucially, is sized more modestly to the point that it just sits on the wrist and is rarely noticeable by the wearer.
It is very light, the dial is stunning and there is little in this watch that is not consistent in terms of the aesthetics. You could argue that it is a mere homage of a retro chronograph which is true, but execution is everything and for the price the end visual result is excellent.
There is no seconds hand to give away the fact that this is a ‘ticking’ quartz watch and because it is powered by a Seiko VK64 the chronograph hand sweeps smoothly when in use. The watch is quartz, but there is no visual indicator of this and for those of us who only usually wear mechanical watches, this is more important than it would be for ‘normal’ people.
The not so good
There are no real downsides on this watch, but there are two questions that need to be asked.
Why is the main crown a screw down when the water resistance is only 50 metres? Surely the pushers are no weaker an area than the main crown?
Why is there no seconds hand and why was the right-hand sub-dial not used for this purpose? Having no seconds hand hides the quartz interior, but it makes setting the time exactly virtually impossible.
Finally, the leather strap that comes with the watch is of decent quality, but is quite stiff. For such a light watch this can hinder the wearing experience until it softens up.
This is the kind of watch that makes me question why I need to wear something more expensive every day. It is comfortable, very accurate, looks fabulous and is very well priced. For an every day watch it ticks almost every box apart from serious water resistance and manages to blend personality and subtlety very well indeed.
If you want a classic watch with a hint of personality and simply need accuracy every day, this watch will serve you well. I have been more than impressed so far.
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