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  • Alvin

Face-off | Chinese Kung-fu Sugess Pandas | 38mm vs 40mm

It's the first battle, the first face-off, case-off, hand-to-hand combat, time trial, etc. I'm sure there is a better pun available but I haven't found it, you get the idea though. It's a fight. The Sugess Panda Chronograph siblings are facing off to see which one stays in the collection. I've expressed some discontent with the 38mm version in the review and on YouTube, even though the sporty strap did make it look better, is it enough?


Also, just a general update. After having a few months off work I'm back to the daily graft and I start back on my university course at the start of September. Blogging and videos will suffer as a result, but I'll try to stick with it.

Sugess Panda Chronograph, Chinese watches
Sugess Panda Chronograph


History/Background


These watches have gained quite the following in the past few years but their origins are in the full name, the Sugess Panda chronograph 1963. They are facelifts/variations of the Tianjin Watch Factory original, SeaGull 1963. They launched their first watch in 1961 and a couple of years later created a piece for the Air Force. That watch used the calibre 175 from Venus, a Swiss company, a column-wheel design used in 1940’s and 1950’s chronographs. Breitling used this movement back then, and fittingly the 40mm Sugess Panda looks very much like the Breitling Premier B01 Panda (automatic), coming in at a slightly higher price, £7,150. Seven thousand pounds more or less. The Tianjin Watch Factory developed that Swiss movement, and it became the SeaGull ST19 which has been used in various models ever since.


Sugess Panda Chronograph, Chinese watches

To be honest I don't really like the old style 1963, it just doesn't work for me. So I went for the 38mm, as I wanted the movement and a Panda, with the idea that a smaller watch works for my skinny wrist, that was an error. As I've said before, I think I'm in straight up denial about my wrists, some smaller watches aren't made for me.

So these two iterations of the SeaGull ST1901 in its Panda outfit are quite similar but one is more suited to me thank the other. They both present superb value for money, reliable and established hand-wound mechanical chronographs, in reasonably good looking packages. As I've covered the 38mm before, I will review the 40mm with some detail and then comment on how it compares to the 38mm. Seeing as this is a fight for survival, and me being an MMA fan, I was going to have the winner of each section declared via a specific knockout or submission but I'll keep it simple. Each section will be marked out of 10 and the total tallied to determine the champion. Maybe the 38 is Jackie Chan and the 40 is Bruce Lee, they get into it, yes that works. Apologies to non-action movie fans, but this is very me.



Purchase / Post / Packaging


The 40mm is from eBay, a bargain at £120. It somehow appeared just after I posted the video about the 38mm and pondered the idea of comparing it with a 40mm. I suspect some kind of conspiracy involving Alexa eavesdropping and telling eBay what I'm after. They then contact Aliexpress and create a tailored advert with sought after product. Big tech devils, surveillance capitalism and all that. It works for me though, I got a great deal. I know, I know, I have a problem...


Sugess Panda Chronograph, Chinese watch

Not too much to share here, the 38mm is from Aliexpress, purchased in October 2022 for £172.56, a bargain indeed, it remains around this price. For the full review, click here.

They are both excellent value for money and I haven't had any issues with either of them, so they both get top marks here.


The guys spar, feeling each other out in this Kung-Fu Panda battle, Jackie with a bit of a flair and Bruce with no-nonsense style.

Jackie Chan (38mm) - 10

Bruce Lee (40mm) - 10



Case, Dial & Hands


This Sugess Panda Chronograph lives in a 40mm case you know, just in case you didn’t catch that. It’s all polished stainless steel and well designed, the bezel section sitting nicely on the lower portion of the case with a clean flow. Unfortunately that flow extends into jumbo size lugs that seem to go one forever, not great for the skinny wristed. The pushers are a simple affair and the crown is a good size with grippy teeth and an etched star logo which is a nice touch, we do like a logo on the crown. A watch can look unfinished if the crown detail is missing.

Sugess Panda Chronograph, Chinese watch

The two-tone panda dial is a simple but effective. The Sugess logo in italic text gives a bit of flair at 12 o'clock adding a nice finish. The 'Mechanical Chronograph' text in a blocky text at six gives the dial balance and is the right detail to highlight. There are no spelling mistakes, the seconds track and tachymetre ring in black also seem to be free of any major issues. It's a busy but well proportioned dial, the baton hour indices are small but fit well into the whole picture as opposed to the minute hand which looks like it burst out of the side of the case. It's a bit too long but the lume on the hands is good, less so o the indices. The sub-dials are a good size, small seconds on the left and chrono minutes on the right. They feature a concentric circle detail which give a nice sunburst flash when it catches the light. The hands on the sub-dial with counterweight styling, are decent but we have a quality issue on the chrono minute hand, it is slightly off centre - this is a shame though doesn't hinder the function and is the only alignment blunder I have noticed...so far. The sapphire crystal is slightly domes which also catches the light but it doesn't hinder legibility or clarity.


Overall it's a well finished and good looking panda dial on the 40mm, the only issues are the star missing from the chronograph hand and arabic numeral indices at 12 and 6 which both feature on the 38mm dial. Saying that, I think putting arabic numerals on the 40mm may have looked a bit too cluttered, so maybe they did the right thing. The 38mm looks flat in comparison, the text being dull and uninteresting and the sub-dials lacking detail. In addition the smaller case and dial in two colours with black seconds track splits the dial making it look smaller. In line with that the smaller caseback glass restricts the view of the modest but still attractive Sea-Gull movement. The lugs are 5mm long on both watches which is way too much but especially detrimental on the smaller watch as you might buy the 38 for a skinny wrist only to find it doesn't fit as you expect.


Bruce hits Jackie with a powerful side kick, knocking him on his ass.

Jackie (38mm) - 7

Bruce (40mm)- 8.5



Movement & Accuracy

This is familiar territory with both watches housing the Sea-Gull ST1901 mechanical chronograph movement. I haven't had the 40mm very long but it seems solid and I haven't noticed any issues - I've worn it a few times. They are both accurate and the chronographs work well. Of course while this is a fantastic movement for the price, the function via the pushers is a bit soggy on both watches, and could be a bit more dialled in terms of feel but it isn't that bad.

Sugess Panda Chronograph, Chinese watch

A flurry of strikes from both kung-fu fighters, none landing cleanly.

Jackie (38mm) - 8

Bruce (40mm) - 8



Strap / Wearability


I didn't mention the lug-to-lug (L2L) above, I will now. The 40mm has a whopping 50mm L2L which frankly unnecessary, and again, annoying for the skinny wristed. it's the same story with the 38mm, coming in at 47.5mm, even worse on the smaller framed watch as you'd expect a more compact package. Saying that, they both wear ok as the lugs do curve down towards the wrist. And my trick here which I haven't heard any of the other watch bros mention is that wearing a thick strap, like this grey rubber number, can help the lugs blend into the wrist. A thinner strap making the lugs protrude more heavily and noticeably. A top tip that one, the stock strap on my Raymond Weil freelancer is the same, I should probably review that watch, seeing as it was my first proper purchase.



The thickness of these watches is the same, at a quite chunky 13.5mm. It's the same thing here, the 40mm can accommodate that depth but the 38 does appear quite stout and tall on the wrist.


Bruce hits Jackie with the a straight punch to the chest, he staggers and is clearly hurt, but we know Jackie can take a beating.

Jackie (38mm) - 7

Bruce (40mm) - 8


Competition / Value for money


We won't go off-piste here, we can stick to the Sugess catalogue and find a lot of variation, some models addressing the issues I have mentioned. Obviously they are great value for money, you can't go wrong, but unfortunately the watches can. We have the constant worry of quality control issue for Chinese watches as a potentiality, but I have been lucky and happy with my watches and so have hundreds of other Sugess customers. So that's a good sign.


The 38mm has some variations (at a price premium - below left) that have the dial in one colour with a slightly different layout, but it addresses the split colour and size of the dial issue. Of course, they are no longer Pandas. The 40 (below right) also has different colour ways and design variations, the Racing version being cool looking alternative or addition to grab alongside the panda.



We give them a value for money score, Bruce is a touch more but it's a better watch.

Jackie (38mm) - 9 (£155)

Bruce (40mm) - 10 (£165)


Conclusion


Jackie (38mm) - 10, 7, 8, 7, 9 = 41

Bruce (40mm) - 10, 8.5, 8, 8, 10 = 44.5


Bruce hits Jackie with a right roundhouse kick to the temple and turns his lights off- K.O. It's over. It wasn't foregone but it was a likely conclusion, the winner is the 40mm Panda.


Sugess Panda Chronograph, Chinese watches

Overall I like the 40, and even with the long-ass lugs and lack of chronograph hand star detail, it's a great package for the price. I'm very glad I decided to buy it and initiate this kung-fu panda battle. If you're new to watches and are looking for your first mechanical movement, I recommend this watch or one of its variations. Of course, the panda is a nice, versatile design and I think everyone should have one in their collection if possible. There is very nice, very much bang for your buck here, though you may have to shell out for a new strap, you could still come in at under 200 (Pounds, Euro or Dollars). So, go forth and buy a Sugess Mechanical Chronograph, you will probably not regret it.



Yours Chronographically,


Alvin



PARTICULARS - 40mm


MODEL

Sugess Panda Chronograph


CASE DIAMETER / THICKNESS / MATERIAL

40mm / 13.5mm / 316L Stainless Steel


LUG WIDTH / LUG TO LUG

20mm / 50 mm


MOVEMENT

Sea-Gull ST1901

Hand-winding mechanical

45 Hours Power Reserve

29 Jewels / 21,600 Beat Rate


WATER RESISTANCE

to 100m

 

Links & Things.



38mm Sugess Panda with movement and size variations - Click here.

Other 38mm Chronograph styles - Click here


40mm Sugess Panda with colour variations - Click here.

40mm Sugess Panda Racing with style variations - Click here


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