In this review from our sister magazine, WatchTime Middle East, editor Nitin Nair spends some time with two timepieces from Gorilla Watches, a motorsport-inspired brand on the rise with some first-class pedigree behind it.
A motoring-inspired wristwatch might seem like a timeworn trope, but it’s a road that watch companies seem happy to cruise down for now. Some may argue that the industry needs another motoring-inspired timepiece like a man needs a hole in the head, but they continue to come. And strangely enough, some of these watches still hit the spot.
Automotive engineering has had a profound impact on the design and construction of watches. While a mechanical watch’s heart is still run by gears and springs that can trace their origins back to the 18th century, it’s the design of the case that has benefited most from the industry’s obsession with motorsports. Most notable is the adoption of materials like ceramic and carbon fiber, synonymous with high-performance motoring.
Audemars Piguet was the first to use forged carbon in the construction of a case when it unveiled the Royal Oak Offshore Alinghi Carbon edition in 2007. Incidentally, Octavio Garcia was at the helm of Audemars Piguet’s creative department during this time and he brings this intelligence to Gorilla, the watch company he founded with former AP designer Lukas Gopp.
Launched in 2016, the debut model Gorilla Fastback stood out from other microbrands in the market because of its emphasis on strong design and the use of cutting-edge, high-performance materials. Last summer, Gorilla launched two updated iterations of the now sold-out Fastback, the Fastback GT Mirage and Bandit.
As the name suggests, both references are inspired by classic motoring legends. The Bandit pays homage to the black and gold color scheme of the Pontiac Trans Am Firebird that Burt Reynolds famously drove in the 1977 film, Smokey and the Bandit. The Mirage, a limited edition of 250 pieces, draws inspiration from what is possibly the most famous car livery in motorsports history – the light blue and orange color scheme of the Gulf Oil-sponsored Ford GT40 that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1968 and ’69.
Both watches have an extroverted personality – at 44 mm wide (almost 49 mm if you include the crown guard), the Fastback GT is not for everyone. The unapologetically bold design language can polarize opinions; according to Garcia, this is to be expected when a brand offers an “alternative point of view.”
However, having worn both the Mirage and the Bandit over long periods, I can testify that despite the size, the watch wears well on the wrist. The four-part case of the Bandit has a layered, forged carbon middle while the Mirage uses a woven forged carbon middle case. Both watches are fitted with a titanium caseback with a sapphire crystal window to view the movement. A thin anodized aluminum layer sits atop the forged carbon case and is topped by a polished ceramic bezel that is screwed into the case. Fitted with a screw-down crown, the case is water resistant to 100 meters.
The Bandit’s dial has a rose-gold flange that matches the pinstripe aluminum band on the case. The layered dial has applied, brushed rose-gold metallic numerals to indicate the minutes and a skeletonized rose-gold minutes hand. An aperture at the bottom of the dial and a unique skeletonized hour disk exposes the beating heart of the Miyota 90S5 caliber. If you look closely, you can also see perlage on the blackened plate of the movement.
The Mirage has a white outer dial with applied numerals depicting the minutes, the same skeletonized hour disk and an orange skeletonized minutes hand. The inner flange of the dial is in black with a hexachrome orange strip to match the anodized aluminum pinstripe on the case. Both dials have luminescent spots on the dial and hands to ensure good visibility in the dark.
The color schemes extend to the rubber strap, which is fitted with a titanium tang buckle. They fit seamlessly with the design of the case and I have nothing but love for these straps. Made from Viton rubber, they are supple and well made. The accents of color on the perforations and the inner lining speak of attention to detail.
The Fastback GT models are powered by Miyota’s 90S5 movement. The 90S5 was launched to take on ETA’s workhorse 2824-2 and Sellita’s SW200-1 calibers. A 4-Hz movement with a power reserve of 42 hours, Caliber 90S5 measures 11-1/2’’’ (lignes), so essentially you have a mechanical movement with an overall diameter of 26 mm in a 44-mm-wide case.
Irrespective of your thoughts on the design of the watch, which is frankly a matter of personal taste, the fact remains that the use of high-performance materials at this price point ($1,150) is unheard of. A timepiece like this with a Formula 1 driver’s endorsement, and in the hands of a brand with big marketing muscle would cost a lot more. These watches are conversation starters and fun to wear casually.
For someone like me whose personal taste in watches drifts toward more minimalist or vintage-style timepieces, wearing a Gorilla took a little getting used to. This is no shrinking violet on the wrist – the Mirage’s bright blue ceramic bezel, strap and orange accents will invite attention. I found the Bandit with its black and rose-gold accents easier to pull off, but the Mirage is the one you want on your wrist if you are feeling particularly social.
Gorilla Watches, Rue du Chateau 20, 2088 Cressier (NE), Switzerland
Hours, minutes, seconds
Miyota 90S5, automatic, 28,800 vph, 42-hour power reserve
Forged carbon middle case with ceramic bezel, anodized aluminum strip and titanium caseback, water resistant to 100 m
Strap and clasp:
Viton rubber strap with titanium tang buckle
Diameter = 44 mm (48.5 mm with crown guard), weight = 130 g
Mirage has a blue and orange color scheme; Bandit has a black and rose-gold color scheme.
Photos by Stefan Lindeque