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 might argue that the industry needs another motoring-inspired timepiece like a man needs cancer, 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 motorsport. Most notable is the adoption of materials like ceramic and carbon fiber, synonymous with high performance motoring.
Audemars Piguet was the first brand to use forged carbon in the construction of the case when it unveiled the Royal Oak Offshore Alinghi Carbon edition in 2007. Incidentally, Octavio Garcia was at the helm of AP’s creative department during this time and he brings this nous to Gorilla, the watch company he founded with former AP designer Lukas Gopp.
Launched in 2016, the debut model Gorilla Fastback stood out from the other micro-brands in the market because of its emphasis on strong design and the use of cutting-edge, high-performance materials. This 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 motorsport 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 opinion; 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 off by a polished ceramic bezel that is screwed in to 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 numbers to indicate the minutes and a skeletonized rose gold minutes hand. An aperture at the bottom of the dial and a unique skeletonized hour disc exposes the beating heart of the Miyota 90S5 caliber. If you look closely, you can also see the perlage on the blackened plate of the movement.
The Mirage has a white outer dial with applied numbers depicting the minutes, the same skeletonized hour disc and an orange skeletonized minutes hand. The inner flange of the dial is in black with a hexachrome orange strip to match 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 SW 200-1 calibers. A 4-Hz movement with a power reserve of 42 hours, Caliber 90S5 measures 11-1/2''' (ligne), so essentially you have a mechanical movement with an overall diameter of 26 mm in a 44 mm wide case.
The fact is that you will be hard-pressed to find another watch that combines strong design with the use of high-performance materials at this price point ($1,150 or AED4,200). 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 than what you are paying here. It is a conversation starter, a fun watch that you can wear casually without worrying about dents or scratches too much.
For someone whose personal taste in watches drifts towards 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 glances at your wrist. The Bandit with its black ceramic bezel and rose gold accents is definitely easier to pull off but the Mirage is the one the on you want on your wrist if you are feeling particularly social on the day.