Regularly browsing watches on social media has the tendency to compress people's preferences into a narrow sliver of brands, size ranges, and styles. Choose something vintage-inspired (or better yet actually vintage) with an in-house movement that is under 40mm, and you're likely to impress some people at your next watch meet. Whether from a prestigious legacy company or the latest hot microbrand, you can predict without reading them what the tone of reader comments will be below any watch news release.
Sometimes, however, a watch that is well outside your comfort zone will burrow its way into your brain. You know that a lot of people won't like it, but you don't care! For me, that watch was the Gorilla Fastback. Ever since its release in 2016, I've had this watch on my mind.
I almost bought one a few times, but the right version never came up used. I also became nervous after a near-miss with a batch of fake ones that were being sold on eBay at too-good-to-be-true prices out of China for a period of time (I'll add a note below about how I spotted them). It was a watch retailer that I have a successful history with becoming a Gorilla dealer that finally pushed me over the edge to buy one.
Why the Fastback?
If you read my review of the Autodromo Group B, you'll know that I love cars, but I don't particularly like watches that have cheesy car styling features. I liked the Group B only because of its very subtle automotive hints.
Well, there isn't much subtle about the fastback, but it also doesn't employ any "in your face," car-related styling elements. The dial numerals do evoke the image of a vintage muscle car tachometer, but only because of the font chosen. The colorways (such as the black and gold Bandit, or pink Trufflehunter) also evoke famous automotive schemes, but there is no fake redline on the dial, steering wheel winding rotor, or tire tread strap to be found on the Fastback.
The real reason that I fell for the Fastback, however, is its case construction. Designed by former Chief Artistic Officer at Audemars Piguet, Octavio Garcia, Gorilla's cases use such an interesting mix of high-end materials that I just had to try one out. A forged carbon case is sandwiched between a titanium caseback, and an anodized aluminum plate (red in the case of my RS White version). It is then topped off with a sculpted ceramic or carbon fiber bezel that is secured by four titanium hex head bolts.
Gorilla offers a number of variations on this theme with different movements. My favorite was the Drift Mirage Mk.2 with its Urwerk-like wandering hours complication. I was uncomfortable spending over $4,000 on a watch that I wasn't sure if I would like though, so I limited myself to one of the least expensive Fastback models at $880. I chose the RS White version, as I thought it was the most fun colorway in the current collection.
I'm not one to shy away from a 44mm watch, but it's been a while since I've owned one that is square. Thus, I didn't consider the fact that the Fastback would have a much bigger appearance than something like my Sinn U1 S or Seiko Prospex LX. The fact that it is white makes it stand out even more.
On top of that, the lug-to-lug height is a massive 57mm. Luckily that is slightly hidden as that takes into account the matte black carbon mid-case, and the bezel is "only" 47mm from bottom to top.
Due to the thick integrated strap, and low weight (for its size), it wears well for its size. It is just very large visually.
Wearing the Gorilla Fastback
As mentioned, the Fastback is much more comfortable than watches this big typically are. The thick FKM and Cordura strap wraps around your wrist and secures it very well.
The strap is not vented, and the underside grooves are very shallow which results in a sweaty wrist on a hot day. Luckily, because the strap holds the case so well, you can wear it loose to gain some airflow without the watch flopping around on your wrist. Gorilla does offer other strap options including full rubber with ventilation holes.
The large, titanium crown is one of the easiest to operate that I've used. It has three small paddle-like shapes machined in that make it easy to turn despite massive forged-carbon crown guards. The tradeoff is that it contacted the back of my hand, but it wasn't uncomfortable.
I've enjoyed looking at all of the little details on the Fastback. When I'm wearing it, I find myself touching to feel the unique textures of the different materials used. The polished ceramic bezel has very crisp edges, and then the forged carbon has more of a porous feeling.
The texture of the Cordura insert on the strap, and the machined titanium buckle is also interesting.
Reading the time on the Fastback took a bit of getting used to. Hours are displayed via a white "spoke" on a central wheel. There is also a white semi-circle opposite the arrow which helps to visually locate it.
Minutes are displayed with a more traditional hand that is red and skeletonized with a white-filled tip. A red stick hand with a black counter-balance also displays the seconds. The physical hands reach all the way to the steeply sloped chapter ring, which is always what I prefer.
After a few days of wearing it, I was able to tell time almost as quickly as my other watches. I typically prefer better legibility, but I think that Gorilla maintained a good enough balance between form and function.
For nighttime visibility, the hands and hour indices are filled with white Super-Luminova that glows green. It's not the brightest application, but it's adequate enough to read the time in most situations. Interestingly, the minute numerals are also black lume that glows a faint green. It's barely visible a lot of the time, but there is no downside to it, so it's a unique touch. Perhaps Gorilla did this to maintain parity with the black dial variants of the Fastback that use white numerals.
The Gorilla Fastback is powered by a Miyota 8215. It is a movement can be found in watches costing much less than the $880 Fastback, but I'm sure this was Gorilla's way of offering a watch with such a unique set of case materials at a more reasonable price.
My only real complaint about the movement is that the composite case transmits a lot of noise from the winding rotor. I would regularly hear it free-spinning or clicking when moving my hand in a quiet environment. I also wish that Gorilla had picked a variant of the movement without the phantom date position for the non-date Fastback, but that's a minor concern on a fun watch like this.
Note that there are upgraded versions dubbed Fastback GT starting at $1,350 that use Miyota 9 series movements.
As I mentioned in my review of my Vostok Komandirskie, My watch preferences have trended in two directions: more expensive, or more interesting. I'm looking for unique experiences in watches, and it is especially difficult to find that in a watch that is not very expensive.
With its unique mix of materials, as well as case profile, the Gorilla Fastback has successfully provided that experience. I feel like I've had a small hint of what it feels like to wear something more exotic like a Richard Mille. Unlike the Mille-homage Blackout Concept watches, I don't feel like I'm trying to project the image of something I'm not when I wear it though. It has its own unique look that won't be confused with anything else.
So the Fastback provided a unique experience, but is it a good watch? I would prefer it to be a bit smaller, but otherwise, it has been very fun to wear, and I'm happy that I bought it. It's well-made and well-finished, looks wild, yet is comfortable and functional.
Looking at the value proposition of the Gorilla Fastback, I also think that it's priced well. A lot of collectors value watches mainly based on the movement, and normally a Miyota 8 series should not be this expensive. That type of thinking ignores the design talents of the company (which is not free) as well as the case construction and materials. Omega and Doxa, for example, add thousands of dollars to the MSRP to upgrade stainless steel versions of their 300 divers to ceramic, titanium, or carbon. They might be better finished and more complicated to construct, but it still makes $880 for a watch made from all three of those materials seem like a value.
So will the Gorilla Fastback maintain a place in my collection for the long term? Keep an eye on the StrapHabit Instagram stories to see if it maintains a place in my regular rotation.
Am I the only one who has a guilty pleasure watch? What's yours? Let us know in the comments.
Name: Gorilla Fastback RS White
Reference Number: FB02.1
Case Material: Titanium caseback, forged carbon and anodized aluminum case, ceramic bezel
Dimensions: 44mm diameter, 57mm lug-to-lug, 13.7mm thick,
Lug Width: 28mm
Movement: Miyota 8215
Power Reserve: 42 hours
Beat Rate: 21,600 (6 beats per second)
Water Resistance: 100m
Crystal: Sapphire with AR coating on both sides
Crown: Screw-down (titanium)
Strap: FKM Rubber/Cordura with titanium buckle
Spotting a Replica Gorilla Fastback
As mentioned earlier in the article, there was, what I believe was a batch of fake Gorilla Fastbacks being sold on eBay for $200-300 a few years ago. Earlier versions of the fastback had circular slots cut in the hour disc that showed a machine finishing pattern. The slots were solid black on the fakes. Additionally, the screws securing the caseback looked slightly different, as did the sequence and location of serial numbers were not the same. Otherwise, they were fairly convincing fakes. I don't know if replicas of the newer models have been reproduced. Typically when I buy a niche watch like this, I don't expect that fakes exist and don't scrutinize, so I was glad that I observed that. If you're buying one second-hand, be sure to study closely, and ask about a warranty card or receipt from an authorized dealer.