Hands-On: Gorilla Fastback “RAW Celebratory Edition”

A fun watch with design smarts.

Despite being one of many recent startups specialising in stylish, affordable watches, Gorilla has managed to set itself apart from a crowded field by creating watches that are well designed and smartly detailed. That’s because the Gorilla was founded in 2016 by two veterans watch design: Lukas Gopp, an alumni of IWC and Audemars Piguet, and the better known of the pair, Octavio Garcia.

Mr Garcia spent almost 15 years at Audemars Piguet, five of them as chief designer; one of his most famous and successful creations was the Royal Oak Offshore “Alinghi” in forged carbon, one of the hottest watches of the mid-2000s.

Gorilla now only offers essentially a single model – the Fastback – in several variations, with the design and colours inspired by 1950s American muscle cars. And it is obvious that several of its watches are reminiscent of certain Audemars Piguet timepieces. But with the Gorilla watch case having a distinctive profile of its own, coupled with the fact that most of its watches cost less than US$800, Gorilla watches have an easy appeal.

Gorilla Fastback blue red army watches 4

A gilded 15

This particular Gorilla is a limited edition made for the 15th anniversary of Red Army Watches, a Singapore-based retailer that specialises in affordable watches; amongst the other brands it carries are SevenFriday and Grand Seiko.

Gorilla Fastback blue red army watches 10

Formally known as the RAW x Gorilla Fastback Celebratory Edition, the watch is not drastically different from the standard model that serves as the base, the Fastback Galaxy Blue. The only differences are the red-gold plated “15” on the dial as well as the case back engraving. Though minor, the gilded “15” is useful in giving the watch a slightly more upscale look.

But because the Fastback watches are similar – the case dimensions are, in fact, all identical – this limited edition serve as a proxy for the rest of the collection.

All dressed up

It’s a certainty that the bulk of the cost of a Fastback goes into the case and dial. Excepting the top of the line, wandering hours Fastback Drift, the movement is there to keep time and stay hidden.

The case is an excellent example of simple yet strong design. It’s essentially a stack of four levels, starting with black ceramic on top, followed by an anodised aluminium ring, the titanium case middle, and lastly the flat titanium case back.

Gorilla Fastback blue red army watches 7

This gives the watch a layered appear from both the front and sides, while also allowing for a mix and match of materials that creates contrast. Other Fastback models swap the titanium for carbon composite, though the aluminium and ceramic bits are a recurring feature, albeit in different colours.

Gorilla Fastback blue red army watches 12

Gorilla Fastback blue red army watches 6

All four levels are secured via four screws on the case back. The water-resistance is a practical 100m, despite the basic, sandwich case construction.

Gorilla Fastback blue red army watches 11

Interestingly, what looks like four screw heads on the bezel appear to be merely decorative, being rounded heads that are neither screws nor nuts. Only on the much pricer Fastback Drift are they actually hex head nuts.

All of the case components are neatly and evenly finished, except for the anodised aluminium ring. It’s uneven around the edges and doesn’t sit exactly flush with the case middle on some spots.

Gorilla Fastback blue red army watches 8

Gorilla Fastback blue red army watches 5

Speedometer dial

More than the case, the dial feels automotive-inspired. Minutes and seconds are indicated by conventional hands, while the hour pointer is on a central disc. Like the frame on a vintage speedometer, the steeply sloped flange in anodised aluminium gives the dial depth, which is enhanced by the open-worked central disc that is actually the hour hand.

Legibility is excellent during the day, though not so much at night as the Super-Luminova markings on the markers and hands are quite small.

Gorilla Fastback blue red army watches 3

One of the best details of the dial is the precise length of both the hour and minute hands; the two hands almost touch the flange, giving the dial a good sense of proportion and balance.

Gorilla Fastback blue red army watches 9

And the applied “15” that’s unique to this edition looks good even up close. Applied numerals, however, are only on the higher end Fastback GT models; the standard Fastback watches have printed numerals.

The rest of the dial is cleanly executed, although the lacquer on the hands is laid on slightly thick.

On the wrist

The watch is a big one, measuring 44mm in diameter and a bit under 14mm high. It certainly looks the size on the wrist.

But the good design of the case helps it sit reasonably well on the wrist. The lugs are short and curved, while the case isn’t too long. Its lightness – the watch is about 140g – also improves its wearability as it doesn’t feel unbalanced.

The only shortcoming in terms of wearability is the strap, which is available only in a single length. Though it has enough holes to fit a wide range of wrists, wearing the strap at anything less than the fourth hole from the smallest leaves a long tail on the other side.

In short, it still wears like an oversized watch, but is as ergonomic as a watch this large can be. The fact that it wear well despite the size is a major part of the appeal.

Gorilla Fastback blue red army watches 2

The Miyota rattle

The only weakness of the entire watch is the movement inside, which is a Miyota 8215 that’s made in Japan by a subsidiary of Citizen. Its weakness is not functionality at all – the calibre is proven, robust and does the job – but the noticeable rattle of the rotor as it spins.

It’s the only aspect of the watch that gives away the price; in all other respects the watch feels like a more expensive product.

Concluding thoughts

The Fastback offers significant value for money. It offers a lot of good design for the money, as well as mostly good fit and finish. Despite minor flaws, with the aluminium ring for instance, the overall quality is excellent for the price.

In fact, it’s probably the best value proposition in the competitive segment of sub-US$1000, oversized, colourful sports watches.

Key facts

Diameter: 44mm
Material: Ceramic, aluminium and titanium
Water resistance: 100m

Movement: Miyota cal. 8215
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds
Winding: Automatic
Frequency: 21,600bph, or 2.5Hz
Power reserve: 42 hours

Strap: Perforated rubber strap and titanium pin buckle

Price and availability

The standard Fastback Galaxy Blue is priced at US$790.

And limited to just 15 watches, the Fastback “Red Army Watches” is priced at 1,388 Singapore dollars. It’s available only at Red Army Watches.


Back to top.

You may also enjoy these.

Rolex Wants to Help Save the Planet

With Perpetual Planet.

Many great human endeavours that Rolex has been part of have a distinctly earthly ring to them. From Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay summiting the world’s tallest mountain to Jacques Piccard reaching the deepest point in the oceans, or even Fidel Castro journeying through Cuba’s rainforests, a great deal of the planet has been covered with a Rolex keeping time.

While Geneva watchmaking giant has sponsored various explorers over the decades, its focus has now shifted subtly, but substantially. Rolex will support ecologically minded explorers of the natural world, specifically to help them learn how to preserve it.

Named Perpetual Planet, this doubtlessly well funded initiative consolidates three of the company’s key partnerships – the Rolex Awards for Enterprise, its longterm association with the National Geographic Society, and Mission Blue, led by American oceanographer Sylvia Earle.

The Wilsdorf legacy

While it is easy to be cynical about a maker of luxury watches claiming to do good, charity is not merely a box to be ticked at Rolex. The founder of Rolex, Hans Wilsdorf, had no children and upon his death in 1960, gifted his ownership of the watch brand to an eponymous foundation that’s one of the largest charitable foundations in Europe.

Though it operates discreetly, the foundation does so on an immense scale, especially in relation to its home country, which is wealthy but small. From saving the Geneva’s football club to bankrolling the home of the symphony orchestra to building a school for design, the foundation does so much in Geneva that local newspaper Tribune de Geneva wrote the organisation “substitutes for the state”.

Hans Wilsdorf Rolex 1950

Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf. Photo – Rolex

Rolex World Headquarters Geneva 3

Rolex headquarters in Geneva. Photo – Rolex

Rolex Awards for Enterprise

Launched in 1976 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the water-resistant Oyster watch case, the Rolex Awards for Enterprise provides grants to individuals and projects around the world who “advance human knowledge, protect cultural heritage or help preserve natural habitats and species”. Over 43 years, the programme received 34,000 applications, but only bestowed 150 prizes.

For the first time in its history, the awards allowed public voting for the winners, after the candidates had been whittled down to a shortlist of 10. The five winners were announced last month, with each receiving a grant of 200,000 Swiss francs and Rolex timepiece.

Laureates Rolex Awards for enterprise 2019. From left: Grégoire Courtine, Krithi Karanth, João Campos-Silva, Miranda Wang, Brian Gitta.

Laureates of the Rolex Awards for Enterprise 2019. From left: Grégoire Courtine, Krithi Karanth, João Campos-Silva, Miranda Wang, Brian Gitta. Photo – Rolex

The five finalists’ projects range across industries and causes.

  • Grégoire Courtine, a French scientist, is developing a fully implantable, brain-spine interface that will help spinal injury victims walk again.
  • Indian conservationist Krithi Karanth is field-testing measures to reduce human-wildlife conflict for villages in India situated near national parks.
  • João Campos-Silva, a Brazilian ecologist, who is hoping to save the world’s largest freshwater fish, the giant arapaima, from extinction.
  • Miranda Wang, a Canadian inventor who at 25 is the youngest of this year’s laureates, is developing a unique technology to recycle plastic waste into industrial chemicals.
  • And Ugandan engineer Brian Gitta, who invented an innovative portable device that detects the malaria parasite without the need for drawing blood.
Rolex Award for Enterprise laureate João Campos-Silva holding an arapaima of about 60kg. Photo - Rolex

João Campos-Silva with a 60kg arapaima. Photo – Rolex

National Geographic Society

The five winners of the 2019 Rolex Awards for Enterprise were announced at the National Geographic Explorers Festival, a convention for scientists, explorers and researchers that took place in Washington, D.C. just last month. Rolex and the National Geographic Society, however, go back decades, all the way back to the first successful Everest expedition.

Established a year after Hillary and Norgay reached the peak of Mount Everest in 1953 – while wearing Rolex watches naturally – the relationship with National Geographic has survived print, television, and now digital media, and is one of key pillars of Perpetual Planet.

Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay climbing Mount Everest in 1953. Photo - Rolex

Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay climbing Mount Everest in 1953. Photo – Rolex

This year, Rolex is backing a five-year exploration programme, led by National Geographic, that will cover the Earth’s most extreme environments, starting with a return to Everest that took place from April to June 2019. Done in the name of promoting awareness of the planet’s fragility, the programme also aims to develop solutions to environmental challenges.

One area the programme aims to study is the impact of climate change on glaciers, rainforests and the seas. The programme will study the relationships between water supply and melting glaciers, diminishing rainforests and pollution, and the global cooling mechanism provided by the oceans.

The recent Everest expedition, for instance, was led by National Geographic and Nepal’s Tribhuvan University and looked into the effect of global warming on the glaciers of the Hindu Kush-Himalaya that supply water to over a billion people.

The Perpetual Planet expedition at Khumbu Icefall, Mount Everest. Photo - Rolex

The Perpetual Planet expedition at Khumbu Icefall, Mount Everest. Photo – Rolex

Sylvia Earle and Mission Blue

The final pillar of Perpetual Planet is the partnership with Sylvia Earle, whose career in marine biology has spanned some 50 years. Not only was Dr Earle the first female to become chief scientist of the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, she has been a National Geographic Society explorer-in-residence for over 20 years. And she is a Rolex testimonee – in essence, a brand ambassador – since 1982.

The National Geographic explorer-in-residence since 1998, Sylvia Earle. Photo - Rolex

Dr Earle in her natural habitat. Photo – Rolex

In 2010, Dr Earle launched Misson Blue, a charity that wants to established “marine protected areas” where marine life is protected by law. These “Hope Spots”,  as Dr Earle refers to them, are safe havens for endangered or diverse species of marine life, or areas that indigenous fishermen rely on for survival.

With the help of Rolex, Mission Blue has upped the number of Hope Spots from 50 to 112 just in past five years. Mission Blue ambitiously aims to have a third of the oceans protected by 2030, up from the current 8%.

Earle’s Mission Blue created its first “Hope Spot” to protect marine biodiversity in the Balearic Islands, Spain. Photo - Rolex

Mission Blue’s  first “Hope Spot” in the Balearic Islands, Spain. Photo – Rolex

A Perpetual Legacy

Perpetual Planet has become part of Rolex.org, a site unveiled last year that starts out by detailing the history of the company and its founder. The site now explains the Perpetual Planet partnerships, all illustrated by typically amazing, National Geographic-quality photography. See more on Rolex.org.

Correction, July 30 2019: The number of Hope Spots have grown to 112, and not 122, as previously stated. 

Back to top.

You may also enjoy these.

Welcome to the new Watches By SJX.

Subscribe to get the latest articles and reviews delivered to your inbox.