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The Value Proposition The Gorilla Fastback GT Mirage

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The watch company known as Gorilla is a relatively new development, having launched in 2016 with a series of watches that put design and high-quality case materials at the forefront – and offered things like ceramic and forged carbon construction at a fraction of the prices usually charged for cutting edge, high tech components. The watches are powered by Miyota 90S5 automatic movements – reliable and inexpensive, they allow Gorilla to maintain highly competitive pricing (around $1,000, more or less, depending on the model) while still offering a mechanically driven timepiece with an exotic appeal. The company is headed by Octavio Garcia, who worked as a star designer at Audemars Piguet from 2003 to 2015; he's joined by industrial designer Lukas Gopp, whose work's been seen at such varied firms as IWC, Ralph Lauren Watches & Jewelry Co., and Audemars Piguet.

Among the company's more recent introductions is the Gorilla Fastback Mirage Limited Edition, which is essentially an iterative update to the no-longer-available original Fastback. The Mirage has the same sapphire crystal, ceramic bezel, anodized case-middle, and forged-carbon body as the original Fastback, but in such a different color scheme as to seem almost an entirely different watch.

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A Ford GT 40, at Goodwood in 2004. (Image: Wikipedia)

As the name implies, the Fastback watches are automotive-themed. Automotive-themed watches in general are a dime a dozen, and typically they are a rather listless crowd – obvious design cues mated with branding that not even fans of the automotive brand in question are actually interested in seeing on a watch. There are exceptions but as a rule, car-themed watches give of an air of perfunctory fulfillment of a contractual obligation, rather than radiating anything like actual enthusiasm for the exercise. I think part of the reason that Gorilla watches work is that while they're clearly related in look and feel to cars in general, and motorsports in particular, they're also not restricted to displaying the specific attributes of any particular car brand, and so the designers have quite a bit more freedom. The Fastback Mirage's color scheme is based on the Ford GT 40, which won at Le Mans for four years straight (1966 to 1969) which is probably best remembered in its orange and blue Gulf Oil livery.

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B0000138.jpg?ixlib=rails-1.1.0&auto=formFunnily enough I think the watch actually reflects the attraction of the Gulf Oil paint scheme (which the GT 40 wore at Le Mans in 1968) much better than if it had any overt Ford branding; the way the paint job accentuates the rather ferociously feline lines of the car carries over very well to the design of the watch. As with the original Fastback, the impression you have when you unbox the Fastback Mirage is of a watch that punches well above its weight in terms of overall quality and excellence of execution – it's a $1,150 watch but it's far more satisfying to handle and wear than the price would lead you to expect. Yes, it's true, the movement is a Miyota but first of all, it's an excellent movement especially if you're trying to build a sharp-looking watch on a budget, and second, the rest of the watch is so nicely done that you don't particularly care. 

One of the nicest things about the Fastback Mirage is the strap, which gives the impression of having been made with as much thought and attention to detail as the watch itself. Often straps are at best, an afterthought, and it's interesting given how well the strap works as an integrated part of the design, to reflect that both Garcia and Gopp spent time at Audemars Piguet, whose Royal Oak really wrote the book in late 20th-century watch design, in terms of making the case and bracelet a unified whole. This is done much less often with straps – the furthest most watch brands usually go is making the stitching kinda-sorta match some element of the watch head, but in the Fastback Mirage, both the visible and hidden parts of the strap are all of a piece with the other elements, in both color and form.

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Purely from a design standpoint, the use of such extroverted color and form in watches probably goes all the way back to the 1960s, but forty years ago you were still restricted to using the same basic materials for those watches, as for more traditionally styled pieces. The advent of more unusual materials – at first in special application tool watches and in very expensive luxury watches – means you can produce a colorful, striking watch in which the color is really part of the design at its most basic level; it feels like part of the basic structure of the watch, rather than cosmetic per se. 

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"What is good design worth?" is an interesting question to ask in a lot of contexts. In watchmaking, design – apart from the question of whether or not it's objectively good design, which is a separate issue – is a significant part of the overall value of the watch. Richard Mille is a perfect case in point; I'd say that at least 50 percent, if not more, of the perceived and actual value of a Richard Mille watch inheres in its design, rather than in rarity or cost of materials and execution. (This is not, by the way, to denigrate Richard Mille; it's merely to point out that if you just look at materials cost, you might be missing the whole point. The value of, say, Van Gogh's Starry Night has very little to do with how much the paint and canvas cost.) 

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One of the benefits of industrial mass production was supposed to be that it could make excellent design available to millions at a reasonable cost. That happens, but more often it just means shoddy goods flood the market in the name of producing a sustainable margin. The Fastback Mirage is a very particular kind of watch design – it's not going to draw the same crowd as a vintage-inspired round steel chronograph, that's for sure – but for this kind of watch design, it's got a lot going for it. Materials usually found in much more expensive watches, a sensible choice with respect to the movement, and above all, a design that radiates a genuine sense of fun and real exuberance, make the Mirage an extremely enjoyable watch to wear, and an excellent Value Proposition.

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