One of the coolest watches produced by Swiss-based Gorilla is their Drift model, which is the brand’s own take on the classic wandering hours complication for telling the time. Today, I check out the latest version of these rare Drift models, which is the Gorilla Fastback Drift Safari. With a face based on an antique pocket watch, the wandering hours (aka “satellite hours”) system for telling the time was first brought to wristwatch form by Audemars Piguet. While heading Audemars Piguet’s design department, Gorilla Watches’ founder Octavio Garcia fell in love with this complication for visualizing the time. At some point soon after he launched the Gorilla brand, he contacted Swiss Vaucher to collaborate on a mechanical module that would allow him to offer a wandering hour watch. That is how Gorilla’s G-5238 module was born.
The resulting Gorilla Drift watch manages to perfectly capture the grace and fascination of the wandering hours complication, but at a price that you’d never see from Audemars Piguet (they do make a current version of their Star Wheel watch with a wandering hours complication). With that said, the Gorilla Fastback Drift isn’t quite as good a deal in 2023 as it was when it was first launched in 2019. The first version of the Gorilla Fastback Drift watch (a limited edition of 250 pieces) was priced at just $2,850 USD. It is now clear that such a price was intended to be promotional as Gorilla stepped up the cost of the system to $3,950 USD for the round-cased Gorilla Outlaw Drift Special watch. Now in 2023, the non-limited edition Gorilla Fastback Drift Safari is priced at $4,850 USD. I still believe the watch is a great value, and when the watch was less expensive I did mention that it was probably under-priced. Today, Gorilla seems to have established a more sustainable version of their business model, and I think their production output and pricing are around where it wants them to be (but we shall see).
An interesting element missing on the dial of the 2023 Fastback Drift Safari as opposed to the original 2019 model is the text on the dial related to Vaucher. Gorilla never needed to print this text on the original dials, but I think it was proud of the collaboration with Vaucher and wanted timepiece enthusiasts to feel a sense of legitimacy in the movement as well as assurance that the mechanical system would be dependable. The G-5238 module displays the time with wandering satellite hours over the semi-circle minute track, with a centrally-mounted seconds hand. The module sits over a Swiss-made ETA 2824-2 automatic movement. It operates at 4Hz with about two days of power reserve. You can see the back of the automatic movement with the Gorilla-branded black rotor through the sapphire crystal window on the rear of the case.
Little else has changed about the Fastback Drift case between the 2019 and 2023 models aside from the color scheme. The most notable difference is the use of a different strap — which indeed feels a bit more high-end than the perforated rubber strap of the first model. This custom-made strap mixes an FKM rubber liner with a Cordura outer lining, which feels more high-end but still sporty. Gorilla maintains the perforated look of the strap but with smaller ventilation holes. Even though the Fastback is a strange and large-looking case, it is engineered to wrap around your wrist and thus wears very comfortably — even on smaller wrists. Wearing pleasure is certainly a highlight of the Gorilla watch experience based upon the larger design ethos Garcia imbued into each piece.
The Gorilla Fastback Drift Safari case is produced from a stacked set of layers that includes forged carbon, titanium, anodized aluminum, and black polished ceramic. Over the dial is an AR-coated sapphire crystal. The dial hour markers and indicators are painted in SuperLumiNova for darkness viewing. The roughly cushion-shaped case is 44mm wide and 13.8mm thick with 100 meters of water resistance and a screw-down crown. Compared to the first version of the Fastback Drift, the stylized crown guards are now mostly formed from titanium as opposed to forged carbon. For the Safari variant of the Fastback Drift, Gorilla opts for a series of khaki and sand colors to accent the black colors of the case, strap, and dial. This is a popular combination of colors (some call it desert colors), so from a fashion perspective, this combo makes sense to offer in the market.
To really appreciate the Gorilla Fastback Drift watch, you probably need to first romance yourself on watches such as the Audemars Piguet Star Wheel and of course most of the watches produced by Urwerk. After comparing their style and prices, the Gorilla Fastback Drift starts to look very affordable by comparison. For most people who like Gorilla’s vintage American muscle car-inspired looks, the brand offers less expensive models that have all the personality with more traditional watch faces. The Drift pieces will remain specialty watches for those who, like Octavio Garcia, can appreciate the history and artistry of this particular dial complication style. That’s why I am very happy that this watch exists, and I hope that enough people will find their way to it. The price for the Gorilla Fastback Drift Safari watch is $4,850 USD. Learn more at the Gorilla Watches website.