I’m sure you’ve heard the name Octavio Garcia. For many years, he was the Creative Director at Audemars Piguet. A couple of years ago, he left AP and I recently met up with him for a cup of tea in my office.
Exciting things are happening for Garcia, who with Lukas Gopp, also a designer at AP, started Gorilla, a new brand introduced in August of 2016. The Original Fastback limited edition from Gorilla of 500 pieces went on presale in November of 2016 and sold out almost immediately.
Why did you start Gorilla?
I was 48 when I left AP and in the back of my mind, I always wanted to start my own brand. Considering my age, it was the right opportunity and age to start it. I could allow myself that risk, so I began experimenting with some designs at home and sharing them with Lukas. We decided to do this brand together. I trusted him, we quickly invested money in starting the company, and in October 2016, we founded Gorilla.
The idea behind Gorilla was to leverage the experience we had as inside creatives to push the envelope of watch design. We felt that the whole environment for watches was changing and we sensed that an interesting place to use our experience was at the entry level. There aren’t many interesting projects in this price point and we had the opportunity to make a statement.
I proposed a design that was very sculptured and demanded a lot of know-how in new materials, like ceramics. Based on this and the idea that we were building around the brand world, which was very urban, which was my upbringing, and this became part of the design process. We went to Asia to show them design drawings (we needed to go to Asia to meet our price point goal under $1,000). A few months later they sent me a prototype via Fedex which was exactly what I wanted. They have reached the level of quality that we wanted and we started, the first product was launched in July 2017.
Most of the names brands come up with, you don’t remember. Since we were addressing what we thought was a new customer, they wouldn’t care who was behind the brand, so we took ourselves out of the equation. We wanted the brand to be recognizable and immediately loved or hated, and that’s why we chose the name Gorilla.
Around this, we built the three brand pillars – founders as hands-on designers, the power of creativity; performance (because of my love for cars, exotic performance materials) and rarity – we have small production cycles.
How do you break down the collections?
The core collection will be between a maximum of 10,000 pieces in total per year, and the limited editions will be 250 pieces. This year, we will have three limited editions.
The first limited edition was the introduction of our brand, and this became part of our core collection.
The new limited edition Mirage, the Fastback GT model, has a new Miyota higher quality movement with an exhibition back. Most people understand that to achieve our price point the best compromise was to use the Miyota movement.
Are you having fun?
I am loving every minute of it. Contrary to what I was doing before, I am wearing many hats. I’m not just doing design anymore, we are doing online sales, building back office and more. Who knew that after sales service could be so complicated? We are learning so much. I didn’t have to deal with this before. It’s a huge learning curve. You have to learn so quickly as an entrepreneur.
We were confident that we had the network to promote the brand without having to go the Kickstarter route. One of the things that was important to us that we didn’t want to just sell online. We believe that the retailer has an important role to play in the chain. We wanted our prices to be clear from the start, and we were quickly contacted by retailers and distributors.
Where are you selling?
We are selling primarily online, but we also have retailers. We have to discuss this and have all parties understand it. Once this is demystified, that they understand that we support them, and I love to visit them.
Generating traffic is not as easy as it sounds. Having people come to our website and trust us with their purchase, our opening price point is $830, and if they buy from us they are buying off a screen.
In the US, we sell mostly on line, and it’s one of the markets I know the least about, at least at retail. At one point, we will be there.
What makes Gorilla stand out?
We have designed and engineered a product that is recognizable and integrates high tech materials in a well thought out way that really offers the wearer a true horological experience and the value for money that you get is unmatched.
We went into this brand with the question of who our customer is at the top of our minds. We have been surprised at the feedback from collectors, who were our first adopters. At the same time, we put a lot of effort into tapping into the client that wasn’t familiar with watchmaking, and that’s been working out quite well for us. We approached it with the automotive angle – automotive and watchmaking are the two last bastions of mechanical, emotional products.
How does the future look?
We are very focused on the next five months. We have embarked on a new challenge that we will be unveiling in October at SIAR. We are collaborating with Vaucher on a module on an ETA base movement, so it will be our first Swiss Made product, which will become our pinnacle product. It will be a limited edition of 250 pieces, and we don’t know how our clients will react. It’s us underscoring the importance of watchmaking our brand world. This will be a rare product, retailing at around $2,500. It’s a cool collaboration with them, they are allowing us to put Vaucher on the front of the movement. We are going to enter the GPHG.
Thanks, Octavio, for a glimpse at what you are doing. Keep up the good work and keep us posted on the latest.