November 29, 2019
by Ariel Adams
Lytt Labs is a fairly new, smaller watchmaking company that was started by a seasoned and very serious watch collector in timepiece-crazy Singapore. Its latest model is the Lytt Labs Inception Prodigy, and I happen to think it is quite fun to wear. It helps that Lytt Labs radically revised its previous “no hands” dials that use discs and had issues with legibility even if they were neat-looking. The Inception Prodigy doesn’t re-think what a wristwatch can be, but it does offer an aesthetic unlike most of what else is out there — and with a price that is highly accessible.
Edwin Seah, who started Lytt Labs, is a collector I’ve met before and who doesn’t hold back on showing that he can afford the most exclusive timepieces going all the way up to Richard Mille. What makes him different as a collector isn’t just that he wanted to start his own brand, but that he is doing so for a more mass appeal than to truly top wristwatch buyers such as himself. This is identified by the price of the Lytt Lab watches. Depending on the version the Inception Prodigy costs about $500 USD.
Seah’s goal for Lytt Labs was to create something different. What happens to really accomplished watch collectors (and I’ve seen this numerous times) is that they start to get jaded about “watches all looking like each another.” I don’t really agree that they do, but what they are trying to actually say is that they are tired of seeing the same designs over and over again since many of them have exhausted the options from the usual suspects (the most popular luxury watch brands).
Some of the seasoned collectors seeking new watches and new emotions from those watches delve deeper and deeper into the world of independent watches because that is where they can find more original designs. Others, as is the case here, decide to start their own brand (if they can stomach the cost and headaches). I hope that helps explain a bit about what is behind Lytt Labs and the ethos a little bit.
What the Inception Prodigy pulls from in previous Lytt Labs watches is the distinctive cushion-style case shape that it introduced with its Inception V1 watch. This 45mm-wide square (14mm thick) takes some getting used to, as there really aren’t too many cases like this out there. A while back, Roger Dubuis has some thematically similar cases but nothing like that in their current collections. The cushion-style case has a round dial, which is smart because a cushion-style dial would have been much more challenging to design a dial around.
The dial itself is really cool, in my opinion, and I applaud the design. First and foremost, the proportions are good and the dial is very legible, despite the various design elements. Luminant is also pretty grand, and seeing the watch in the dark with “full glow” can easily put a smile on most timepiece fans’ faces. The hands are standard in their operation, but they look different thanks to a few visual tricks.
One nice trick is the disc-style seconds hand, which has both an arrow indicator and a small window that opens to a 60-second scale underneath it. I like how you can see the numerals under it, a nice effect. The seconds disc is mounted on top of the hour and minute hands, which hides the axis points and helps create the look of even more concentric circles on the dial. The designer of the Inception Prodigy watch said that they were inspired by decorative public gathering fountains.
The case itself is in steel and water resistant to 50 meters. Lytt Labs currently offers the Inception Prodigy with a brushed steel case, PVD-coated black case, or in a rose gold tone. The large crown is also a design element and more or less has the same cushion-style shape, a fun detail.
Going back to legibility, in addition to the correct use of mostly non-reflective surfaces on the dial, as well as the handsome use of depth, the Inception Prodigy watch has a flat sapphire crystal with, apparently, four anti-reflective (AR) coating layers. The lack of glare when viewing the dial gives the watch a more high-end feel and helps keep legibility very high.
Attached to the case is a fitted silicone strap on a bespoke Lytt Labs buckle. Another praise point for the Lytt Labs Inception Prodigy is that, aside from the movement, pretty much everything on the watch needed to be made for Lytt Labs. This shows a lot of investment in the brand, which is somewhat different fmor a lot of microbrands out there that heavily rely on “parts-bin hunting” for cases, hands, bracelets, etc… The more originality and unique parts a watch has, the more interesting it will be, in my personal opinion.
The silicone strap is nice enough and uses real stitching (which is more or less only cosmetic) but still comes across as a bit bland. Don’t get me wrong, it is comfortable and silicone is less expensive than natural rubber so it helps keeps costs down with these original parts. That said, I think the Inception Prodigy would look much more splendid on a sumptuous reptile or leather strap. I’m not sure how one might be attached since the watch uses a unique attachment system — the silicone strap is bolted to the case. An enterprising collector might have some custom strap made that will look awesome and probably cost more than the watch. The outcome could be cool, though!
Inside the Inception Prodigy is a Japanese Seiko Instruments (SII) caliber NH35. This is a 3Hz, 42-hour power reserve automatic mechanical movement. It is pretty robust but not the fanciest or best-performing movement in the world. It is heavily used for applications such as this when a watch brand wants a reliable automatic movement but also wants to keep retail costs down. Often, when these decisions are made, the ability to have the watch be attractive to more consumers is what wins, and that makes sense.
In our conservative times, when people are more excited about the past then the unknown future, original designs and fresh-thinking watchmakers like Lytt Labs can be overlooked by consumers who want “familiar designs.” I sympathize with the sentiment, but I also encourage watch collectors to experiment with new stuff and ignore the masses of people on social media who criticize anything that seems out of the ordinary to them. In that sense, people who choose watches by Lytt Labs (and companies like it) have to be brave and confident. Designs like this don’t start to sink in as “acceptable” until at least several years have gone by and the design has been “proven.” That’s common, but I encourage watch consumers to be especially open-minded these days because, otherwise, the industry that produces watches won’t be like the collector-driven Lytt Labs and will continue to produce a whole lot more of the same.
Price for the Lytt Labs Inception Prodigy watch is $479 – $529 USD depending on the model. This particular Inception Prodigy Gunmetal reference P03-02 has a retail price of $499 USD. Learn more at the Lytt Labs website here.
>Brand: Lytt Labs
>Model: Inception Prodigy (Inception Prodigy Gunmetal P03-02 as tested)
>Price: $499 USD
>Size: 45 mm-wide square, and 14mm-thick.
>When reviewer would personally wear it: At a gathering of young technology- minded people or at something like an e-sports event.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Someone who is compelled by the cushion-style case design and who likes the futuristic yet legible dial.
>Best characteristic of watch: Lytt Labs did an excellent job with the dial, which is legible and really cool to look at. Overall affordable price for such an original object.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Cushion-style case isn’t for everyone and does take some time to get used to, visually. Strap feels simple compared to the rest of the watch, and swapping it out for something else seems like a bit of a challenge.