Lytt Labs is a young watch brand boasting modern designs and a slick, urban marketing appeal – all very SevenFriday. Its debut watch is the Inception, and we spent a couple of weeks with it to see what we thought.
By Chris Hall
Our very first impression precedes the arrival of the watch in the office by a few days, but is nevertheless an important one: Lytt Labs is not a particularly great name. Think about it – you’ll forever be explaining “It’s a Lytt Labs… no, L-Y-T-T… no, I’ve no idea what it means”. Inception is not a fantastic name for a product but that’s less important – everything has to be called something after all.
According to the company, the name is meant to evoke both “light” and “lit” (and be pronounced more like the latter). That’s to do with the play of light on the watch’s face, apparently – but also to do with ideas of technology, the future, and “being connected to emerging generations culture”. It’s still a hard one to understand.
When the watch does arrive, we are prepared not to hold the name against it. The packaging feels pretty high quality – a snug black box lined with an Alcantara-esque suede. The Inception certainly looks different – in a good way, I think. If you’re beginning to get bored with the stream of revival designs, you may warm to this, with its sci-fi stylings.
The dial is arranged in a series of concentric circles, with two fixed arrows in anodised coloured aluminium, rotating discs for hours and minutes that align with the arrows to show the time, and a central rotating seconds hand that’s really just there to show you the watch is running. It’s a little bit like the recent Faberge designs, with a central cap over the stubby seconds hand – but the fixed arrows remind us more of something like Montblanc’s Nicolas Rieussec chronographs in concept. Up close, you can see some distinct brushing to that inner aluminium ring; I’m going to assume that’s deliberate but it’s not as fine as it could be. You’d have to pay more to be properly peeved, though.
On the wrist:
Putting it on, I feel like I should be touching two fingers to the dial and beaming to another dimension. There’s something about the Inception that is straight out of the props department for Battlestar Galactica. Again, not necessarily in a bad way.
It’s comfortable. The silicone strap with its double-pronged buckle is super soft, and the fact that it’s part of a lugless design goes a long way to making sure that relatively large (45mm) case sits well on the wrist. I’m not a burly chap and I can wear this reasonably easily – unlike some 43mm or 44mm watches. It helps that it’s only about 11mm thick.
It does catch a little on a shirt cuff – the upshot of that pointed cushion shape design – but as this feels like something intended to be more of a weekend, or casual watch, I’m not too bothered by it.
What is a bit more of an issue is the act of actually telling the time. I’m quite happy with the design – there’s a bit of depth going on, and up close all the dial elements seem to fit together very smartly. And I should say that we spend quite a bit of time with watches that take novel approaches to displaying hours, minutes and seconds, and even with that background I find the Inception a hard one to get used to.
Those arrow markers are fixed at 10:10 but I can’t help expecting them to move around the dial, not the other way round. After a couple of weeks, I feel that the problem is the dial lacks a focal point – there’s no logo and no high-contrast between hands and dial. Perhaps it’s better in the brighter colours.
The technical side:
Inside the Inception is a Seiko Automatic calibre. It has a 41 hour power reserve, and that’s about all that Lytt Labs can tell us about it – which doesn’t narrow it down much. We were expecting Miyota or Sellita, and while this isn’t enormously different from either of those, it does imply that you should get Seiko levels of reliability.
Externally, the build quality seems pretty good. The case is PVD-coated and has a pleasant gloss to it. The strap is bolted to the case with two small hex screws, which look as though you could swap it out for another fairly easily (Lytt Labs also offers the Inception on a leather strap). The watch is rated up to 50m of water resistance, and comes with a QR code embedded into the caseback. Scan it and you get exclusive access to an online Owners Section. Does anyone still use QR codes?
Lytt Labs tells us that the Inception has “quadruple” anti-reflective coating on its sapphire crystal. Be that as it may, I’d say it could be better from my experience photographing the watch.
It is good to see that if the big brands aren’t going to do it, there are watch brands out there thinking about what a 21st century watch looks like, and the Inception deserves credit for being a thoroughly modern mechanical watch. Where it falls down is that in doing so, it has unnecessarily reinvented the wheel with its system of displaying the time. You can say the same for SevenFriday’s models, which use similar rotating displays, but the difference is in the execution. If Lytt Labs could bring a bit more energy to the Inception’s display, beef it up a little, it would work better.
For the price – £649 – it is a decent effort. The worry with watches at this level is that if they look interesting, it’s at the expense of build quality, and that doesn’t seem to be the case here. I think Lytt Labs is on the money with the basics – big, bold, modern and under £1,000 – it just needs to give the whole thing a bit more verve.