Lytt Labs is the brainchild of two founders and friends who conceived the idea in 2014, over a night of karting and drinks. Unrestricted by the rules of classic watchmaking, the founders set forth with a clear and simple vision – to ensure that each timepiece is both thought provoking and a conversation starter.
We caught up with lead founder and CEO, Edwin Seah for a short discourse on his journey into horology and what makes him tick.
Tell us about your background and role at Lytt Labs.
In my previous life, I was a lawyer. After many years, I left the legal profession to join some friends to venture into the business world, manufacturing parts for the electronic industry. Over the following years, my interest and passion for watches led to the founding of Lytt Labs. My experience in the manufacturing industry contributes to the high standards we set ourselves at Lytt Labs. One of the lessons learnt, over more than 24 years in both the legal and manufacturing industries, is that “Good enough should never be enough”.
At Lytt Labs, I oversee and coordinate a small but dedicated international team. As we are a relatively small outfit, I’m involved in all aspects of the business. From design and prototyping to production and planning, from social media to sales and marketing. Our team consists of specialists from Singapore, USA, Holland, UK, China and Japan. This means having to deal with issues across several time zones.
Talk us through a day in your shoes at Lytt Labs, what do you get involved in?
My main job is to look 6/12/24 months down the road, to map out the strategy for our upcoming models as well as to ensure that prototyping and production is smooth and on schedule. Mornings are usually dedicated to the sales and production teams, and afternoons are usually focused on social media and planning. Evenings and nights are then set aside for discussions with the design team that is located overseas.
Why did you decide to go into the watchmaking business?
Sometime in 2013/14, a couple of old friends were karting together and over drinks that evening, we spoke about venturing into business together. Our common interests were cars, karting and watches. Casual talk morphed into serious discussions, serious discussions developed into actual action. Watches was simply the most sensible option as we were all passionate about creating and developing our own brand. At first, we explored the possibility of manufacturing movements as my manufacturing experience allowed me to be able to set up automated assembly lines etc. However, over many meetings and brainstorming sessions, we hit upon a revolutionary idea and would be unique and distinct in the watchmaking world. This would form the basis of our brand “Lytt” and our strategies moving forward.
You are an extremely busy man with other business interest outside of Lytt Labs. What’s your secret to managing time effectively?
Cliched as it may sound, enjoying work doesn’t make it “work”. Consequently, I could be dealing with multiple issues over multiple platforms in multiple countries in multiple time zones, but addressing each concern in a sensible and appropriately timely manner is important. Sometimes, the odd procrastination does happen (I’m only human… ha ha…), but nothing that is time sensitive or urgent. Being flexible and understanding is also crucial to time management.
Share with us your philosophy for establishing and building business relationships
“Do unto others”. I strongly believe in taking serious and deliberate consideration of the “other sides” concerns and positions, to step into others’ shoes. I believe risk and rewards should be shared and balanced. I believe that my word is my bond, and I deliver on anything that I promise. The key is finding counterparts that have the same beliefs – not easy.
What does Lytt Labs stand for and who does it speak to?
Lytt (as I pronounce it “Light”) Labs is meant to be a beacon to an industry awash with the mundane. Innovation within the watch industry has stagnated and left to a handful of people. I guess the mainstream demographic of watch buyers contribute to this. Hopefully, with our upcoming models, we can rekindle the spark of ideas and designs. We are in the midst of our roll-out plans for 2 more models within the next 6-12 months.
Lytt Labs is not just a micro-brand which is trying to be different. People who are inherently attracted to us are people with individuality, with a sense of “Me”, who value intrinsic design value and quality.
How did your penchant for collecting watches begin?
My first “valuable” watch was given to me by grandmother. It was an Omega Seamaster. I still have it today. This gift started me on a journey of over 30 years. Over time, I was fascinated by watch design and the technical aspects of the movements and complications, and later intrigued by value and branding.
Do you collect watches to keep or to wear?
(Laughs…) I hardly ever wear any of my watches. I’m eccentric that way. They are kept in my safe, only to be taken out to wind and listen to the movement, and to admire. Safe Queens FTW!
What was the creative inspiration for the Inception watches and their design?
When we were first deciding on the design direction, our first major decision was “round or not round”. We obviously settled on “not round” as we wanted to develop our own design distinctiveness. As it stands, the case shape is instantly recognisable as unique. The multiple angled surfaces of the face/dial is also our take on the reflection of light. The entire face of Inception reflects light such that it looks different from different angles.
In a future model, you’ll see an advancement of our technical know-how relating to light.
Minute and second hands work fine, why reinvent the wheel?
This was our first foray into the watch industry. There was nothing like the Inception when we first launched. There were some brands that used a disk to display the time, but we were at the forefront of exposing the entire disk. This was an immense technical challenge, from the weight of the disks (as compared to the much lighter traditional hands), to the balance and flatness. I think the general public doesn’t appreciate the difficulties of using such a method.
Another example is the material we used for our time indicator arrows is commonly avoided by the industry. They are made of aluminium which is incredibly soft and malleable, making it a nightmare material to work with. We used aluminium because only through anodisation of aluminium could we achieve the colour we wanted. To produce the shape and thickness of the indicators in aluminium was also extremely difficult.
We took on these challenges to show our technical expertise and innovation aspirations.
Will you ever change the time telling method?
Yes. As the market and industry demands change, we too, need to be at the front of these changes. The current time telling method will not be abandoned, as we develop our next phase of products.
Our upcoming model will be more technical and engineering focused. Stay Tuned!
In your opinion, what are the characteristics of a great watch?
From a design perspective, a balance of subtlety and eye-catching worthiness. Oxymoron I know. That’s why there aren’t many watches out there that I would consider a “great watch” from a design perspective. Of course, from a mechanical or technical standpoint, the finesse and finishing of the movement and complication is a huge factor. For example, I’m completely mesmerised by the concept of the minute repeater.
Which style icon would you love to see rocking an Inception watch?
Ouch, I’m not cool enough or young enough to answer this question without seeming like a dinosaur. RDJ?
What do you enjoy doing in your down time?
Nowadays, hanging with my wife, eating ice cream and watching re-runs of Marvel movies and GoT.
Favourite books of all time?
We hear that you are a gourmand of sorts. Share with us your most memorable meals around the world.
Ah… another pet topic, and too many experiences to list. There’s a small restaurant in Como, (Swiss side – Ristorante Da Candida) that serves the most sublime foie gras. The owner has his own farm, and in turn, makes his own variations of terrines and mousses.
During my latest trip to Sicily, we were on the ferry back to the mainland and we bumped into a friendly police officer. He recommended a small out-of-the-way restaurant near his home town of Campoli Appennino, an hour from Rome. It’s called “The Truffle” and they serve home-cooked style pasta and meat. The setting was in the mountains with only locals patronising the place. Kind of like “The Godfather” style. The food was really tasty but the locale made the meal.
Tipple of choice and favourite bar?
Depends on the mood. In the old days, my friends and I would start the night with a One-to-Fiver, meaning depending on how we wanted the night to go, we would do one to five shots of Patron Silver – at one go. Needless to say, most were 5 shot nighters…
There’s a very interesting cocktail bar in Shanghai where there are 3 levels and a secret room. If you patronise all three levels, you will be given access to the secret room, wherein you will be served a cocktail which reflects your previous drinks. Cool concept at the time, can’t remember the name right now.
What’s on your playlist?
Oldies from the 80s and 90s, and EDM like Kygo, Steve Aoki, Avicii.
What are your plans for Lytt Labs and what can fans of the brand expect next?
We want to bring light to the world. Over the next phase of our plans, we hope to unveil our vision. I can’t say too much, but be prepared for something innovative and remarkable.
Complete this sentence: Take time to…
Make time – for your passion, for your family, for yourself.