Sō Labs Playful Design Gets Automatic Movement with Layer Two

The Sō Labs Layer One is a watch that made an instant impression on pretty much anyone it managed to cross paths with. The dial, composed of colorful layers and shapes befitting of a modern art museum, was bereft of any traditional time-keeping markers. This was a watch that embraced the conceptual in lieu of any practical pretense. You can read Zach Kazan’s review of the watch right here. This year, Sō Labs is building on that concept with a new Layer Two watch, that refines the execution without losing the personality. They also feature steel cases and automatic movements, with one of the most interesting takes on the date wheel I’ve ever seen. 

The Layer Two is familiar at a glance, with a similar design language we saw in the Layer One. A pyramid structure connected to a hollow semi-circle serves as the hour indication, while a hollow outline takes on minute duties. Bar markers at each hour are the only real indication that this is a device for telling the time at all. There is a running seconds indication as well, though you’d be forgiven for not immediately noticing it. A round cap on the hand stack features a small point, and if you look closely, you’ll find that it makes a full rotation each minute. And that’s not even the most subtle detail to discover with this watch.

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The Layer Two brings a variety of 5 different colorways to the case and dial that range from explosively colorful to the relatively under-the-radar. The Layer 2.1, aka obsidian frost, is perhaps the loudest of the bunch, with a steel case that received a black DLC coating. Bright pinks and blues jump off the dial, as does the bright pink rotor visible through the caseback. Other color combos include the Iron Flamingo and Plum Punch, which bring a wealth of warm tones to polished and brushed steel cases. Finally, the Charcoal Frog and Iced Oatmeal go in a slightly cooler direction, with earth tones and teals coming through. 

The color pairings are thoughtful and dynamic as used on the dial, as each element embraces a different tone or shade to maximize the intended effect. One detail working in the background plays a large role in changing the vibe of each watch, and you might not notice it right off the bat. The second stop of the crown gives away the presence of  day and date complications, however, there are no apertures on the dial. The day and date discs have been repurposed, instead living in full view at the center of the dial, visible in the top half opening. The discs themselves are color gradients that shift with each day, going from dark to light, altering the backdrop and the resulting tone of the colorway rather dramatically throughout the month. 

Sō Labs is using a new case design with the Layer 2 that features a soft edge falling away from the dial, and large rounded lugs that host a straight link bracelet. The design of the lug is playful, but could be considered a distraction from the dial itself or an otherwise unwelcome flourish that doesn’t quite jive with the nature of the rest of the design. The case itself is 40mm in diameter with a lug to lug only slightly longer thanks to the short lug. My only other gripe with this watch is the crown, which looks beautiful, but is a bit difficult to use on account of there being no horizontal grooves to provide traction for your finger. It’s not that bad, and it might be worth it for the aesthetic value alone.

Overall, this is a watch that rises above my usual critique of the practical nature of watches. It’s an incredible aesthetic experience that becomes interactive in use. I’ll be honest, the use of the modified Sellita SW220-1 over a quartz powered movement is less important to me than the visual elements, but it certainly allows for a richer experience with the day and date wheels. I love this visual cue so that alone may be worth the price of entry. 

The Sō Labs Layer Two watches are available to pre-order as of today for the price of $965. Shipping is slated to begin in January, and the regular price will go up to $1,295 outside of the pre-order. More from Sō Labs.

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Blake is a Wisconsin native who’s spent the past decade covering the people, products, and brands that make the watch world a little more interesting. Blake enjoys the practical elements that watches bring to everyday life, from modern Seikos to vintage Rolex. He is an avid writer and photographer with a penchant for classic cars, non-fiction literature, and home-built mechanical keyboards.
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