The Sō Labs Layer 2 adds a healthy dash of funky color to the dial

The second release from the young Chicago brand proves they’re one to watch.

Second album syndrome, what we call the phenomenon where the follow-up to a critically acclaimed debut lacks the verve and zest of the original, is very real. Thankfully, Chicago-based brand Sō Labs has managed to avoid it with the Layer 2.

The Sō Labs Layer 2 Iron Flamingo

The Low-Down

Their first effort, Layer 1, was a 38mm quartz watch that stood out thanks to a striking design aesthetic that says somewhere between mid-90s Miami and Wassily Kandinsky. These visual inspirations are ramped up to the max thanks to the interesting design of the watch, which takes traditional dial design and flips the concept on its head. Instead of hands in the traditional sense, Sō Labs uses discs and apertures to create a gradient effect that, while initially unfamiliar, is surprisingly intuitive.

The Sō Labs Layer 2 Obsidian Frost

The Sō Labs Layer 2 takes the fundamentals of the Layer 1 and expands on them in significant ways. The movement is now a sturdy Sellita, and the case execution is well done, with short, Deco-inspired lugs and a 40mm diameter. Really though, it’s the five distinctive colors that seal the deal here. Obsidian Frost is the most vibrant, with a black DLC case and a pink and blue palette. Iron Flamingo pairs shades of grey with orangey pinks. Plum Punch sees deep purples blend with peach-like tones; Charcoal Fog is mostly monotone, except for green and pink tones in some of the shades. Finally, Iced Oatmeal offers a more muted take on color, with grey, green and pink shades at play.

The Sō Labs Layer 2 Iced Oatmeal

The minute’s hand is the most traditional and open-worked. The hour’s hand appears as a solid pyramid with an open semi-circular counterweight. The second’s indicator is hard to miss, consisting of a small disc over the central pinion, with a tiny marker that is most useful to check whether your watch is actually running rather than accurate timekeeping. Most interesting of all, though are the two polychromatic discs visible through the large aperture at the top of the dial. Instead of the functional but boring day-and-date displays these wheels are typically used for, Sō Labs has instead given us a slow but an ever-changing parade of colors to experience (the brand says that we get 271 color combinations, and I’m inclined to trust their math). The package is finished off with rotors that match the dials, retro bracelets and pleasing suede straps.

The Sō Labs Layer 2 Plum Punch


This watch isn’t a new release — it came out late last year, but honestly, what Sō Labs has created with their brand and the Layer 2 is so refreshingly fun (not to mention funky) that it’s still worth talking about. In fact, given the price of USD 1295, the watch is already worth talking about, as it’s quite a solid package — the genuinely original design language and sense of playfulness take it to the next level.

Individual rotors on the The Sō Labs Layer 2

Tech Specs

Sō Labs Layer 2

Movement: Sellita 220-1

Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds

Case: 40mm, steel (one option with DLC-coating), water-resistant to 100m

Dial: Various

Strap: metal bracelet and suede strap

Price: USD 1295 from Sō Labs


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