Throughout the development of an organism, it is essential that the cell cycle machinery is fine-tuned to generate cells of different fate. A series of asymmetric cell divisions leads to lineage specification. The Caenorhabditis elegans embryo is an excellent system to study various aspects of the early embryonic cell cycle. The invariant nature of the rapid cell divisions is the key feature for studying the effects of small perturbations to a complex process such as the cell cycle. The thorough characterization of the asymmetric first cell division of the C. elegans embryo has given great insight on how the oscillations of the cell cycle coordinate with the cytoplasmic rearrangements that ultimately lead to two developmentally distinct daughter cells.