In January, Swatch will release a watch that will be able to make payments at many Chinese shops, according to Bloomberg.
The news comes only months after Swatch CEO Nick Hayek called the Apple Watch “an interesting toy, but not a revolution.”
In the same interview, Hayek alluded to a watch in development that would serve as an alternative to a credit card.
The watch is being called the Swatch Bellamy, referencing the author Edward Bellamy. Bellamy’s 1887 Utopian novel “Looking Backward 2000-1887” made one of the first references to credit cards.
The Bellamy uses near-field communication technology, hidden beneath the dial, to make payments, much as Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay do. Swatch claims that using it for “pay-by-the-wrist” transactions uses none of the watch’s energy.
The watch will retail for 580 yuan, about $US91.
In August, Hayek told Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger that Swatch was making a “precipitated strategic decision” to move slowly on the smartwatch trend. Hayek cited concerns about day-long battery life and one’s personal health data, like blood pressure, being synced to the cloud.
Swatch has instead focused on feature watches like the Swatch Touch Zero One, which lets the wearer track how hard he or she has hit a volleyball, or how much he or she has clapped at a game. The successor, the Swatch Touch Zero Two, is due to launch with the Rio Summer Olympics in 2016.
Hayek seems content to let major tech companies occupy the computer-on-your-wrist space while Swatch experiments with different smart features. In the meantime, Swatch reaps the benefits of its patented parts and technologies, which Hayek claims Garmin uses in its fitness trackers.
It remains to be seen if luxury smartwatches, like Apple’s $US10,000-plus Watch Edition, will take a bite out of the sales of high-end traditional watches.
Swatch isn’t the only Swiss watch manufacturer looking into adding high-tech features to old-fashioned devices.
Earlier this year, The New York Times Magazine reported that Swiss watch manufacturer Frédérique Constant was developing a line of smartwatches that combined the company’s timeless, analogue aesthetic with the modern conveniences of a smartwatch.
The watch, called the
Frédérique Constant Horological Smartwatch, was released in June. It combines a traditional Swiss watch with a fitness tracker, an accelerometer and other “smart” features. It delivers the “smart” information via a series of dials on the watch that will look familiar to any owner of a mechanical watch. It’s battery life comes in at a whopping two years.
Meanwhile, the European luxury-goods manufacturer Montblanc is taking a different tact to tackle the Apple Watch.
Their smartwatches, currently in development, contain no smart features or circuitry in the watch itself, which is entirely mechanical and taken from one of their primary luxury-watch lines.
Instead, the “smart” aspect is embedded into the wristband of the watch. The wristband has an inch-and-a-half screen to convey text messages, emails, and social-media messages, as well as activity sensors that send data to your phone.
According to The Times, Montblanc is hoping that the wristband solves one of the major qualms about smartwatches: that they will be quickly out of date and need to be replaced every few years.
Because no smart components are included in the watch — which is one of Montblanc’s expensive mechanical designs — customers can upgrade the wristband for new features and sensors.