Swatch doesn't have a smartwatch on the market yet, but it still has found a way to be a player in the growing space.

In recent years, the Swiss company has filed 173 United States and international patent applications in relation to smartwatches, Envision IP, a patent law firm in Raleigh, N.C. told Bloomberg. Most of the patents were filed since 2012, showing that Swatch fully expected this boon of connected watches and wanted to stockpile on patents before possibly rolling out with its own smartwatch. — that's if Swatch ever decides to.

Maulin Shah, Envision's managing attorney, told Bloomberg that Swatch has "developed and patented watch circuitry and hardware that will allow them to introduce their own branded smartwatch without having to partner with telecoms and handset makers."

Envision IP was able to unearth some of those patents — the most prominent of which Bloomberg included in its report.

The news service says the patents include everything from a smart battery that allows data transmission (patent published in March) to a radio frequency signal receiver (May) and what's described as a "portable object for detecting presence of apparatus by wireless communication circuit" just this past October.

So, when Swatch CEO Nick Hayek downplays the Apple Watch as "not a milestone," he has plenty of patents published and pending that allow the Swiss company to remain as confident as ever.

Hayek also scoffed earlier in the year that current smartwatch manufacturers are trying to put too many of the features from smartphones into the connected timepieces.

While it remains to be seen if Swatch will ever dive into the smartwatch market with an actual connected timepiece, in the meantime, it will be releasing its $90 Bellamy watch, which could be used to make payments at stores, next year.

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