Swatch is teaming up with banking giants in China for the Swatch Bellamy, which will be a mobile payments-focused smartwatch.
The Swatch Bellamy, which will allow wearers to make purchases in stores that utilize China Unionpay's point-of-sale machines, will be tasked with posing as a challenge to the Apple Watch and the Samsung Gear smartwatches.
Among the banks that Swatch is teaming up with for the Swatch Bellamy is Bank of Communications, which is among the five biggest banks in the Asian country.
The Swatch Bellamy will be sold for 580 yuan, equivalent to about $91, starting in January from Swatch and Bocom outlets in China. The smartwatch, which utilizes a near-field communication chip underneath its dial to allow it to work the same way as a bank card, will then be later rolled out to the United States and Swatch's home country, Switzerland.
Swatch CEO Nick Hayek revealed that the decision to launch the Swatch Bellamy in China first instead of in its home country is due to the slow process that it is taking for Swiss banks to approve of the new technology.
"It is important for Swatch to have its own version of the 'smartwatch', as Apple and other technology companies seek to build beachheads on the left wrist," said Exane BNP Paribas analyst Luca Scola.
The Swatch Bellamy enters the smartwatch market as an underdog against Apple and Samsung's devices. However, it has one advantage - while the smartwatches of its rivals feature payment capabilities, they are not linked to China's Unionpay network.
All that said, the Swatch Bellamy is looking like it will be a disappointment. Hayek has spent months in creating hype for a Swatch-made smartwatch, while at the same time bashing competitors such as the Apple Watch. However, the Swatch Bellamy looks like a very basic Swatch watch, with only the inclusion of NFC payments as its interesting point.
Earlier in February, Hayek said that Swatch will be releasing an answer to the Apple Watch within three months, but that promise never materialized. The Swatch Bellamy's NFC payment capabilities is also becoming a standard feature in other wearable devices, with banks even beginning to offer NFC stickers that can transform any watch into a mobile payment device.
The mismatch between the hype for the Swatch smartwatch and the actual product only underscores the pressure that Swiss watchmakers are reportedly facing amid the rise of the smartwatch industry.