Swatch Group, the world’s largest watchmaker by revenue, has announced its answer to the smartwatch. The $91 Swatch Bellamy, which will allow consumers to make contactless payments from their timepiece, will hit stores in China this January.
Instead of connecting to the Internet, the Bellamy contains near-field communication technology, allowing users to pay by simply touching their watch on a terminal. The new model is the watchmaker’s attempt to reduce the challenge posed by the Apple Watch; according to analysts, Swatch is one of the most exposed companies to this technological threat because of its status as a lower-end luxury brand.
Currently, Swatch has struck deals with both state-run China UnionPay Co.—which has near control over bank-card payment processing in China—and state-controlled lender Bank of Communications Co.
China is a very important market for Swatch, with 45 percent of sales coming from Chinese consumers. Recently, however, the company has also had to deal with a tougher economic situation in China as well as volatility in the country’s stock market. Swatch hopes that the new Bellamy model will improve its bottom line after net income fell nearly 20 percent year-on-year in the first half of this year.
The watchmaker hopes to roll out this model in other countries, including Switzerland and the United States, in the near future. CJ