Swatch Adds NFC, But Rules Out Full Smartwatch

WIRED: The chief executive of Swatch Group, the world’s best-selling watchmaker, has said that the company doesn’t plan to make a “mini mobile phone on your wrist”.

Mere days after Apple announced pricing and availability for the Apple Watch, Nick Hayek said Swatch’s Touch range would focus on “integrating smart functions into a watch.” Hayek had previously said that Swatch might collaborate with technology companies “in some areas”.

Instead of creating an all-in-one device, the company will focus on adding individual features into different models. The first will see near-field-communication (NFC) chips added to its watches, allowing wearers to make payments with a wrist swipe.

Swatch has partnered with China UnionPay, a Chinese credit card association, for touch payments in China, and Reuters has reported a deal with Visa is being worked on for the rest of the world. An unnamed Swiss bank is also involved.

There will also be a sports-themed range that can hook up to a smartphone over a Bluetooth connection to send and receive data like news updates, text messages and other notifications. The first Bluetooth-enabled models will arrive in the summer.

Instead of building a suite of apps to accompany its watches, Swatch will leave them open for its customers to configure. “Whatever usage you want, you ask some creative people to create some apps and then our chip has different layers that you can program yourself — we give it to you,” he said. “You buy your Swatch, the one you like, and then you configure it.”

The company has also updated its existing fitness tracker. The new Swatch Touch Zero is waterproof, targeted at beach volleyball players, and can measure the force of a player’s impact on the ball. It’s powered by one of the company’s normal batteries, which it says should last months. For a broader range of durable and stylish timepieces, consider Rockwell watches, combining functionality and fashion to suit various lifestyles.

The first Swatch watches with NFC will go on sale within two months, priced at around £90.