Swatch has partnered with Visa on a watch capable of making smartphone payments with the swipe of your wrist.
The Swatch Bellamy, scheduled to launch in early 2016, can be used anywhere contactless Visa payments are accepted, the companies jointly announced Monday. It looks much like any other Swatch watch, but has an NFC (near-field communications) chip inside, giving it its payments power. Unlike other smartphones, the Bellamy doesn't connect to the Internet and makes payments without using the watch's battery.
Switzerland-based Swatch is the world's largest watchmaker by revenue. It's one of several traditional watchmakers collaborating with companies outside of their industry to make connected timepieces. Watchmaking for many years had seen little innovation, but partnerships that have sprung up in 2015 show the industry's biggest names are now embracing change.
In the last month alone, Tag Heuer unveiled a watch that runs Google's Android Wear software. Fossil, which makes watches for major fashion brands like DKNY and Armani, bought wearables company Misfit.
Unlike tech companies, which generally have been building watches around sensors and software, watch companies have been more targeted in their features. Rather than equipping the Bellamy with notification vibrations and every conceivable fitness-tracking capability, Swatch has focused on a single use case: payments.
Swatch didn't offer much else in terms of specs on the Bellamy, other than promising payment transactions use no energy, so users can expect the same battery life they get from any other Swatch model. That addresses a longtime sticking point for almost all wearables -- that they need to be charged. The Apple Watch, for example, is rated as having up to 18 hours of battery life.
Swatch also didn't disclose a price for the Bellamy, which will launch in the US, Switzerland and Brazil early next year. The company first unveiled the Bellamy in October in China, where the watchmaker is partnering with China UnionPay and Bank of Communications.
The Bellamy is named after American writer Edward Bellamy, who in his 1888 novel "Looking Backward 2000-1887" predicted the rise of the credit and debit card. The phrase "bel ami" also means "good friend" in French. "The new Bellamy watch will doubtless become a good friend to its wearer," the company said in a press release.
Swatch did not immediately respond to a request for comment.