I honestly wasn’t expecting much from Swatch’s answer to the Apple Watch, but the Swiss watchmaker still managed to disappoint me. Rather than equipping its smartwatch with all the bells and whistles (and sensors) that other companies use as the selling point for their smartwatches, Swatch decided to basically just take a regular watch and give it mobile payment functionality, that’s it. With how much the company has been hyping up this smartwatch and bashing the Apple Watch, I thought it’d at least try to do something cool, but this isn’t even a new concept. The worst part is the fact that the smartwatch, called the Swatch Bellamy, is exclusive to China.
Swatch Group AG is linking up with China’s banking giants to sell a timekeeper that can make payments at retailers across the country, posing a challenge to Apple Inc.’s and Samsung Electronics Co.’s smartwatches. The timepiece will allow users to make payments at stores that have China UnionPay Co.’s point-of-sale machines, according to the Biel, Switzerland-based company which is also teaming up with Bank of Communications Co., one of China’s big-five banks. Retailing for 580 yuan ($91), the device called Swatch Bellamy will be sold in China at Bocom and Swatch outlets from January next year and later rolled out in Switzerland and the U.S., Chief Executive Officer Nick Hayek said at a briefing in Shanghai on Wednesday. A near-field communication chip beneath the dial lets the device function in a way similar to a bank card. Talking about why the watch was being sold in China first, Hayek said that while Swatch always considered its home territory of Switzerland first, “my God, it takes months and months and years” to do something new with Swiss banks. The introduction of the watch comes as Swiss watchmakers have struggled with a shrinking Chinese market since the country’s government started discouraging exuberant spending among officials in late 2012. With the Apple Watch on sale for as little as $349, traditional watchmakers are adding electronic functions to their own products.