Swatch and Visa partner to one-up Apple Pay

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Apple Pay iPhone
Swatch isn't going to let Apple have all of the contactless-payment fun.
Photo: Apple

Like the Borg, Star Trek‘s race of cybernetically enhanced humanoids, Swiss watch maker Swatch is attempting to have the best of both worlds as it rolls out a partnership with Visa to bring Apply Watch-style contactless payment to its new line of analog timepieces.

Swatch announced the deal today, and the program will roll out early next year.

The new feature will reside in the Swatch Bellamy, which premiered in China last month. In that country, the watchmaker has partnered with China UnionPay and Bank of Communications to run transactions, but the Visa deal will bring it to the world. Visa customers in the United States, Switzerland, and Brazil will be the first to see the new feature in January, and the companies plan to expand from there.

Swatch announced its own entry into the smartwatch market in February. That device was the Touch Zero One, which the company marketed toward volleyball players.

Near-field communication tech for contactless payments is the only digital component of the Bellamy, however. It will still have hands and gears and everything, which may help keep the price competitive against the popular Apple Watch. Investor Business Daily reports that the cost of the device could be as low as $91 in China, which would definitely give the Bellamy an advantage.

We aren’t sure it’s that much of a threat to Apple’s smartwatch, though, and it shouldn’t be; it’s just adding a single new trick to the traditional devices some people prefer. A recent study from Argus Insights suggests that the most important features for people in the market for smartwatches are fitness-based ones like step counters and calorie trackers. Quick, convenient, cashier-shocking payments didn’t even make the top five.

Regardless, the Bellamy represents a shift in tone for the Swiss watch maker. Incorporating some tech may be the industry’s reaction to its steadily dropping export numbers since smartwatches first entered the market. We think that the world still has room for both smart and analog timepieces, but we don’t expect that this will be the last “crossover” device to come out.