Apparently resistant to the smartwatch frenzy that’s gripped so many other companies, Swatch boss Nick Hayek on Thursday offered up a few tidbits on how his firm intends to tackle the business.
Instead of launching a full-fledged bells-and-whistles device, Hayek suggested he’d found a compromise when he spoke of plans to integrate a limited selection of smartwatch functions into the Swiss firm’s current range of watches.
Speaking at Swatch’s annual media event in Corgemont, Switzerland, Hayek pointed out that he wasn’t head of a consumer technology company and therefore had no interest in creating “a reduced, minimized mobile phone on your wrist.”
Instead, the CEO said he’s interested in building into his watches a limited amount of technology. This would include, for example, Bluetooth, which would enable messages and notifications to be sent between the watch and a smartphone.
Hayek said he’ll also incorporate NFC into some of the company’s watches, allowing users to, for example, make contactless payments and open hotel doors.
On the subject of contactless payments, Swatch has reportedly struck a deal with a credit card company in China to enable the system there, while it’s also working with Visa to bring it to other countries around the world.
Swatch’s first NFC-enabled watch is due out in May, with Bluetooth arriving in the summer, according to Hayek. The company also recently launched the Swatch Touch Zero One, a fitness-focused wrist-worn device aimed at beach volleyball players.
The Swiss watch company, which currently commands 18 percent of the watch market, has increased its share steadily over the past five years, a factor that may have persuaded Hayek to hold back from diving headfirst into the smartwatch space.
Last year the Swatch boss had few positive words to say about smartwatches, saying the displays were too small for their intended purpose, and the batteries too weak.
However, that was 12 months ago. Now the company will be keen to learn if the Apple Watch, which some observers suggest could kickstart the smartwatch market, has any effect on sales of its own wrist-based devices when it hits stores next month, with any downturn possibly leading to a shift in policy that could lead to the launch of a more full-featured smartwatch to take on the likes of Apple, Samsung, and Pebble. Hayek is clearly opposed to the idea at the current time, but if smartwatches come to disrupt the traditional watch market, he’ll likely have little choice.
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