Payments with a flick of the wrist were an inevitable evolution of smartwatch technology. Unfortunately for this side of the mobile fence, Apple and their Apple Pay-packing Apple Watch beat the fledgling Android Wear to the proverbial punch. In some parts of the world, however, Apple’s newest bauble has yet to get its feet wet with NFC payments. One of those places is China. In China, at least, it would seem that Apple is the one being beaten to the punch by Swiss watchmaker Swatch, who took the stage in Shanghai announced the Bellamy. This stylish and well-crafted, but otherwise unremarkable analog watch features an NFC chip hidden under the dial, allowing hassle-free payments. Rather than being a consummate smartwatch, the Bellamy sets its sights squarely on the space of swipe-free payments. More functions, including conversion into a full smartwatch, are still on the table, but it looks as though the simple watch will stay simple, only featuring an NFC chip.
In China, Swatch has shacked up with UnionPay and Bank of Communications for the device’s backend, allowing customers to make payments anywhere those company’s normal NFC-packing offerings would be welcomed. The Bellamy will also be sold at Bank of Communications locations, allowing quick and easy onsite setup. As the watch won’t connect to the internet, this will be an ideal way to get the wrist-mounted payment system configured. There has been no word on whether you will be able to program the watch with your phone via NFC. The NFC chip in the Bellamy is designed to to require no power, or at least, an entirely negligible amount, to operate. This will most likely allow the new device to use a regular watch battery.
The struggle in China has been very real for Apple and this competitor coming in to stomp down one of the Apple Watch’s key features before it’s even off the ground is certainly not going to make things easier. An entry-level device like this, seemingly made for those who only wanted this one feature or as an intro to smartwatches in general, is more than certain to undercut the Apple Watch on price. The watch will also have a well-designed luxury build. Swatch has taken clear aim at Apple in China with this endeavor. In January, we’ll be able to find out if the shot hit its mark in China, with a worldwide release following at an unspecified date thereafter.