Swatch watches to get NFC chips for wireless Visa payments in 2016

The watch maker is partnering with Visa so the NFC chip hidden inside its traditional timepieces work with contactless point of sale terminals.

Swatch Bellamy.jpg

Starting next year, you won't need a fancy smartwatch for contactless payments: Swatch plans to add an NFC, or near-field communications, chip to its first analog wrist watch.

Dubbed the Swatch Bellamy and due out in early 2016, the traditional timepiece will work with digital point-of-sale terminals similar to Apple Pay on the Apple Watch and other wireless payment types.

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Swatch is a little light on details for how the Bellamy will work but the company does say it has partnered with Visa. The NFC chip will be hidden under the watch's dial and won't impact battery life for the Quartz watch.

Since the Swatch Bellamy doesn't have any other wireless connectivity - there's no Bluetooth or Wi-Fi radios, for example - the solution sounds little different than bank cards with embedded short-range radio chips in them. That simplifies things but also means the Bellamy isn't directly tied to a phone app and makes me wonder how secure it is. What kind of identify verification process is there, if any?

Swatch alludes to the Bellamy working with linked Visa card, saying "Like a prepaid bankcard, a Swatch Bellamy watch allows customers to pay for items using merchants' contactless POS terminals." It may not, then, work with a credit card, but instead a Visa pre-paid or debit card.

Regardless, if sales of the Swatch Bellamy take off, it would enable more consumers to leave their wallet behind when shopping. And Swatch could eventually broaden availability since it owns many other watch brands including Omega, Longines, Tissot, and Hamilton, to name a few.

Swatch hasn't announced a price for the Bellamy but says it will first launch in the U.S., China, Switzerland, and Brazil. The company introduced the Bellamy for China last month, announcing a deal with UnionPay and China's Bank of Communications.