Swatch had previously announced plans to release a watch with built in NFC based payment abilities. At the time though, the Swatch Bellamy was only destined for China. Thanks to a new partnership with Visa, the Swiss watchmaker revealed the new NFC capable watch would also launch in the US, Brazil, and Switzerland in early 2016. The device looks every bit like a traditional Swatch watch and is available in 4 styles. There is nothing high-tech looking about the Bellamy; the NFC chip and antenna are hidden under the watch face. The battery life is comparable to a normal Swatch since the company is using passive NFC technology. US prices still are not know, but I would expect them to be similar to the approximate $90 price tag in China.
While the device sounds intriguing, its simplicity might be its biggest downfall. First – security. The use of passive NFC technology is great for battery life, but not so great at keeping your money safe. Unlike Apple Pay or Android Pay, there is no authorization needed to make a contactless payment with the Bellamy. If someone had the right equipment, they technically could simply bump into you and swipe money from the account connected to the NFC chip. Secondly, the lack of technology in the Bellamy complicates where the money is coming from. While some outlets are reporting that the watch connects to your Visa account, without Bluetooth (or power to the NFC chip) to associate the chip with your Visa credit card we think that the Bellamy will operate like a prepaid charge card. In fact, Swatch even alludes to the process of using the watch to pay for items as being “like a prepaid bankcard.” The prepaid concept is similar to how Google Wallet worked and that was far from successful. Bottom line, people want to make payments from their mobile devices with their own cards, not some virtual prepaid card that they have to monitor the levels of. Even worse than Google Wallet, with the Bellamy you don’t have an accompanying app and Bluetooth connection to simply check your balance and top off your “card.”
Swatch is taking an interesting approach to connected devices. The company seems hesitant to release a full featured smartwatch and instead is bringing to market very specialized-use watches. The Bellamy only does NFC payments, a Bluetooth / notification only device has been mentioned, and who can forget the Touch Zero One smart-beach-volleyball-watch (a very odd choice for a Swiss company). It will be interesting to see if the watchmaker continues to toe the line or decides to jump fully in; I am not sure their current approach is the right one though. It results in products simply feel a bit half-assed.