Swatch Group plans to release its first Internet-connected smartwatch later this summer. The Wall Street Journal reported that CEO Nick Hayek told his company's shareholders that the device would be released in Switzerland and "one big country" that he didn't specify.
Swatch Group is the world's largest watch company. In addition to the budget Swatch brand, the holding company owns luxury brands such as Longines, Omega, and Tissot. Its two largest markets are the U.S. and China, one of which is likely the unspecified big country.
Mr. Hayek was spare on details about the watch, but did say it would have NFC capabilities and handle mobile payments. To that end, Swatch already has a deal in place with China UnionPay, an association of bank-card institutions in China. Dollars to donuts says this makes China the "big country," rather than the U.S.
Swatch and its CEO have vacillating past on smartwatches, with Mr. Hayek making statements denigrating the concept and leaving this market to others at one moment, and then promising to do do something nifty keen the next. He's also claimed that all of the top technology companies have been coming to Swatch to work with them on unspecified watch projects.
But Mr. Hayek is a vibrant and charismatic leader who isn't above using a bit of misdirection to keep competitors guessing. Perhaps the most relevant of his many quotes on smartwatches is:
Whoever brings a battery for a smartwatch to the market that you don’t need to charge for six months has a competitive advantage. We’re working intensively on this problem with our research group Belenos and battery producer Renata. Next year we will come to the market with a revolutionary battery, not only for watches but also for automobiles.
That quote was made just this month, and if Swatch and its research partners can deliver on it, it could be a boon to wearable computing. And automobiles.
In March of this year, Reuters reported that Mr. Hayek said, "We are the world champions of integrating smart functions into a watch. We don't want to produce a mini mobile phone on your wrist. Others can do that."
How that translates into what Swatch actually does remains to be seen.
Unfortunately, Mr. Hayek didn't show off the device he plans on releasing. Below, however, we have a photo of the Swatch Touch One Zero Volleyball Watch, a fitness oriented device.
Swatch Touch One Zero Volleyball Watch