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Swatch adds tech features to watches, positive on 2015

Thursday, March 12, 2015 - 21:12
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Swatch Group, the world's largest watchmaker, on Thursday said it would compete with Apple Inc's upcoming smartwatch by baking inexpensive chips into existing watch lines to allow consumers to make payments with a swipe of their wrist.

[CORGEMONT, Switzerland] Swatch Group, the world's largest watchmaker, on Thursday said it would compete with Apple Inc's upcoming smartwatch by baking inexpensive chips into existing watch lines to allow consumers to make payments with a swipe of their wrist.

Chief Executive Nick Hayek told the company's annual results news conference that the outlook for 2015 results was "very good" despite the surge in the value of the Swiss franc.

"We see excellent sales and very good results everywhere in the world," Mr Hayek said. "This not only in turnover but also in profit."

The Swiss company plans to introduce new watches with additional near-field communications chip capabilities that provide functions such as building entrance control or contactless payments by consumers at retail check-out counters.

It said it was working in partnership with China UnionPay, the Chinese credit card association, as well and a Swiss bank and a major credit card company.

The credit card company, described as an Olympics sponsor, is likely to be Visa, a long-time backer of the event.

During the news conference, Mr Hayek unveiled an expanded range of its "Swatch Touch" smartwatch range and additional wireless functions for its watches, but he said the company was not looking to produce a wearable mobile phone.

He told reporters that the first watch models with near-field communications chips would go on sale in the next two months and that Bluetooth-enabled watches will become available by summer.

Short-range Bluetooth connections potentially would allow consumers to connect their watch to nearby mobile phones, enabling them to view updated information such as news or weather on their wrists from apps running on their mobile phones.

Mr Hayek did not specify what applications these watches might support.

"We don't want to produce a mini mobile phone on your wrist," Mr Hayek said. "Others can do that."

Apple on Monday detailed pricing for its new watch, due to go on sale in nine countries starting in April, including yellow or rose gold models with sapphire faces costing up to US$17,000.

REUTERS