PARIS — Swatch is dipping a toe into the smartwatch market.
The world’s biggest watchmaker, whose brands range from affordable Swatch watches to high-end Blancpain timepieces, has revealed it will incorporate electronic functions to measure personal fitness into its Swatch Touch line of plastic watches starting in 2015.
Swatch Group chief executive officer Nick Hayek unveiled the plan in an interview with Swiss weekly NZZ am Sonntag, published on Sunday. “Beginning in 2015, we will integrate fitness functions into Swatch Touch,” he said.
A spokeswoman for Swatch Group confirmed the report on Monday. The news comes days after Hayek denied reports that Swatch Group was working with Apple on a smartwatch project.
Industry observers are closely watching both companies for signs that they will enter the smartwatch category, which some analysts predict could be as successful as Apple’s iPhone. BI Intelligence, for instance, forecasts 91.6 million smartwatch units will be sold globally in 2018.
Hayek earlier this year confirmed he had been approached by technology firms including Google regarding a smartwatch collaboration, but added that Swatch Group was in no rush to enter the category, following the failure of Swatch’s Paparazzi watch, launched in 2004 with MSN Direct, a division of Microsoft. The watch promised wearers personalized information including news, sports, weather and stock quotes via the MSN Direct service, but failed to catch on.
“We have the technology and the know-how in-house so, of course, we are always getting visits from all those companies,” Hayek said at the group’s annual media conference in March. “We are not looking to do a collaboration with another U.S. company and we don’t need to. We are pioneers.”
In an early indication of the direction that Swatch Group would take, he said the group already provided the technology behind one of the world’s leading fitness bands, one of the hottest categories in wearable technology. “The whole display, plus chip and everything, is from us. We deliver to this American company,” he said, without naming the company involved.
Hayek has expressed skepticism about the potential of smartwatches on the grounds that they have weak battery power, allow the user’s whereabouts to be tracked and require third-party software.
Launched in 2011, the Swatch Touch is a touch-screen wristwatch with functions including time, alarm, chronograph and date. Existing versions retail for $140.