- Prototype shown last year could help find lost keys, objects
- Watchmaker adds devices as shortsellers bet against stock
Swatch Group AG plans to introduce three smartwatches this year, including one next month for the Tissot brand, as the Swiss company jostles with Apple Inc. and TAG Heuer in the market for wearable devices that do more than tell time.
“Tissot will present a smartwatch at Baselworld,” Swatch Chief Executive Officer Nick Hayek said, referring to a trade fair that takes place in March. He declined to comment on the new device’s functions. The 163-year-old brand unveiled a prototype of a watch with Bluetooth last year that could help find lost objects and connect to weather stations.
Swatch also plans to start selling the Swatch Bellamy, a timepiece that can make mobile payments, in the U.S. and Switzerland by August, and has developed a Swatch Touch smartwatch with functions linked to the Olympics, Hayek also said in a phone interview on Wednesday.
The Biel, Switzerland-based company is gradually developing an arsenal of smartwatches and patents as short-sellers make a record level of bets against its stock. Hayek has been reluctant to jump into the market segment after Swatch failed with a pager device in the 1990s and discontinued a watch developed with Microsoft Corp. about a decade ago.
Makers of inexpensive timepieces have taken the brunt of the new competition. Shares of U.S. watchmaker Fossil Group Inc. fell 67 percent last year. While Swatch owns luxury brands such as Breguet and Omega, its namesake brand starts at about $50 and Tissot watches sell for about $200 and up. The Swiss company’s stock fell 21 percent last year.
For the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August, Swatch is planning a second version of Swatch Touch Zero, a low-cost timepiece the watchmaker introduced last year that offered functions related to a volleyball tournament. Its functions included a step tracker and a clap-o-meter that records the intensity of applause.