New contactless payment chip can be transferred from one watch to another

Swiss watchmaker Mondaine has partnered with embedded security specialist Oberthur Technologies (OT) to offer watch contactless payments.

The new contactless payment chip is the size of a SIM card and is independent from the watch, OT said last week. Rather than being integrated inside the watch, the chip is inserted into the watch strap. This allows users to easily remove it and use it with another watch.

Initially available in Switzerland, the “PayChip” is secured within a specially-designed, patent pending part of the Mondaine watch strap on the 12 o’clock side, or inside a strap loop which can be fitted to most watches. The positioning of the chip allows the wearer to make fast Near Field Communication (NFC) payments with a simple flick of the wrist, the watch maker said.

“The Mondaine pay chip inside our watch strap, provided by OT, allows the consumer not only to be independent of its wallet but also to switch the pay chip between watches. This definitively gives us advantages over our competitors in the watch and mobile industry,” commented Mondaine CEO André Bernheim.

The payment chip will also enable banks to offer their cardholders “an enhanced value proposition” with the convenience of contactless payment, added Eric Duforest, managing director of OT’s Financial Services Institutions business.

Bernheim told Bloomberg that Mondaine will start offering the PayChip as an extra feature for some of its watches by August, at no added cost. The watches start at 200 francs (£144).

The news source also reported on how other Swiss watchmakers have been approaching smartwatches, with Richemont’s IWC and Montblanc brands opting to put intelligent functions into the strap rather than the watch. That way, the owner can simply replace the strap — rather than the whole watch — when the technology becomes obsolete.

Mondaine may also introduce smart watch straps.

“We’re looking into adding more intelligent functions into the strap in the future,” Bernheim said.

Contactless technology is rapidly gaining favour with UK consumers as a simple, speedy and convenient way of paying for purchases. An increasing number of merchants in a wide range of fields – from fashion houses to leisure facility providers – are seeing the potential of wearable payment technology now that the public has grown used to tapping their debit cards, or phones, on point of sale readers.

The Swiss watchmakers are not themselves responsible for developing the chip technology, but their products are one of the most common vehicles in which chips are mounted. Adding chips to watch straps, rather than to the watches themselves, is a practical way of protecting a luxury watch against the risk of rapid obsolescence as the payment technology moves on.

What wearables consumers are content to use for contactless payments – bands, bracelets, glasses, necklaces, mobile devices, watches, watchstraps, etc. – remains to be seen and may well depend on the extent to which they offer other functionality, like fitness or health apps.  Paul Anning, Partner

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