Why it matters to you
If you don’t want a smartwatch but like the idea of paying for things with your wrist, the Timex Fairfield Contactless might be the watch for you.
There is a new way to pay for a cup of coffee with your watch and it doesn’t involve Apple Pay. On Friday, September 29, Timex announced a new hybrid wristwatch for U.K. markets, the Fairfield Contactless, that supports tap-and-go payments.
The Fairfield Contactless doesn’t support contactless transactions, unlike the Apple Watch. Instead, the requisite payments hardware, which based on British bank Barclaycard’s proprietary bPay chips, is stitched into the timepiece’s leather wrist straps and connects wirelessly to an Android or iOS smartphone via Bluetooth. A companion app lets wearers view recent transactions, top up their balance, and set spending limits.
“We are excited at the possibilities this technology offers consumers in payment solutions and will continue to work with our partners in bringing this to more of our collection,” Duncan Harris, Timex UK’s sales and marketing director, said in a statement.
It isn’t a perfect system, though. Because of U.K. Cards Association regulations, the bPay chip won’t process transactions greater than 30 euro ($40). And it doesn’t work at every retailer — Timex says about 490,000 locations in the U.K. currently support it.
But Tami Hargreaves, Barclaycard’s director of innovation and partnerships, made a case for its convenience. “[Our] partnership with Timex represents another exciting way ‘touch-and-go’ technology can be simply and stylishly integrated into fashion and accessories,” she said in a press release.
The Fairfield Contactless’s launch comes on the heels of Barclaycard’s other wallet-free payments ventures. In 2015, the firm partnered with Scottish knitwear brand Lyle and Scott to create a contactless jacket. And in 2017, it teamed with fashion brand TopShop on tap-and-pay winter clothing.
But Barclaycard’s ambitions are broader than apparel. The company recently unveiled the Loop, a 20 euro ($25.80), 22mm-wide contactless chip that lets any of its customers add NFC payment capabilities to watches they already own and partnered with Swiss watchmaker Mondaine and fitness device firm Garmin to bundle it with select products.
“bPay is the U.K.’s leading range of wearable payment products and was designed to meet customer demand for a new way of paying,” Hargreaves said. “Thanks to the huge growth we are seeing in contactless payments, we are increasingly becoming accustomed to being able to make low-value payments throughout the day in a quick, easy, convenient way.”
The Fairfield Contactless goes on sale in early November for 159 euro ($170), and owners of other compatible Timex watches can upgrade theirs by buying a bPay-compatible strap (in black or brown) a la carte.