The world's largest watchmaker, Swatch unveiled its riposte to Apple's smartwatch on 12 March, announcing a plan to put cheap programmable chips in watches that will let wearers from China to Chicago make payments with a swipe of the wrist.

Swatch Group will start offering watches with near field communication (NFC) chips within two months, chief executive Nick Hayek said at a news conference on the company's annual results which were released last month.

"Whatever use that you want, you ask some creative people to create some apps and then our chip has different layers that you can programme, yourself. We give it to you. You buy your Swatch, the one you like, and then you configure it," Hayek said.

Apple's move into watches would open up a market where Swatch was already well positioned to compete, he said.

The Swiss company's strategy appears to revolve around including individual tech features in different models rather than going head to head with Apple, the world's most valuable firm, to create all-in-one smartwatches combining many functions.

"I have always said it's an opportunity for us, but we are not a consumer electronics company. We are not going to transform and put the mobile phone on the wrist. Let the others do it. Samsung did it, Sony did it, everybody does it," Hayek said.

For its near-field chips, which will cost around 2 francs (£1.34, $2) per watch, Swatch has teamed up with China UnionPay, the Chinese credit card association, as well as 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. Visa was not immediately available to comment.

Swatch is also launching a range of sports-themed "Swatch Touch" smartwatches which will be able to "buddy up" with a smartphone via a Bluetooth connection.

The first model will retail at 135 francs, about twice the cost of a regular Swatch watch with an NFC chip. Swatch shares were up 2.3 percent at 430.6 Swiss francs at 3.25pm.