The Nato Strap - Why So Damn Cool?
Now, there is a risk that this will come across as a bit of a pitch. Yes, I sell my own NATO’s and of course I want you to buy them but that’s not why I’m writing this post. Feel free to check out our straps, but there are so many different colours, styles and materials out there that I’d be doing you a disservice if I didn’t encourage you to mix and match. Also, being able to mix it up is one of the reasons NATO straps have stood the test of time, so fill your boots and let’s talk watch straps…. With as much neutrality as possible!
The NATO strap was developed by the British military in the early 70’s. A simple piece of nylon that was tough, durable and functional. It was designed to keep a timepiece on the wrists of those who served, even in the event of a spring bar failure or malfunction. The idea was that, if one of the bars failed, the watch would remain on the wrist of the wearer allowing for repair later. Today the NATO can be made from different grades of Nylon and use different metals but overall, they remain relatively unchanged and have thankfully stood the test of time.
I was at a Breitling event last year for the release of the Aviator 8 Mosquito and in a fancy cabinet on a spinning display was a collection of colourful NATO straps. Sure, they were hugely expensive but it highlighted that there is still a market for this type of accessory. Since then I have seen more manufacturers and brands offer NATO straps for their watches. Omega has a wide range of straps which looks fantastic. Their most recent 007 Edition comes with a NATO option and I actually prefer it than the titanium mesh variant. Tudor have also manufactured their own NATO straps and, on the Blackbay 58, you can’t go wrong. The BB58 is arguably on one of the best daily drivers out there, so with a NATO option it just feels ready for anything.
Flickr: ImranBecks - Omega Seamaster 007 Edition
Side note; Usually getting a watch on a NATO band is cheaper so, if you’re on a budget, it’s something that can save you a few hundred quid, especially from a higher end brand. On the Omega 007 Edition mentioned above, that’d be a saving of over £800 (At the time of writing). And, in my opinion, it looks better!
But what is it about the NATO strap that makes it so popular? This small slip of nylon that was originally designed for function rather than fashion has really earned its place in the watch world. With just a quick scroll of Instagram, you’ll find a whole host of field and diver watches rocking a NATO.
Probably first and foremost is that they’re cheap. You can pick a NATO strap up for a few quid on Amazon or Ebay. If you want better quality material that’ll stand the test of time, check out our range at…… Just kidding! Let’s keep it neutral! The point is, prices vary and, while you do get what you pay for, it allows you to customise your watch to suit your needs without breaking the bank.
Additionally, you can mix and match. NATO’S come in all styles, colours and designs. You want your favourite team colours? Want to show support during Pride? Do you feel like going tactical and rocking an all-black? Fine - to all of the above. The NATO comes in so many combinations that you could probably wear a different one every day. There is literally something for everyone and every watch.
And this is the thing. When we buy a watch, even a high-end brand, we aren’t actually getting something that unique. Sure, it is unique in the sense that not everyone has a one on their wrist and there’s no doubting the craftsmanship and quality of a Swiss watch. But, if you buy a Rolex Submariner today, it’d be the same submariner I could buy tomorrow (if we could actually walk into an AD and get one... miracles can happen). We could meet up at a coffee shop (when they open again #lockdown), put them side by side and they’d be the same watch. We could even mix them up, swap them around behind our backs and not know for sure if we had our original watch on our wrist.
And that’s the beauty of a NATO. It allows you take something fairly “generic” (for lack of a better word) and make it yours. Change it in a way that gives it a little personality, one that probably matches your own. And if not your personality, you could simply match it to what you are wearing, which can be an expression of individuality in itself.
Additionally, adding a NATO strap can take a watch from formal to casual in seconds. Are you sitting in an office rocking a grey pinstripe? Fine, keep it on the bracelet. But when Friday comes and at 2.30 you’ve got one eye on the clock and your shirt sleeves are already rolled up, you know the NATO can join you in the early dart you’re definitely going to take! If you’re spending your weekend in jeans and a T-shirt, why keep things formal?
That being said, there are limits. You can’t be reckless and throw a NATO on anything and think you’re a bad ass! A sport watch? Yes. A rugged diver? Definitely! An A Lange & Sohne Lang 1?... No! Never! If you have a Lange 1, trust me… you’re already a bad ass!
But for me, this just nails what a NATO is. It’s your casual side, your adventurous side, even your rebellious side! In a way, the NATO strap has almost outgrown the watches we put them on and become synonymous with the outdoors and a sense of “readiness”. It’s the personification of adventure and excitement, signalling that, like the British Military in 1970’s, it’s ready for anything and is willing to go anywhere. It’s probably why they look so good on field watches.
The NATO strap has become something to appreciate. What was once just a functional strip of material to keep a soldier’s watch on the wrist now takes pride of place in boutiques, jewellers and on limited edition timepieces. They come in a range of colours, sizes and styles and grant us a sense of adventure and individuality when worn. Additionally, while a watch can and is often used as an accessory to elevate your style, the NATO strap can elevate the watch to match you, your personality and your uniqueness. I find it quite a wonderful thing.
Thanks for your time and stopping by!
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Additionally, you can check out our NATO straps at the store. They are available in 20mm & 22mm. Postage within the UK is free as well as all orders over £50.