The beauty, charm and functionality of a NATO strap all unequivocally lay in their versatility. While your cheapest watch will look strong and well protected by such a strap, even a Patek Phillipe worth tens of thousands of pounds will look stylish on one of these utilitarian bands.
But, although this year has seen the wider watch industry clasp these straps and use them across all collections and styles, the NATO strap first came to prominence in 1973, when the British Ministry of Defence Standard 66-15 strap was standard issue for soldiers.
Nylon, in ‘Admiralty Grey’, with a width of 20mm and a chrome-plated brass buckle, this was the first NATO strap – functional and fail-safe. Over time – this strap is still produced and used by the armed forces to this day – the only change is a 2mm deduction in width down to 18mm. But, outside the military, the NATO strap has been altered almost beyond recognition.
Widths differ, colours change, and the number of patterns – from stripes and zigzags to more intricate checks and spots – have given the NATO strap an almost limitless number of applications. They even come in leather, these days – opening up a whole new spectrum of sartorial possibility.
So why should you invest in a watch with a NATO strap, or even just a new NATO strap for an existing watch? Allow us to enlighten you.
The nylon examples, especially, are virtually indestructible. They can withstand being twisted, or wet or torn, and are great for summer watches given their innate breathability. The material doesn’t deteriorate even in the way that leather does over time, and the lightweight design doesn’t add to much extra ‘bulk’ to your wrist.
That’s not to mention the ease with which they can be swapped around different watches, the new life they can breathe into older timepieces and that their value for money means that you can afford a strap in every colour or pattern you could ever want and still not break the bank. Convinced yet?
Even if you are, before you jump in and buy yourself a new NATO strap, the best feature of this military-grade invention is that it can survive a broken spring bar. This means that, even if a bar breaks or comes unattached, your watch will still hang on, not be lost forever as frequently happens with pedestrian straps. So start your NATO strap collection now, reinvent some of your watches, and clasp this horological trend with both hands. You can thank us later.