The NATO strap has been woven into our subconscious ever since Sean Connery popped one on his Big Crown Rolex Submariner in 1964’s Goldfinger. That model was a blue, green and red striped fabric band, and young Bond paired it niftily with a white tuxedo and red carnation in order to defeat a chubby German in a towelling romper suit.
A noble aim, but not one for which these simple, striped straps were originally intended. Nor, in fact, were they made for the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, as many assume. Instead, the name comes from the number that these straps were given by the Ministry of Defence. When a soldier required one he would have to fill out a G10 form and he’d be supplied with something labelled with the NATO stock number G1098.
The nylon webbing wristbands first appeared in this form in 1973, but today they’ve evolved from military stock to become a true stylistic statement. The advantages are self evident: sweat-wicking properties, endless interchangeability, a lightweight, summery feel, and a softer, more understated appearance on the wrist. Here are eight watches that wear them particularly well.
For a tough timepiece, the Tudor Black Bay Bronze
Fresh from Baselworld this year, the latest addition to Tudor’s Black Bay family is this handsome bronze model. Made from one of the toughest metals out there, this is a timepiece that pairs perfectly with the outdoorsman’s favourite watch strap.
Tudor Black Bay Bronze
For vintage style, the IWC Pilot’s Watch Spitfire
If there’s one type of watch that looks reliably excellent on a NATO strap, it’s the vintage pilot’s watch. That’s why we have two on this list. This model is part of IWC’s latest collection that will accompany the Silver Spitfire on its journey circumventing the globe in August.
IWC Pilot’s Watch Spitfire
For the environmentalists, the Breitling Superocean Heritage II
This could be one of the most eco-friendly watches on our list, with a strap made from a material called ECONYL that consists of nylon waste. This particular model has been created from the collaboration between Breitling and famous surfer and eco-warrior Kelly Slater.
Breitling Superocean Heritage II
For the modern adventurer, the Montblanc 1858 Automatic
“Precise, legible and robust.” That’s how Montblanc describe their new 1858 line, and to survive in the outdoors that is exactly what they need to be. Encased in a hardy bronze these timepieces are tough to beat, while their legibility an essential feature for the rough weather conditions faced by the modern adventurer.
Montblanc 1858 Automatic
For military precision, the Bell & Ross BR V2-92 military Beige
Beige-dialled watches are something of a rarity these days, but this number from Bell & Ross looks modern and vintage all at once. The watchmaker’s delved into military timers of the past to produce this satin-polished case watch that comes with an elastic canvas strap for added comfort.
Bell & Ross BR V2-92
For utilitarian charm, the Vertex M100B
An original member of the “Dirty Dozen” this is a pilot’s watch filled with nostalgia and utilitarian charm. True to its military pedigree, the M100B comes with two hardy NATO straps that can be switched out depending on which theatre of war (or beach-front bar) you find yourself in.
For deep-sea divers, the Oris Divers Sixty-Five
This diver’s watch from the aquatic watch brand Oris is submerged in history. It comes with excellent touches such as a bronze bezel and rose gold accents on the indices and hands. Plus, the automatic movement and 100m water resistance means this is a watch that will keep going as long as you do.
Oris Divers Sixty-Five
For the racers, the Chopard Grand prix de Monaco Historique 2016 Race Edition
Created to honor the Grand Prix de Monaco Historique (of which Chopard are the official sponsor and timekeeper) this watch channels the race’s classical edge through Chopard’s impeccable watch making. The titanium case paired with the NATO straps makes this seemingly chunky timer as light as a modern-day F1 car’s spoiler.
Chopard Grand prix de Monaco Historique 2016 Race Edition
More a Rolex man? Check out the best releases from the brand this year so far…