It’s hot as hell, and you’re on your way out with your timepiece on your wrist. But in this sunny weather the stainless steel strap can seem like overkill, and we all know how uncomfortable leather can be in hot weather. Enter the NATO strap. Made from straight-weaved nylon, featuring a solid, polished stainless steel buckle and strap keepers, the NATO strap has accelerated in popularity – as demonstrated on Google Trends, with a sharp increase of interest over time – particularly as a summer substitute for the more traditional straps.
During the 70s in the British MoD, the NATO strap was actually more commonly known as a G10 – a reference to the G1098 (G10 for short) form which members of the British military filled out to request the strap (and other items) from inventory. During this time, it was only available in ‘Admiralty Grey” with a width of 20mm and featured chrome-plated brass buckle and keepers (the strap had to specifically be functional for military usage). It ended up gaining the title NATO, as the straps featured a NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) stock number (NSN) on them – this is a 13 digit alphanumeric code used for identifying all standardised material items of supply.
Yet while its origins may lie in the military, it has now very much shifted into mainstream fashion – although not without its critics, who claim that the strap makes wristwatches look ‘cheap’. Despite this negative outlook from a minority of individuals, many high-end watchmaking brands have found themselves interwoven within the NATO strap trend. Take for instance Tudor, the high-end watchmaker who is arguably the most associated with the NATO strap. Their Tudor Heritage Chronograph (unveiled six years ago at the 2010 Baselworld) played a crucial role in accelerating public interest in the NATO strap. More recently the introduction of their new Black Bay Heritage Dive watches put the brand at the forefront of fashionably designed timepieces, with NATO straps well and truly back on people’s tongues.
But Tudor aren’t the only watchmaker embracing the NATO strap, here are five renowned models from other watchmakers which (our research has shown) are commonly spoken of in relation to NATO straps.
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe
Although the original version was released in 1953 (before the emergence of the NATO strap), the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe has in recent years become closely associated with this iconic military strap.
TAG Heuer Formula 1 James Hunt Limited Edition
Recently crowned Esquire’s Watch of the Week, this limited edition TAG Heuer Formula 1 has been designed to celebrate 40 years since Hunt’s 1976 Championship winning season. The black timepiece is available on a black NATO strap, emblazoned with red, blue and yellow stripes – matching Hunt’s kit and helmet.
Omega Seamaster 300 ‘Spectre’ Limited Edition
Omega have been prominent in hailing the rise of the NATO strap, and while we could choose a number of their timepieces, we’ll settle for the ‘Spectre’ Limited Edition of the Seamaster 300M – powered by Omega’s Master Co-Axial calibre 8400 movement.
Panerai Luminor Marina
As a model that was originally developed for the Italian Royal Navy during the Second World War, it’s hardly surprising that owners would want to enhance the military aesthetic, and customise their Luminor Marina with a NATO strap. While the brand itself doesn’t actively use NATO straps, the habits of their customers have now made Panerai associate with this style.
No list on NATO straps would be complete without mentioning the Rolex Submariner. In recent years it has become hugely trendy to adorn a black-and-grey striped NATO strap on to a Submariner, to copy the Rolex Submariner look seen in the James Bond film Goldfinger, – which (to be clear) didn’t actually feature a NATO strap, yet still played a crucial role in popularising the nylon strap.
In many ways the use of NATO straps on watches like the Submariner and Luminor Marina reflects the extent to which customization has become a prominent activity among luxury watches collectors. The extent to which means that we should be prepared to start seeing more prominent watch models being worn with this iconic nylon strap.