NATO Straps: An Introduction
NATO watch straps have a rich history behind them, not to mention decades of being proudly worn by multiple generations of well-dressed men. The history of the NATO strap is one of its biggest selling points, and it is worth digging into this style of strap’s background, whether you wear one already or are considering making one your strap of choice.
NATO watch straps were first worn by members of the British Ministry of Defense. Designed for use during times of war, the NATO strap often has a distinctive striped pattern and is typically made from fabric. However, NATO straps can also be made from leather – the NATO design has a style that is replicable in multiple materials.
The first use of NATO straps was in the early 1970s. These first NATO straps were black with two dark grey stripes running down their center, parallel to each other. Later iterations of the NATO strap featured the striped pattern in multiple color combinations.
NATO straps have affectionately been nicknamed “G10 straps,” named after the form that members of the British MOD had to fill out in order to acquire one of the straps. The NATO strap design has also found favor in the eyes of many watch collectors and film enthusiasts, thanks to its multiple appearances in James Bond movies. 007 is known for his sharp dressing and sporting of luxury watches, and his use of a NATO strap further cemented the design in popular culture.
Fans of NATO watch straps praise them for their durability, unique look, and how affordable they can be. This type of watch strap is often cheaper due to often being made from canvas or other fabrics instead of from leather or metal. However, NATO watch straps can still be found made from more elegant materials, particularly leather.
How NATO Straps Differ From Other Watch Bands
The uniqueness of NATO watch straps doesn’t end with their distinct appearance. NATO watch straps are also attached to a watch in a specific way. A NATO strap is fastened to a watch by running directly underneath the watch and threading through the two strap locks on the left and right sides of the watch. Whereas quick-release watch bands are attached to a watch without threading underneath the watch itself, NATO straps thread underneath the watch for additional tightness and security. Quick-release watch bands feature locking pins that fasten them to your watch, but NATO straps do not. The absence of these pins makes it necessary for a NATO strap to be threaded through the strap locks on your watch instead of being directly attached to the locks.
A NATO watch strap is fastened to the wearer’s wrist by a pair of stainless steel buckles. The wearer threads the watch strap through this pair of buckles similarly to a belt. Whereas metal watch bands rely on a clasp to fasten shut, NATO straps stay fastened using this pair of buckles, with the length of the strap threaded through one buckle and then the next for extra security.
Because they are typically made of durable fabric like nylon, NATO watch straps are famously easy to clean. The durability of a NATO strap also makes the design a favorite among outdoorsmen, as well as deep-sea divers, who often pair a NATO strap with a dive watch to prevent water damage and resist the intense pressure of ocean depths.
Quick-Release Leather NATO Straps
Although they may be less common than the traditional nylon NATO strap, some NATO watch straps are made from leather and feature quick-release pins for easy attaching and detaching. Like traditional NATO straps, these leather straps feature the signature NATO double-buckle mechanism but are attached to a watch using quick-release pins and attached to the left and right sides of a wristwatch.
Leather NATO straps are a departure from the original design used by the British Ministry of Defense. However, these straps still retain a timeless, classic look and can be excellently paired with a wide array of outfits, from casual to formal.
Installing A Leather NATO Strap
Quick-release watch bands are quick, simple, and convenient to install. These straps are designed to attach to a watch using tiny pins, which lock into the left and right sides of the watch and can be released using a small lever. Quick-release straps are easy to swap out with other straps, making them ideal for anyone looking to diversify their style by switching their straps out.
If you are currently wearing a watch and want to switch its strap out for a leather NATO strap, you’re in luck. The process takes just a few quick steps. To start, clear out a clean, level space to work on. Make sure your space is well-lit since you will be working with some small and easy-to-lose parts.
The first step in the process is to remove your current watch strap so that your watch stands alone. If you have a quick-release watch band on your watch, all you need to do to remove it is gently press the release levers on each side of your watchband. These levers will disconnect your strap from the locks on either side of your watch.
Once you have removed your old watch strap, set it aside for safekeeping. Hang onto this strap as an alternative to your new one, switching them out at any point when you need a change of pace. Owning multiple watch straps can be a big help when you want to give different outfits a distinctive look by making just a small, simple change. You’ll be amazed by how much a new watch strap can do for your look.
Next, take your leather NATO watch strap and connect the first pin to your watch. Making this connection is similar to switching out an empty roll of toilet paper. A quick-release watch strap features a pin that can be pushed in using a tiny lever, similarly to the retractable rod that holds a roll of toilet paper in place. Pushing this lever in retracts the pin, allowing it to be locked into your watch. Think of it as pushing the toilet paper rod into place, retracting it, and then letting it spring back to its standard size to securely rest in place.
Repeat this process for the other side of your watch, and your strap will be securely in place. It’s as simple as that. If you’d like a little bit more guidance, check out this video from Jack Mason so that you can be sure you’re doing it right.
Leather Watch Band Maintenance
Maintaining your leather watch strap will extend its lifespan and keep it looking great for as long as possible. Leather is a classic and classy material, but it is also highly absorbent, picking up dirt, oil, and grime for long periods of time spent on your wrist. Periodically cleaning your watch band will help to prevent bad smells from musty, dirty leather and can also keep your strap from becoming brittle and cracked.
Cleaning a leather watch band takes just a few tools – leather conditioner, soap, and a clean cloth. To start out your cleaning, do a quick dry wipedown of the watch strap with a clean cloth. Microfiber is the ideal material for your cleaning cloth – it is highly absorbent and abrasive enough to wipe off any small debris. This dry wipedown gets any physical grime off of your watch band before you add any liquids to the mix.
After you have done the dry wipe down of your watch band, take a clean rag and get it damp with warm, soapy water. Gently wipe the watch band down with this rag to remove any oil and dirt that might be deeply embedded in the strap.
Finally, you can complete the cleaning process with a small amount of leather conditioner. Use a conditioner designed for jewelry rather than one meant for furniture, as these two types of leather conditioner are formulated differently from each other. A little bit of leather conditioner goes a long way, and it can help to preserve the quality of your leather NATO watch strap for years to come.
NATO Straps Are Simple, Stylish And Timeless
A quick-release leather NATO watch strap is one of the most versatile and classic bands you can put on your watch. Perfect for both formal and casual outfits, leather is a material that can be paired with a wide variety of looks, giving a timeless look to anything from a t-shirt and jeans to a suit and tie. If you want extra formality, go for black leather. For a more rugged look, brown leather is the way to go.
To diversify the look and feel of your watch, you can periodically switch out your leather NATO strap for a traditional nylon one. Nylon NATO straps have a distinct look reminiscent of a golden era of watches that will be revered and remembered for decades to come.