What you will learn
TheWatchFace’s Guide for NATO Straps will provide you with the following:
- A Brief History of NATO Straps including it’s advantages
- A tutorial on how to fit them
- NATO Straps and Fashion
- A style guide on matching the right NATO strap to your watch
- Caring for your NATO Straps
- Our recommended places to Buy NATO Straps
We hope you enjoy the guide and would love to hear what you have to say in the comment section below the post!
NATO Straps – A Brief History
The NATO Strap (pictured) was invented by the British Navy during the second world war for their diver’s watches.
It was introduced to surpass the traditional leather strap which was used by the rest of the military watches of the time, which quite frankly was not suited for diving as the leather would become soggy and degrade over time.
This would cause the strap to break at it’s weakest point, the end where the spring bar holds it. Also, the leather straps were often much too short to fit around a wetsuit, which was a problem for divers.
Also, the NATO strap is not affiliated with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, but simply bears the same name because of stock keeping codes when they were initially produced.
A NATO strap was designed to counter these problems in the most effective way possible, and introduced the following:
- Nylon material for ultimate longevity
- A longer strap to fit around a wet suit
- A secure system to hold both spring bars so that if one were to fail the watch would not fall off (more on this later)
Having solved these problems, the NATO straps proved to be an instant success, and some even believe it is the best watch strap from a utilitarian point of view to this very day.
How to fit a NATO Strap
Fitting a NATO Strap is a very easy thing to do, and the process can be divided into 7 simple steps.
Once you have removed the old straps from your watch (step 1), you will be able to easily fit and remove NATO straps without any specialist tools.
Step 1 (Optional):
Removing the old strap or bracelet from your watch.
Depending on what type of strap your watch currently has, it can be removed in various different ways.
If you do not feel like you will be able to do this step yourself, take the watch to your local jewellers and tell them you wish to fit a NATO strap, so they should remove the current strap or bracelet but leave the spring bars in place, so that the watch looks like the ones in the picture below:
It should not cost you much at all and if they charge you too much it can easily be done yourself – just google or look up a tutorial on youtube on how to remove watch straps.
Once you successfully removed the watch strap, put the spring bars back in place as seen in the picture of the watches above.
Thread the non buckle end of the strap through the top spring bar gap of your watch at the 12 o’clock position:
Thread the non buckle end of the strap through the bottom of the spring bar gap at the 6 o’clock position:
Pull the non buckle end through so the watch sits smooth on the NATO Strap, and the non buckle end through the metal loop at the bottom of the shorter piece of the strap which hangs off the bottom:
Pull the strap through the loop completely by the non buckle end and you have successfully fitted the NATO Strap! It should look somewhat like this:
Now if you wish to fir the watch to your wrist to wear it, start by putting it on just like any other buckle watch strap:
Now if you do not have a large end of the strap sticking out at the end and can easily tuck it into the metal loops on that side, you are done!
However, in most cases there will be a lot of extra strap left over as they were designed to fit over a diving wet suit. Not to worry though, this can easily be resolved using step 7.
Once you threaded the non buckle end of the strap through both metal loops on that side, take the top and fold it backwards and stick it back into the top metal loop:
And there you go! You have now successfully fitted the NATO strap to your wrist:
You can now enjoy wearing your watch on one of the most comfortable, most secure, most affordable watch straps to ever hit the market.
Big fashion watch brands have also started to realise just how good these straps are and have started turning them into a fashion icon. More on that in the following section:
NATO Straps and Fashion
Recently, NATO straps have been showing up more and more in the fashion world, turning them into quite a fashion icon.
A popular example of a huge company using the NATO strap in their watches as a style addition is Daniel Wellington, and some of their watches can be seen here:
(Image Credit – Design55)
As these are fashion watches, the NATO strap used is not one with a long end to the strap as these are not watches you should use when going diving etc, but from a fashion and style standpoint look very good.
NATO straps are not only the perfect utilitarian solution, but also offer huge variation in colours and styles so that it can fit almost any watch and can even be used as a fashion accessory.
NATO Strap Watch Strap Style Guide
Even though it is very easy to pick a good NATO strap for your watch, there are still some best practices involved to ensure that you get the best end result possible.
The basics are as follows:
If your watch has a plain face with not many different tones and colours, then pick a NATO strap with either a vibrant colour, or one with straps.
On the other hand, if your watch has a complicated face with a range of colours and tones, it is usually better to pick a NATO strap with a duller tone or colour to enable the watch face to stand out and to stop a clash.
On the left in the picture below I have an example of my Seiko SKX009, next to a Boccia Bund watch.
As you can see, for the Bund I chose a strap which stood out more to compliment the plainer colour scheme of the watch, and for the Seiko I chose a plain red NATO strap which doesn’t over complicate the watch and cause colour clashing.
It is important to remember that this so called ‘rule’ is only a general guide which of course has it’s exceptions.
If you spot a NATO strap that you like with your watch and it doesn’t follow this rule then that doesn’t matter. The most important thing is that you like your watch as you will be the one owning and enjoying it.
The ‘rules’ of this guide are simply to be used as a starting point if you do not know what to get.
Often times, a colour opposite the watch’s colour from the colour wheel looks great too to compliment the watch.
A popular example is wearing an orange strap on a blue dialled watch:
This may not be for you, but it is seen a lot especially in this way, an orange nato strap on a blue dialled diver’s watch.
Caring for your NATO Straps
The good thing about NATO straps is unlike almost all other watch straps and bracelets, they require little to no maintenance at all.
They are safe to be used in water, so if they get dirty you can rinse them off or even wash them with soap and they will be completely fine unlike most other watch straps.
As you can see in the image above, it is very easy to wash a NATO strap and this is about all the maintenance they will ever need.
The good thing of course about these NATO straps, is that they are extremely cheap so in the unlikely event that one should break beyond repair, it is very easy and cheap to pick up a new one!
If you are unsure about where to buy them, then the next section of this guide with our recommended dealers and vendors will be helpful for you.
Where to buy NATO Straps
When buying NATO straps, it is very important you first find out the lug width of your watch, to ensure you get the right size.
The best way to do this is to find out your watch model, and search google for the following ‘(My Watch Model) Lug Width’, obviously replacing ‘(My Watch Model)’ with the model of your watch.
Most modern men’s watches have lug widths of 18mm, 20mm and 22mm. There are of course exceptions, however these are by far the most common ones.
Buying a NATO Strap
Depending on which country you are in, this can vary greatly.
A company that we got in touch with that provided the straps for this guide, Wrist Candy Watch Club offers straps from very soft, luxurious nylon which wears much more comfortably than most other NATO straps.
They also glue the sides of the holes so that thy don’t fray, as well as offering smaller loops so that the strap is more versatile.
Overall, the straps they offer are of exceptional quality, and we highly recommend them.
Alternatively, you can order from eBay for a bit lower price, but the quality won’t be as high at least for the ones we’ve tried.
Simply searching eBay for ‘nato strap’, will give you results something like this:
We strongly recommend you stay away from leather NATO straps as they are not original, not as durable and not fit for contact with water.
You should pick out a Nylon Nato strap, which should cost you no more than £14 in the UK, or around $20 in the US.
Make sure that when you are buying the strap, you select your watch’s correct lug width, otherwise you will have issues fitting the strap.
Wrapping it up
We hope you enjoyed our complete guide on NATO Straps, and we would love to see your watch on it’s new NATO!
Be sure to contact us with pictures of your watches on NATO Straps for a chance to be featured on TheWatchFace!
If you enjoyed the guide, please share it on social media and leave a comment below if you have anything more to say!