Today we explore the question: are sailcloth watch straps any good?

I have been using NATO straps since the 1980s when I first swapped a steel bracelet on a Seiko 5 SQ100 for a fabric G10 NATO during a posting to the Gulf. Immediately the strap was far more comfortable in heat and I never looked back. Early straps always frayed at the ends and were, effectively, disposable. Around 10 years ago I discovered ZULUDIVER, and everything changed. These straps were well made and highly durable. They shook off saltwater, cleaned up well, and the metalwork never rusted.

Today I have systematically swapped all of my watches over to ZD NATOs and now have a rather odd box in the back of my watch drawer which contains a collection of expensive original leather straps and steel bracelets from Omega, Rolex and Breitling, none of which now see much daylight! I will always be a staunch advocate of the ZULUDIVER NATO, it is a fabulous strap, and really did not think Geckota could improve on it until I tested an E-01 watch on a new ZD Sailcloth strap on a trip to Thailand. It was a revelation – quite possibly the best watch strap I have ever used.

The E-01 in Thailand... - Image Credit: Richard Brown

The original flat Sailcloth (there are now additional padded and perforated models) was instantly soft from first opening and felt incredibly durable. I thoroughly enjoyed wearing it for my 2-week test in very hot and humid conditions. Build quality, function and comfort were perfect. The grey stitching was stylish and subtle. Throughout the experience, it reminded me of the fine black nylon strap that comes with the Omega Speedmaster Dark Side of The Moon Special edition. I always hugely admired this strap and I had looked to buy one for my Professional Moonwatch from a local Omega boutique. However, I changed my mind when the manager of the shop cheerfully quoted £300 for the two-piece strap alone and another £150 for the unique black deployment buckle it required!

Fortunately, the ZULUDIVER Sailcloth seemed to create exactly the same look on the E-01, without sacrificing feel or style, and I could not wait to get back to the UK to try the strap on my Speedy.

It exceeded my expectations; the Sailcloth looked superb on the Moonwatch and created the precise image I was after at a fraction of the cost of the Omega original. The matt satin black surface sits beautifully against the similar colour of the dial and the grey stitching perfectly reflects the colour of the Lunar surface. The construction of the fabric gives a real impression of security and durability. Overall, the strap creates a reassuringly solid base for the watch to sit on, taking the weight of the steel case. It could not be more perfect on the Moonwatch if Geckota had designed it for that purpose alone.

Sailcloth on the Speedmaster - Image Credit: Richard Brown

The strap comes as standard with a smart brushed steel ZD branded buckle. This complements a stainless or titanium watch very well. If you prefer you can also acquire an identical black PVD coated buckle for that Spec Ops look. This would work especially well if your chosen watch was a black PVD military-style watch such as a Traser, Luminox or MTM.

Several months into owning my 20mm Sailcloth it swaps regularly between multiple platforms depending on my mood and I have yet to fit it to a watch where it does not enhance the appearance. The full remborde construction has been mistaken for ballistic nylon, Cordura, leather or even textured rubber. When I inform the curious party that it is sailcloth that generates more interest. The strap is currently available with multiple colour stitching options and my own Rolex Explorer II was used for WatchGecko publicity shots of the grey and red stitch Sailcloth. The red stitching looks particularly good as it complements the iconic 24-hour hand on the Explorer.

Sailcloth on the Explorer 2 - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine

It is also important to discuss the quick-release (QR) mechanism which attaches the Sailcloth strap to a watch. Until my first trial I had never used this process to fix a strap and I admit I was initially sceptical. The new 20mm QR bars did not seem to have the same lateral pressure in either direction as traditional spring bars therefore I was concerned the strap may come loose. However, I was proven completely wrong and now swear by this mechanism as it holds the strap solidly into the reciprocal lug holes and makes removal very easy. It also eliminates those awful tiny scratches we all get on the inside of our lugs as we change or swap straps with standard spring bars.

If you are new to Geckota’s quick-release process I would offer a friendly word of advice. The QR bars are captive in the strap. So, if like me, and often travel with an additional NATO strap just for fun, make sure you pack an extra set of spring bars as I was once caught out by this omission!

Richards collection fitted to ZULUDIVER straps - Image Credit: Richard Brown

The Sailcloth strap from Geckota is in every way a superior product. Given the frankly outrageous prices of OEM replacement straps, the opportunity to buy such a fine strap for around £30 should not be resisted. Your watch will be enhanced by having Sailcloth as an option.

If you'd like to check out the Sailcloth straps on offer, then please click the link here!