The humble Nylon NATO strap has evolved since 1973, but what do they look like in 2019?

There is a huge selection of watch straps available nowadays. Today we briefly take a look at one type of watch strap that has seen a huge rise in popularity recently, the NATO watch strap.

What is a NATO Strap?

NATO straps are typically one piece watch straps that are lightweight, quick drying, durable and very simple to use. They were designed by the British Ministry of Defence in 1973. Originally the NATO design consisted of a single piece of nylon with a pin buckle, and keepers to thread excess nylon through one attached to the wrist. A second piece of nylon is commonly attached to the strap as well to ensure the watch is secure once on the wrist.

The idea is if a spring bar on the watch fails, then the second piece of nylon will keep the watch safe and secure.

And if you weren’t already sold on NATO straps, James Bond (Sean Connery) wore a version of a NATO in Goldfinger on his early Rolex Submariner...

What is the Marine Nationale?

Aircraft Carrier Charles de Gaulle - Credit: Marine Nationale via Wiki Media Commons

The Marine Nationale is the French Navy a part of the French Armed Forces. Over the years. the French Navy has been treated very well when it comes to official watches to use when on duty. The ZRC Grand Fonds 300, the Tudor 7922, 7924 and Submariner references such as the snowflake 7016.

The Tudor Snowflake Submariner - Image Credit: Tudor Watches Press

Above is an original Tudor Oyster Prince Submariner fitted to an elastic NATO style watch strap. Notice the recognisable design with the stripe running down the middle of the strap...

Marine Nationale Watch Straps.

The Omega Speedmaster fitted to ZULUDIVER Marine Nationale NATO - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine

Since 2017 we have stocked our very own Marine Nationale strap which looks to take inspiration from the original elasticated parachute webbing material the French Marine Nationale used. They started off in a simple army green in colour, with a single pinstripe colour running down the middle.

Now in 2019, the original Marine Nationale NATO has expanded the range of colours. Also in 2019, we introduced the French Style Elastic NATO which takes the inspiration of the paracord to a whole new level. These feature an adjustable clip which makes the most of a hook buckle to secure to your wrist.

The evolution of the NATO strap.

The Hamilton Khaki Mechanical On Geckota Dark Brown Duntz NATO Leather Strap - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine

Since its sharp rise in popularity, the expansive range of different NATOs available has followed suit. Combat NATOs, ZULU straps, Seatbelt Iridescent NATOs, Leather NATOs, Velcro NATOs, 2 Piece NATOs, Rubber NATOs. The list is almost endless with the types of NATO available today.

The Tudor Black Bay Harrods on ZULUDIVER 328 Rubber NATO - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine

It has hit a stage where either one-piece strap or straps that feature simple ‘NATO style hardware’ than get classified and called 'NATO'. Purists may argue this is incorrect, however to me, I see it more of an evolution of the phrase. NATOs have become bigger then what they first were when introduced back in the 70s. They have been made more stylish with fashion brands picking them up and running with the 'quick, easy, unique' aspect of them.

The use of colours means they can create strong looks when picking out similar colours on watches dials. The likes of Omega, Tudor, Oris, Tag Heuer and NOMOS all have offered new watches purchasable on NATO straps or, an evolution of the NATO.

It’s a fair assumption to say the industry has swallowed up the phrase NATO and really made it more accessible, more unique and more enjoyable for the masses.