Nothing says you’re ready for anything quite like a NATO strap. In fact, nothing makes you feel like you are ready for anything quite like a NATO! Let’s be honest, a Tudor or Rolex Sub always looks stealthier with a fabric adornment. But what is it? Is it the material look itself? That rugged, utilitarian vibe? Or the fact you know you can thrash them about and they will be good (if not get better year after year). Whatever it is, we as watch lovers have a fixation on the humbled NATO. A quick scroll on Insta and you will see what we mean, guaranteed 1/5 watches will be rocking one. The question is, where did they come from? How are they made? And which watches best suit them? This ladies and gentlemen is everything you need to know about the NATO.
Let's start by tackling the elephant in the room. The official title of what we commonly call a NATO strap is in fact a “G10”. Yup, G10. We know what you’re thinking - “what the HELL is a G10?" With its roots in the military, NATO or G10 straps were actually issued pieces of kit. The actual use of the term ‘NATO strap’ is simply shorthand. It came about because the official G10 also has a NATO Stocking Number (NSN). As a serving soldier, you got the choice of one in grey and of standard width. That was it. Who remembers what Sean Connery wore his Submariner on in Dr. No? Yup, a G10. Well, not technically, but close - it was a striped nylon ‘regimental’ strap. And in doing so, he made them damn cool. The G10 was made of nylon and only produced in ‘Admiralty Grey’, with a width of 20mm and chrome-plated brass buckle and keepers. Design-wise, it is genius, with a second, shorter piece of nylon strap below the main one, that feeds through the keepers.
Although supplied by one maker, and despite the tight specifications, G10s do seem to vary slightly in color, while the ‘weave’ of the material ranges from tightly woven to slightly coarse. Plus an 18mm variation was added over time. There are now so many colors on offer commercially, as well as a choice of fabrics, that it is possible to customize one’s watch without inflicting irreversible modifications - but changing the look instantly.
Tudor has pioneered the usage of the G10 and its “look”. What was previously a utilitarian means of attaching a watch to a soldier’s wrist has been transformed. Even Daniel Wellington has got in on the act Daniel Wellington. Seiko, Glycine, Hamilton, and many others have been using them for years. I mean, it's only right when these civilian watches are nearly identical to the genuine military issue. From Timex, Fossil, and Luminox to Jeanrichard, IWC, Shinola, Bell & Ross, Blancpain, and Bremont (plus a litany of others), cloth straps – both over-under and those that fit conventionally with pass-through spring bars – have proved to be a striking alternative to bracelets and leather. A deliciously postmodern, rather ironic version has surfaced of late, too: all-leather NATOs and ZULUs, for those who hate the feel of nylon on their wrists.
While they may not be for everyone, they bring together a number of the elements of why so many love watches - history, design, and personal style. The author of this story is a fan. In fact, he is currently wearing a grey G10 on a no-date Tudor snowflake. Go well folks.