NATO straps: A strap with a rich history

NATOs happen to be the most common of all kinds of straps. That perhaps is the reason why Gonzo always avoided the topic. He is not for the popular stuff. But the new range of Seiko automatics with the NATOs brought forth questions from first time buyers and that’s not a very small count. Almost all wanted to know if the NATO forces still use them.

One way to portray the NATOs is calling them great levellers that live up to the promise of till death do us part. The good news is, they don’t die that easy. So you’ll find them in company of the $200 Seiko as much as the $1000 Citizen and beyond; such is the reach of the $15 strap. Anyone dare to scoff? Maybe the snobs, but well, they also do share a secret liking.

Primarily because NATOs are fun; they are functional as well and takes a jiffy to change. Fairly ubiquitous, their origin is also an interesting bit of a story. But no, it’s not related to the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) troops but the G10 – which is the true name for the strap – is around since 1973 and not 1949. It debuted as the British Ministry DefStan 66-15 (Defence Standard) and for soldiers to get one, filling out the G1098 form was a requirement. G10 is a sobriquet for it or an abbreviation. This number is the NATO Stocking Number or NSN and NATO became merely a namesake.

Specifications for the NATO straps are distinct and specific. At its most basic or authentic form, it’s nylon, colored in Admiralty Grey and of a 20mm width, with chrome-plated keepers and brass buckle. Another shorter piece of nylon strap also stays attached to the buckle for it to be fail-proof. This extra nylon extension limits the play of the watch case and makes the watch fit the wrist properly and snugly, where it exactly needs to be. Even if a spring-bar breaks/pops-out, it will hold the case securely.

The years didn’t change the G10 strap save very slight modifications, the 2mm reduction in width being the subtlest one. The brass parts are now stainless steel and though doesn’t apply for the civilians, the Admiralty Grey changed into the colours of the regiments.

Today, the NATO strap has become popular for their ‘tacticool’ street credentials but their usefulness remains intact. Apart from being inexpensive, they are extremely durable and there’s always one colour to suit the mood or the outfit. The trend is on an upward curve and probably shall never fade how much ever the horology purists may try. Ride the NATO wave and enjoy the variety; checking its trustworthiness is not possible in a lifetime.

Watch(es) mentioned in this post are listed below.  Click to see details and buy them: