As you may have seen, our current giveaway is for a pretty nice package of straps from Cheapest Nato Straps.  Far from being a selection of nylon straps, they are, instead, made of sturdy, beautiful, and quite-nice smelling leather.  Far from just passing those straps on to you sight unseen, Cheapest Nato Straps also sent us over a duplicate of the giveaway package so we could take them for a hands-on ride.

Of course, reviewing straps is a tricky business.  It’s not like there’s a lot of tech that is bundled into a strap, nor are you necessarily comparing the merits of different buckles.  Given how they impact the look of the watch, it’s more of an aesthetics thing.  Not to say that there isn’t something to consider in the non-looks department.  I’m talking about quick-release spring bars.  I’m starting to see these more direct from brands (say, like on this Grayton) and I like seeing them on the independent strap sites as well.  Frankly, it’s in their best interest – anything that makes a strap easier to change (for anyone, not just us with several different strap changing tools) is good, as it makes folks more likely to pick up a few, and change them at-will.

For this roundup review of the stuff from Cheapest Nato Straps, I put my usual suspects to the test – my Michelsen Arctic Explorer  and Seiko Orange Monster.  I also conscripted a watch that was still around from it’s review, the Grayton Automatic.  All of these have 20mm lugs, and they all had straps with quick-change spring bars already in place, which makes swapping these straps from Cheapest Nato Straps in a breeze.

All of the straps we reviewed from Cheapest Nato Straps are made from leather that comes from the Kvarnsjö tannery.  I’ve no idea how big they are, or how popular (maybe they are the Horween of Sweden, maybe not), but it seems like good leather to my untrained eye. Really, it’s how they hold up over time that will tell the true story.  For now, they looked good, felt good, and most importantly for a leather, smelled good.  The leather smelled like it should – deep and rich, not even a hint of chemical plastickyness that you can find from lower-end leathers.

Also good on these straps from Cheapest Nato Straps?  They’re made of single pieces of leather.  That also speaks to the quality, as you don’t have to have things layered on top of each other to cover up a less-desirable substrate, which means you won’t get that weird wrinkling cheaper straps will have.  Single piece also means less stitching, and on this review (and giveaway) bundle, it’s really minimal.  A pair of stitches at the ends to hold the spring bar in place, some more for the buckle and fixed keeper, and then a little bit of detail on the tail of the strap.  Depending on the strap, this is either color-matched or contrast.

While there are very specific names and models for the straps (and I’ve linked them all below, with their pricing), they fall into two categories, in my mind – racing style (shown by the perforations that call to mind driving gloves) with contrast stitching, and the “retro” line, which is a cleaner (and color-matched) look.  I also found that the retro watches had much more of a wax-packed feel to them.  By this, I mean they didn’t feel slick or smooth. They had a slightly tacky feel, which (hopefully) means a well-conditioned leather that should pick up nice character over time.

Before I got in this package from Cheapest Nato Straps, I wouldn’t have figured myself for liking a racing-style strap.  Well, funnily enough, I did rather like the look.  Paired as they were, it lent another touch of sportiness to the watches, and of course breaks up what could be (to some eyes) an otherwise boring strap.  With a variety of colors in the mix (between the leathers and contrast stitching), it ended up enlivening the watches.  The biggest hit (and surprise) for me was the grey one with it’s orange stitch, as paired to the Orange Monster.  Wouldn’t have put that down for a diver, but it works.  It just works.  Coming in a close second, though, was that burgundy strap on the Michelsen.  I’ve normally got a blue strap on that watch, but the burgundy warms things up a bit, and the red is subtle, so it’s not screaming at your eyes.

So, yeah – I am very happy that we learned about Cheapest Nato Straps and their very extensive catalog.  From what I’ve seen here, whomever wins this month’s giveaway is going to be a very happy camper indeed.  And for everyone else?  Well, these straps are really quite affordable, especially with as nice as the leather and stitching is.  With pricing starting at $15.95 and topping out at $19.95 (at least for what we reviewed), these are the very definition of a good deal.  And, given how varied the catalog is, there no doubt is a strap (or three) from Cheapest Nato Straps that will fit your watch, tastes, and of course, wallet.