Changing the strap on your watch is almost like a rite of passage. It marks the point at which you simply wear a watch to the point where you become a passionate collector of watches. Well, ok, maybe not, but it does signify that you have more than a passing interest in your watch, and how it looks on any given occasion. If you’re changing your watch straps on a daily basis, you may be referred to as a “WIS” (Watch Idiot Savant).
NATO, Zulu, and RAF-style nylon straps were originally brought to us by our friendly neighborhood British fighting forces, and quickly found their way into civilian hands. Our own Patrick Kansa gave us a brief history of the NATO a few years back. NATO straps are lightweight, inexpensive (relatively), easy to swap out, and in most cases quite comfortable. ToxicNatos was founded based on one simple principal: Quality not quantity.
Terry Williams, founder of ToxicNATOS, had been turned on to the NATO style strap several years ago by some watch-loving buddies, and quickly discovered the versatile nature of the genre. However he soon became frustrated by what he considered to be a severe lack of quality in the NATO strap industry. He felt there were too many cheaply made offerings on the market that just didn’t hold up to the daily wear and tear the straps could be subjected to by an active watch wearer, and so ToxicNATOS was born.
Terry searched for suppliers that would meet his stringent standards of quality and his first release, the N8O, was the result of his dedication. If you’ve ever bought a $3.99 special off of Amazon, you’ll likely have experienced a NATO strap that quickly disintegrated, its edges fraying badly and its pin buckle holes stretching to the point where the strap could no longer hold the watch head properly on your wrist. Not so with the N8O, which is heat sealed for durability. The N8O is a standard 1.2mm thick “double-pass” NATO strap, meaning that once you’ve passed the main strap under and through the spring bars, it then passes through a keeper on the end of a short extension piece.
Terry uses high quality angled hardware on all ToxicNATOS strap variants. The keepers have none of the sharp, finger-cutting edges found on lower quality straps and the stitching (no heat welding here) is top notch. While already an owner of several ToxicNATOS straps myself, Terry sent me a N8O, a Toxic Rogue (1.4mm thick as opposed to 1.2mm on the N8O), and a Toxic Shiznit for review.
Made of the same tight weave herringbone material found in your car’s seatbelts, the Shiznit is hands down the most comfortable NATO strap that I’ve ever owned. While attempting (and yes, eventually completing) a 30-day watchfast with my big Seiko SRP637 “Baby Tuna” dive watch, I needed a strap that was not only rugged and able to hold the heavy watch head in place on my wrist for an entire month, but also extremely comfortable at the same time. Cue the Shiznit. It fulfilled its duty admirably during the 31 days that the Tuna was on my wrist. The pin buckle holes didn’t stretch, and the edges remained pleasantly unfrayed.
Along with the N8O, the Rogue, and the Shiznit (all double-pass style), ToxicNATOS also offers the Toxic Roo Kangaroo leather strap, the Toxic N8O Duo, a two piece NATO, the Toxic Tough Sh!t ZULU, a single-pass style with rounded stainless keepers, and The Toxic Magnum rubber strap among others. If you’ve never tried a NATO strap before, or if you’re just looking to add some new high quality straps to your collection, head on over to toxicnatos.com to check out the selection. Prices range from $6 for a basic ToxicNATOS “Blue Falcon” Royal with RAF-style single nylon keeper, up to $50 for the Toxic Shiznit Bronze 22/24mm with beautiful bronze keepers and buckle to match that snazzy new bronze diver you just picked up. You won’t be disappointed.