WuS has a great discussion of the NATO strap and it’s origins. NATO straps are traditionally nylon straps with a basic buckle and some have a “skunk stripe” down them for effect. These guys sell a few great ones.

The strap that collectors call “NATO” (not to be confused with the Rhino, Waterborne, or Maratec Zulu straps) is based upon the standard watch strap issued by the British Ministry of Defense (MOD). Called the “G10” by members of the British military because of the form used to requisition the strap (and other items) from inventory, the reason it got its “NATO” name is because the strap has a NSN or NATO Stock Number which identifies this type of strap. Incidentally, the actual military spec strap comes in only one color (Admiralty Grey) and one width (20mm). The hardware specs have not changed (chrome plated brass), though at least some of the straps currently issued have stainless steel fittings. And there are actually TWO NATO stock numbers for the straps: Army/Navy (6645-99-124-2986) and RAF (6645-99-527-7059). …

History of the “NATO” Strap [Watchuseek Watch Forums]

ByJohn Biggs

John lives in Brooklyn and has loved watches since he got his first Swatch Irony automatic in 1998. He is the editor of WristWatchReview.

30 thoughts on “What’s a NATO Strap?”
  1. I’ve wondered about the NATO name. Now I know… If you’re going to buy one, I recommend getting the one with steel fittings, as they last longer and are more comfortable.

  2. NATO straps. What is the fascination with them? Why do people like them?

    I tried one, and it was so flimsy and weak, compared to rubber, leather, stainless steel, or titanium.

    Why do they have that extra piece of nylon that goes along the underside of the watch, and what are ALL THOSE metal hoops for? Don’t you just need one, to retain the tail of the strap?

    It’s such a weird design and so many people love them; I just don’t get it.

    Someone, tell me these things.

  3. The reason for the extra section of strap is that the bars of the watches for which they are designed are fixed (for strength), so the only way to fit the strap is down through the gap on one side, and back up through the gap past the other bar. This unfortunately means that the watch is then free to slide around on the strap, so, to hold it in place, the additional ‘piece of nylon’ retains a metal loop which, when fitted correctly, holds the watch in place.

    Have a look at the instructions at to see what I mean.

    The overall effect is that, with a conventional watch, if a bar breaks or comes detached, the watch is gone. With the NATO fitting, the strap remains on the wrist, and so does the watch, albeit hanging on by only one bar.

  4. I have a Hamilton Khaki GMT Air Race. The strap is 21mm and it seems as if no one sells that size. Why? And if I were to use a 21mm NATO strap, would there be a noticeable gap on the watch?

  5. Jordan — Always use a bigger size strap — in this case 22mm — rather than a smaller, 20mm. Why? A smaller strap will move around and add more stress to the spring bars.

  6. Seikopath —
    Why do people love NATO / ZULU straps? Well, speaking for myself, the added safety feature — the watch will survive a broken spring bar — for one thing.
    And the nylon under the caseback — it’s a serious advantage in cold weather: keeps the metal from touching the flesh directly.
    And finally, it looks kool of course with the right sort of watch — military style. But because a strap is to watches what shoes are to pants, a NATO/ZULU can also give an unexpected vigor and pizazz to an otherwise ho-hum looking watch. Kinda like Viagra to dull watches. ;D

  7. The purpose of the NATO/ZULU strap is functionality. It allows the watch to be worn over layers of clothing, including scuba suits, ski jackets, and so forth. They are all-weather straps, and they are much more likely to stay on your wrist than most alternatives, and as pointed out by others, to retain your watch, in adverse conditions. They are not meant to be fashion statements–they are meant to do the job of allowing visual access to your watch without having to roll up your sleeve, pull back your glove, or whatever.

    1. and yet they have overwhelmingly been the most fashionable watch band since you posted this 7 years ago. lol. I went to an exclusive hollywood party about 3 years ago (friend catered it and got me in), there were many stars there at least 10 i recognized. If if had a $1 for every rolex on a nato i saw there with a blazer I’d be rich

  8. Correction: 18mm not 20mm is the standard British Army issue of the G10 (for the W10 watch) [G10 form; W10 watch. Confusing isn’t it]. As you quite rightly point out, the issued colour is Admiralty Grey. Note spelling.

    Why the design? The issued W10 is a fixed bar watch. Still, that does not explain the extra looping which remains a mystery. You can still achieve the same result with only one piece of material. This simpler design (well, not quite one-piece but near) is often referred to as the ‘RAF strap.’ No, I have not got a clue as to why the Royal Air Force should insist on difference.

    My guess is that the answer is typically English: An eccentric administrative accident.

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