You might be surprised to learn that something as seemingly innocuous and simple as a watch strap could actually have a long and somewhat complicated history. But that’s exactly the case with NATO watch straps. The common belief is that these straps were first issued to NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) troops so that they could wear wristwatches on the battlefield. The truth, however, is that NATO – in regards to watch straps – is short for NSN, or NATO Stocking Number, which is really just a reference to the system used to document goods by the NATO alliance. This type of strap happened to be a common enough item amongst the NATO alliance to acquire the association, but singular enough that it stands out as unique.
Today, what makes a NATO strap a NATO strap is its format. Yes, format, not materials. Most commonly and historically, NATO straps were/are made from nylon, but this is not a requirement to fit into the category. In fact, what makes it a NATO is this: it must be a single piece (rather than two, as with common leather buckled straps or metal bands) and it must have thin metal hardware (namely a buckle and loops/keepers through which the strap is slipped). The thinness is actually important in this case, because thicker hardware would actually designate the strap as a Zulu rather than a NATO, but that’s a tale for another time. In any case, the following are our picks for the 10 best NATO watch straps out there today.
Infantry NATO Watch Strap
Simple and sleek, Infantry offers a number of different color options for this style of watch strap. Most notably, some of their options come with black finished hardware, rather than the more classic silver. And that’s excellent for anyone that likes to keep their gear more monochromatic or prefers things to be completely blacked-out. They also come in two thickness options – either 20 or 22 millimeters, which will depend on the size of your watch and personal preference.
Crown & Buckle NATO Watch Strap
Though we only have one pictured above (their “Time For A Cure” option), Crown & Buckle actually has one of the more vast collection of NATO watch straps (and just watch straps in general), both in relation to size, color-way, and material thickness. The sizes range from 16-24 millimeters; the offer standard, premium, or heavy duty; and, as far as colors go, you’ll just have to see for yourself. This is probably the best place to start for anyone looking for consistent quality, but a wide range of style options for their favorite chronograph.
BluShark NATO Watch Strap
Similarly to Crown & Buckle, BluShark offers many color options when it comes to their NATO watch strap – though their sizes are limited to 18-24 millimeter. Still, that tends to be a wider range than most people need for their wristwatch collection. Regardless, their nylon straps are reliable, handsome, and are easily paired to the rest of your everyday carry loadout. So whether you’re going for a hard tactical vibe or something more fun and casual, BluShark has you covered.
Maratac Mil-NATO Watch Strap
What’s special about these NATO straps is that they were actually modeled after the U.K. Ministry Of Defense (the first organization to make them) specifications and then made even better. Which means that these aren’t just up to military-spec, they’re superior to the standards by a long shot. And that’s a huge benefit to anyone who wants a NATO strap but has been worried about whether or not they are tough enough to take a bit of punishment. Let us assure you, these ones are.
StrapsCo Dassari Woodland NATO Strap
As we mentioned in the introduction, though NATO watch straps are most commonly made from nylon, there’s no rule that dictates that it must be so. Here’s our first example of one that isn’t. Made from vintage Italian leather, this one-piece watch strap takes the simplicity of a NATO strap and applies it in a way that’s a bit more handsome and refined. They are also hand finished, so every offering is unique. It’s also important to note that StrapsCo has a vast number of other NATO-style offerings on their site, if leather EDC isn’t your thing.
DaLuca Ballistic Nylon NATO Strap
Ballistic nylon is about as tough as the material gets. And that’s exactly what this offering from DaLuca is crafted from. At 20 millimeters thick and 11.5 inches long, you could probably be just fine for life if this was the only watch strap you own. If it’s not, then you can still swap it out super easy. In any case, if you happen to be a fan of army green and you want a NATO strap that can pretty much survive anything you can, this is it.
Victorinox Original NATO Strap
When a brand has been around and making quality products for as long as Victorinox, you can bet that they know what they’re doing. And that’s especially true because, besides making superb Swiss Army Knives, this company boasts nigh-unmatched expertise when it comes to horology, too. There’s nothing too fancy about this NATO strap – it’s black and has stainless steel hardware. But you can bet that it’ll stand up to punishment and look good in the process, just like their Swiss watches.
Hodinkee Kangaroo NATO Strap
If you’re wondering why this NATO strap is called the “Kangaroo.” it’s because its actually made with real kangaroo leather – yes, the Australian marsupial. Hodinkee chose this material for its unique combination of strength, thinness, and for the fact that it ages beautifully. If you want a NATO strap, but you like the idea of standing out against the crowd, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better way to do that than with this leather band.
Omega NATO Watch Strap
If you’re not familiar, Omega is legendary in the watch world. After all, they are one of the brands that James Bond likes to wear. As such, you can bet that their NATO offering is one of the best on the market. And it’s not just the greater item, but there are subtleties you won’t see elsewhere – like in the boxy shape of the polished loops/keepers or the tiny Omega icon set into the buckle. Keep in mind, however, that you’ll pay a premium price if you want the best out there.
David Lane Horween NATO Strap
Chicago-based Horween makes some of the finest USA-made leather products available just about anywhere. So, you shouldn’t be shocked to find that this David Lane NATO strap, which is made from their leather, is one of the best in the world. It comes in three different colors, all of which are mated to polished stainless steel hardware, and it’s sure to step up the style of any chronograph, aviator, or minimalist watch you own.
15 Best Watch Straps
Before you settle on one of these, you should probably familiarize yourself a little better with your options to make sure you’re getting exactly what you want. Lucky for you, we put together this list of the best watch straps for men.