by Richard Brown June 14, 2022
I have been using NATO straps since the 1980s when I first swapped a steel bracelet on a Seiko 5 SQ100 for a fabric, Sultan of Oman’s Airforce issue, G10 NATO during a posting to the Gulf. Immediately the watch and strap were far more comfortable in extreme heat. However, my early examples of NATOs were below average and always frayed at the ends and holes.
Around 10 years ago I discovered ZULUDIVER, and everything changed. Their straps were well made and highly durable. They shook off saltwater, cleaned up well, and the metalwork never rusted. I systematically swapped most of my watches over to ZD NATOs and still have a rather odd box in the back of my watch drawer which contains a collection of expensive original leather straps and steel bracelets from Omega, Rolex and Breitling, none of which see the light of day! I will always be a staunch advocate of the ZULUDIVER NATO. It is a fabulous strap, and I really did not think it could be improved on until in pre-pandemic 2020 I tested a prototype of the Gen1 ZDSailcloth on a trip to The Far East. It was a revelation – quite possibly the best watch strap I had ever used.
The original flat Sailcloth I tested (there are now additional padded and perforated models) was instantly soft and felt incredibly durable. I thoroughly enjoyed wearing it for my 2-week test in very hot and humid conditions. Build quality, function and comfort were top-notch. The grey stitching was stylish and subtle. Throughout the T&E experience, it reminded me of the fine black nylon strap that came with the Omega Speedmaster Dark Side of The Moon Special Edition. I always hugely admired this strap and I had looked to buy one for my Speedmaster Professional however, I soon changed my mind when the manager of my local Omega Boutique shop optimistically quoted £300 for the two-piece strapalone and then an additional £150 for the black deployment buckle it required!
Fortunately, the ZULUDIVER Sailcloth created exactly the same look without sacrificing feel or style, and I could not wait to get back to the UK to try the strap on my Omega and Bulova Moonwatches.
It exceeded my expectations; the Sailcloth looked superb and created the precise image I was after at a fraction of the cost of the Omega original. The matt satin black surface sat beautifully against the similar colour of the dial and the grey stitching perfectly suggested the colour of the Lunar surface. The construction of the fabric gave an impression of security and durability. Overall, the strap created a reassuringly solid base for the watch to sit on, taking the weight of the steel case. It could not be more perfect on a Moonwatch if ZULUDIVER had designed it for that purpose alone.
Back in 2020, the strap came as standard with a smart brushed steel ‘ZD’ branded buckle. This complimented a stainless or titanium watch very well. Now, these buckles have evolved to show the full ZULUDIVER branding. If you prefer you can also buy an identical black PVD coated buckle which works well if your watch has a black case; for example, on a polyamide Traser P96 ODP, it looks perfect. Two years into owning several 20mm and 22mm Sailcloths they swap regularly between multiple platforms depending on my mood and I have yet to fit it to a watch where it does not enhance the appearance.
When we first advertised Sailcloth straps, we had numerous questions regarding manufacture. Therefore, re-examining the straps seems like a good opportunity to publish, for the first time, a cut-away of the strap. The fullrembord construction looks like a cross between ballistic nylon and Cordura however it is actually made up of three distinct elements. An upper layer of highly abrasion-resistant rubber, followed by a neoprene layer which adds flexibility and comfort and is very at home in water. Finally, a rip-resistant cotton woven panel which is comfortable against the skin.
It is also important to mention the quick-release (QR) mechanisms which attach our Sailcloth straps to a watch case. Until my first 2020 trial I had never used this process to fix a strap and I admit I was initially sceptical. The new 20mm QR bars did not seem to have the same lateral pressure in either direction as traditional spring bars however, I was soon converted and now these products are the industry norm. They hold the strap solidly into the reciprocal lug holes and make removal very easy. They also eliminate those irritating tiny scratches we all get on the inside of our lugs as we change or swap straps with standard spring bars.
The 2022 issue Sailcloth straps from ZULUDIVER are in every way a superior product. They have been tested in all environments and proven to be a best seller.