It was an extremely hot and humid evening sitting in the vast gardens of the British High Commission in New Delhi. The sky had this golden hue associated with the city at sunset and I was chatting to the 1st Secretary Defence Procurement over a G&T. Our conversation however, was not about the ongoing Indo-UK Defence Consultative Group - it was about NATO watch straps!
My friend was wearing a brushed steel TAG Heuer 1500 Series with the unique “granite” effect dial on an aftermarket Admiralty Grey NATO. I was wearing a Rolex Submariner non-date on a plain black NATO. We were expounding the benefits of the straps and generally feeling pleased with ourselves that we had taken the controversial step of removing our well-designed expensive manufacturers bracelets in favour of these relatively cheap military straps. The principal reasons, were that we were both Bond fans and more importantly the straps were effective at dealing with such sticky and hot conditions. We could still wear high-end watches that looked the part, yet this tropical addition gave the watches a real design edge that remained comfortable.
This was not my first NATO experience. By this time, I was a seasoned user. I initially discovered the benefits of NATOs in Oman at the age of 20 when I fitted my very first to a Casio MMA-200W. The original rubber strap had split, primarily due to exposure to salt water and heat. A British pilot in the Sultan of Oman’s Air Force suggested a NATO and pulled a “G-Ten” from their Quartermaster. I was hooked from day one. The Casio looked great, and I still like to imagine the pilot filled out the famous Form G1098 for my strap - the paperwork which ultimately gave these wonderful inventions their nickname.
As life moved on, I spent progressively more and more time in the Middle East till eventually we moved as a family to the UAE. Every month I found myself travelling the Gulf, most of my time spent in particularly hot and arid conditions at various military or police bases. There are few tougher tests for a watch and strap than lying on red hot sand, in over 40° ambient heat, while the severe juddering of an automatic weapon courses up your wrists. No matter what watch I was working with, if the strap was changeable, I deployed a NATO as I knew there was nothing to damage, and it would provide all day comfort.
Fast forward to the present and I am older, allegedly wiser, and still a proud ambassador for the humble NATO. I have a watch drawer - yes, I know that sounds preposterous, but it is the best way to keep a collection scratch free and accessible. Within the drawer is a box that contains hundreds of pounds of OEM leather straps, clasps and bracelets which have been swapped and stored in favour of a NATO. I do wish some watches were sold with no strap….
Now I am semi-retired in the peace and quiet of Derbyshire, you may well ask why am I still changing straps for NATOs? Old habits die hard, and it's because I still love to hike and explore my home country and put my watches to the test. Working closely with ZULUDIVER, I have access to some of the best NATOs in the world, and I utilise these whenever I can. Good kit will always be especially important to me, and I take huge pleasure in selecting it.
I passionately believe that no watch looks better than when fitted with a NATO. A NATO brings an edge to a watch. Not only does it make a watch more functional and rugged, but it also inspires confidence. Quite an achievement for the humble fabric strap.
Written by Richard Brown
Image Credit - ZULUDIVER