Six months with a Crazy Horse NATO

Six months with a Crazy Horse NATO

Richard Brown
12 May , 2022

In the ZULUDIVER office, we all agree that the most useful car reviews are the ones written 10,000 miles into the ownership of a vehicle. It is always interesting to learn what has begun to rattle, squeak or which design characteristics have become irritating a year into ownership. Just like cars, watch straps are designed to be robust and after a year of wear, you should realistically expect a quality strap to retain colour and form.

However, six months ago we broke from the norm and introduced the ZULUDIVER Crazy Horse leather NATO strap. It was designed to change through its life with the strap reacting to your skin and exposure to the outside world and it was always our intention to report back six months into the life of a Crazy Horse to see how it had fared.

I secured one of the first Crazy Horse 22mm straps and have worn it on several watches. Currently, it lives on my go-to field watch, a Satin Geckota Phalanx. We like to thoroughly test straps, so a Crazy Horse was also sent to a close friend of ZD who hikes and lives near the stunning Glass House Mountains in Queensland Australia with clear instructions to use and abuse the strap during the height of this very hot and steamy summer. Six months have now passed, and here we dutifully offer our After-Action Report.

What is a ZD Crazy Horse?

ZULUDIVER Crazy Horse straps are cut and crafted from oiled 'crazy horse' pull-up premium leather. Pull-up leather is a natural, breathable leather, also known in the industry as waxed leather with the material being infused with hot oils and waxes during tanning. This process creates an extremely durable material which does not crack and produces uniquely beautiful hues and patina patterns on every strap where the material reacts with the skin and where it bends and rubs.

We have fitted solid steel keepers and buckles to the new straps to retain the essential elements of a NATO. The leather edges are detailed with a hot-stamp line and hand-painted and sealed with coloured stain. This strap was originally only available in two brown colours.

From day one both the UK and Australian based Crazy Horses showed interesting blemishes, scuffs, and marks where the straps folded and fastened. These soon became part of the charm of ownership. The straps lived on a wide variety of watches, each leaving its own small marks also. Favoured early platforms for the test straps became a Hamilton Khaki Pilot Pioneer and a US-made modern copy of a WW2 A-11. The material really suited these watches especially as both were being deployed as serious field watches.

So how have the straps performed?

There have been several very interesting observations during life with the straps, all of which have simultaneously delighted and excited us. First, we noted that if the straps are exposed to rain the water does stain the strap dark as you would expect but then it fades away and leaves no watermark. When the straps and a suitably resistant watch are caught in a downpour it is fun to watch the drops changing the strap and then as it dries it returns to its original colour.

Second, the straps have softened beautifully. You could never accuse them of being stiff, even from new, but over months of use, they have notably become much more pliable and have evolved to almost a Nubuck touch and feel. They are extremely comfortable to wear yet they still feel strong and provide confidence.

The straps have become more patina patterned with patches of light and dark leather. Dark lines, like contours on a map, streak across them when the leather is folded and tucked away. Light marks show where spring bars have been located when you change a watch. Scratches from walks in the wood tell stories and then gradually go from obtrusive to soft and natural.

This is exactly the type of wear we were hoping for with the Crazy Horse but thankfully this is the only structural change to report. The good news is that the straps are not in any way fraying or deforming and the pinholes look like new despite repeated opening and fastening.

The test locations are worth a mention. In the Dales of the UK, the majority of testing was through the winter when the strap was exposed regularly to very cold temperatures and a lot of dampness. I had no complaints and the strap shrugged off the worst the UK could throw at it, including snow. In Australia, the test at the same time was of course during their sub-tropical summer which saw the Crazy Horse exposed to diametrically opposed conditions. Officially the hottest day was 36 degrees C, but I was reliably informed that the “real feel” was much higher when combined with 90%+ humidity. The upshot was that the strap got very hot and damp with salty sweat but again it showed no real wear other than a slight darkening of the leather. To quote directly from our intrepid tester, instead of chafing or sticking around his wrist as other straps do in such tough conditions it continued to soften like a diver’s wetsuit.

Today, as tastes change the Australian Crazy Horse is exploring on a new Traser P96 OPD and my own is still on the aforementioned Geckota Phalanx (as I write) doing some bushcraft in the Forest of Dean. In short, we can really recommend these straps from so many perspectives. They offer a unique natural look which gives any watch, and wearer, an adventurous feel whether you are ascending Mount Tibrogargan in Queensland or enjoying a cold drink at the Woodsman Inn in the UK’s most beautiful forest.

New models of the Crazy Horse

Following on from the success of the first Crazy Horse models ZULUDIVER is excited to offer the same strap but now additionally in a variety of soft natural earthy colours which will enhance any watch. You can choose from blues, greens, and reds all of which will beautifully display the distressed patina look so unique to these straps.

This week I have been road testing the Vintage Green strap as I felt it would be a perfect woodland accessory. It is on my Citizen Pro-Master Tough, or as we all know it, the Ray Mears. The Vintage Green really compliments this gem of a watch and could be a permanent partnership. It may be the ultimate Field Watch on the ultimate strap? I’ll let you know in six months…

Many thanks to Jason in Australia for his parallel assessment of the Crazy Horse in some extreme conditions.

If you think your watch could benefit from a radical new look then check out the entire Crazy Horse collection here.