In the first of this three-part series, we’re focusing on everything you need to know about NATO and ZULU straps, the differences between the two and why the trend is still as popular as ever.
The “NATO” strap was first created by the British Ministry of Defence in the early 1970’s. Soldiers could get their hands on a strap by filling out a form known as the G10, so they were originally dubbed “G10’s”.
MOD-issued G10 straps were longer length nylon, in Admiralty Grey and always 20mm wide. Another key element was a second, shorter piece of nylon strap attached to the buckle, as the strap was intended for the military it needed to be functional and secure. The longer length made it possible to fit over any military uniform.
A grey NATO watch strap, inspired by the original military NATO
There is some confusion over the term though, as there was never a single watch strap issued to the NATO forces of Europe. The “NATO” strap as we know it today originated from the “G10” but the term has now become synonymous with a certain style, which has become ever more popular in recent years.
A Seiko watch with a grey and black striped NATO strap
To add more confusion to the term, one of the most famous “NATO” strap wearers was Sean Connery’s James Bond in the film Goldfinger. Read this Hodinkee article to find out more. Bond famously wore a Submariner 6538 with a striped nylon strap, which watch fans dubbed the “Bond NATO”. But despite this labelling, Goldfinger was actually released in 1964, nine years before the MOD G10 strap was first issued. Although the strap comes under the “NATO” umbrella, it was a simple one-piece construction so quite different from the military NATO style.
A Rolex watch inspired by the "Bond NATO"
The term “NATO” now incorporates the original military style but also most colorful nylon or striped watch straps, which is why the term has become a style trend in itself. They come in one or two-piece straps for variation and also include ZULU straps, pictured above.
Army regimental stripes inspire today's NATO and ZULU straps
What’s The Difference Between A NATO And ZULU Strap?
They key difference between the two straps is how they’re worn on the wrist. Traditional military style NATO’s have an additional strap, which slides through the two lugs, so you have two straps of nylon under the watch. However, you can also get one-piece "BOND NATO" style bands.
ZULU straps only have one long strap, which makes it chunkier around the buckles and the strap is made of thicker nylon, see below on this IWC watch. A ZULU strap can also have 3 buckle rings or 5.
WHY THE NATO STRAP TREND IS AS POPULAR AS EVER
In simple, easy steps you can totally transform the look of any watch, giving your dressier timepiece a sportier finish. The ability to customise and alter the look of your watch is a big draw and a new nylon strap offers you the chance to have some fun with a smarter timepiece.
A Longines automatic diving watch with a khaki green ZULU strap
Watch website The Time Bum says: “A different strap can transform your watch, bringing out nuances of color and design that might have otherwise gone unnoticed. Some straps are objects of desire in and of themselves, hand crafted by artisans and imbued with their own special character.”
A Rolex Air-King with navy, ZULU watch band
With style and fashion trends becoming a lot more casual in recent years, watch fans want to reflect this also by having some fun with their wristwear.
Keep posted for our next article, which shows you how to install, shorten and wear your new NATO or ZULU strap.