Amongst the many ways we have to strap watches onto our wrists, NATO straps are one of them and a popular one at that. NATOs are known to be the go-to straps for those who live a rugged life and like tool watches. While they are not the most versatile in terms of style (I wouldn’t wear a NATO with a suit for example,) they can be worn in most other situations we find ourselves in. The other thing with NATOs is that they come in many prices, quality, and style. There are excellent ones and terrible ones, just like there are very good leather straps and some that feel more like a torture device than an enjoyable accessory to wear with our favorite mechanical timepiece.
In this article, we’ll first talk about what defines NATO straps, their variations, and go a little deeper to talk about the Everest Band nylon collection options released a few months ago.
A Bit of History and Facts
Without getting into the nitty-gritty of the history of NATOs and watch straps in general, it is important to know that NATO straps were originally created for the military to ensure that their watches wouldn’t fly off their wrists in combat. Straps are attached to a watch by way of two spring-bars, as their name indicates, two pieces of metal that have a little springs in them. Springs tend to “trigger” whenever manipulated in certain ways, and when one does activities that require intense movement and shocks, spring bars can pop off. The risk is that the watch, if worn on a two-piece strap or metal bracelet, can come off your wrist and fall.
Enter NATO straps. They are traditionally made of two pieces of fabric, one longer than the other. The long part is threaded through both spring bars and rests against the watch case. The shorter part lays on top of the longer one and slides through it by way of a keeper. So, wearing this style of NATO straps means having two layers of fabric lodged between your skin and the case-back. NATO watch bands also come with a single layer of fabric, and historically, that’s how the very first military straps were made.
Whether your NATO has one or two layers, it secures the watch on your wrist and prevents it from accidentally falling off because it is still attached to your watch even though one of the spring bars would have popped or broken off, since it is threaded through the spring bars. I think it would be very rare and unfortunate to have both spring bars fail at the same time, in other words, fully detaching the NATO watch strap from your watch. The added security NATOs provide explain why they have been used by the military for many decades and why they are so popular with watch collectors.
Key Characteristics of Everest Nylon Straps
In the introduction I mentioned the fact that NATO straps come at different price points and therefore are made following various quality standards. One can buy a $5 NATO from Amazon which will probably feel like sanding paper and lose a keeper after a few days. On the other side of the spectrum, one can buy an ultra premium NATO for upwards of $100. It is agreed upon within the watch community that one shouldn’t spend more than $40 for a quality nylon Nato watch strap. Luckily for us, Everest provides great nylon straps for the middle-range price of $30. While $30 can seem like a lot for a strap, that’s how much you should pay for a good one.
To keep things simple, let’s say that the most comfortable NATO straps are made of what is referred to as “seat belt nylon.” Yes, as its name indicates, it feels and is probably made like the seat belt in your car. This means it has a full construction, is soft to the touch, and is robust. While NATOs are now generally made of nylon—the first ones were made of cotton— the seat belt style of nylon is the best material for a NATO. And all Everest nylon straps, whether it be of the traditional type or of the single-pass one, are made of this material. As with all Everest products, materials and attention to detail is the core of everything made.
Furthermore, just like a leather strap made of the most premium leather but with terrible hardware would be unwearable, a good NATO must come with solid hardware. Here I am referring to the buckle and the keepers. Traditional NATOs generally have three keepers: one that sits at the tail end of your watch (the side towards your body) through which the smaller piece of fabric is threaded. And two additional keepers near the buckle to fold the excess fabric and keep it neatly tucked away. Single-pass straps only have two keepers near the buckle.
(I hope my description makes sense.)
The buckle and keepers on the Everest nylon watch straps are made of solid pieces of stainless steel that come with a brushed finish and polished sides. The alternation of finishes make Everest straps seem more refined than those that come with only brushed hardware. And the quality hardware is matched with quality stitching—a very important part of any watch band—and, even more importantly, well made holes to thread the pin buckle through. As an anecdote I bought a NATO that was more expensive than an Everest nylon watch strap and had poorly made eyelets, meaning the fabric would get easily damaged and come off.
The Everest Nylon Collection
As a quick note, Everest offers 14 nylon strap options in their unique design and single-pass. It comes with a variety of colors to match your watch’s style and color scheme. For example, the vintage Bond style would work perfectly with a vintage Submariner or Speedmaster, while the single-pass charcoal gray works with basically any watch. (It’s also my favorite one.) All of these straps will set you back $30, regardless of which style and color you go for, which is a small price to pay for a quality.
For a very long time, I just couldn’t get into NATO straps because I didn’t like the way they felt on the wrist and the fact that they were so bulky. Then I realized that the ones I had tried were made of poor materials and were unnecessarily bulky. It wasn’t until I tried on the Everest nylon straps that I realized how comfortable and—to put it simply how badass a good nylon strap can be. So I encourage you to check out Everest’s nylon collection here.