The NATO-style watch strap has become more than an essential watch accessory — it’s practically a necessity if you love watches. And it’s not hard to see why: a NATO is cheap, it’s durable, it’s simple to swap in and out, it’s easy to clean and it’s military-inspired looks play into the whole tacti-cool trend that refuses to die. Point being, if you have a nice watch consider getting a decent NATO strap. Or a handful.
So what to buy? Well, you can spend a few bucks on a cheapo NATO. But if you spring for premium, you get an expertly-crafted, comfortable way to keep your fancy timepiece safely affixed to your wrist. There’s a bevy of aftermarket options from small brands you can find online. Admittedly the formula remains pretty much the same, and many feel very similar, but look closely and you can see that each is unique when it comes to the small details, while two seemingly identical-look straps can actually feel very different.
Crown & Buckle Supreme NATO
Editor’s choice: Crown & Buckle has made aftermarket leather and NATO straps for several years, but the Supreme, released just late last year, is their take on the high-end “seatbelt-style” NATO strap. The Supreme’s tight, thick nylon weave delivers on the promise of seatbelt-like feel and the overall effect is a NATO that is both durable and smooth against the wrist. There are a couple other seatbelt-style NATOs on this list that feel extremely similar, but the Crown & Buckle Supreme wins out for the quality of its hardware. The keepers have lovely beveled edges and, most importantly, the buckle is thin and lithe while still feeling sturdy.
Best budget strap: The Maratac is the cheapest strap on this list but is not lacking for quality — it’s based on the standard G10 design and then improved. The strap’s nylon weave is tight, cleanly cut, and while it’s not exceptionally soft, it’s more comfortable than some other standard-style NATO straps. The hardware, while nothing exceptional, still feels solidly woven into place and features a nice brushed finish. Rest assured, if you don’t want to spring for one of the pricier options on this list, this strap will still make you very happy.
Moose Strap Co. Premium Slim
The Phoneix G10 is, for all intents and purposes, the classic NATO strap. While the brand didn’t invent the NATO, it’s made them for British Ministry of Defence to their specs since the 1970s, so the G10 wins out over others just for cred. But wear the G10 and you’ll realize how far the NATO strap has come since the original; the strap is thin, densely-woven and a bit rough in texture. It’s not bad, but it’s just that the other straps on this list felt better-made and more comfortable. Still, it’s as authentic as you can get, and that’s got to count for something.
Toxic NATOs N80 ShizNit
Toxic NATOs has a cult following amongst online watch fans and its not hard to see why. The nylon strap is has a super-dense, durable, seatbelt-like weave and a super-smooth texture — it’s pretty much idential to the Crown & Buckle Supreme. The harware, while very well-finished (again, there are some nice beveled edges on the keepers), is a bit too chunky for our liking.
Another seatbelt-like strap. The nylon is thick, smooth and tightly-woven — overall, it’s soft and smooth and comfortable. The keepers and buckle are well-made too, though a bit on the chunkier side. Still, it’s an excellent option, and the massive amount of color options available (27!) make this a winner.
Worn & Wound ADPT
While the Worn & Wound ADPT is the priciest option on this list, its also the only one to boast Made-in-the-USA status. The dedication to quality shows through mostly in the nylon portion of the strap, which is thick, dense, hard-wearing and cleanly-cut (we’re also suckers for the orange stitching). It’s not the most comfortable out of the box, but it’s also the most likely to soften with wear (and earn those patina points). A sticking point: the buckle on this one feels wobbly, which is out of line with the rest of the strap’s otherwise high-end fit and finish.
Haveston Invasion A2
A caveat: this is not technically a NATO strap, but rather a single pass-through strap (a true NATO has a second piece of nylon that passes under the watch). Still, it’s a great option, with a soft texture, a properly-finished nylon weave and exceptional hardware (the buckle is especially nice). The second keeper in the strap is also adjustable, a nice touch that few other straps here have. The best part, though, is the design, which adds some regimental stripes, and if you don’t like this specific color scheme there are a few others on offer (Haveston also sells a propper double-pass NATO if the single pass-through is somehow a turn-off).