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What is a NATO strap?

Before you start shopping for the best NATO straps, it helps if you know what they are, what they aren’t, and where they come from.

History: Like many things on a watch, the NATO belt comes from the military – the British Army to be precise. In 1973, the UK Ministry of Defense listed a simple strap in the UK Ministry of Defense standard for soldiers to purchase their watches. You can buy a leather nato strap (in Norwegian “lær nato-rem”) via

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The idea was that a one-piece plastic strap would be strong and durable enough for military use. Also, thanks to its one-piece construction, it will prevent a soldier from losing his watch if one of the spring bars falls off.

If you want to go a step further, the Royal Air Force has been issuing bands of a similar style, known as RAF straps, since the last years of World War II.

The most famous of these RAF bracelets are probably the bracelet Sean Connery wore as his Submarine as James Bond in Goldfinger in 1965. Today the RAF straps are more similar to the Zulu straps than the NATO straps, but they have a common origin.


The traditional NATO strap is a one-piece plastic strap with a metal buckle and three metal pulls. This strap slips behind the spring bars of your watch and sits between the back of the case and your skin. There is an extra length of nylon at the bottom of the strap to keep your watch from slipping.

The Fascinating And Humble History Of NATO Strap