Whether or not you know exactly what a NATO strap is, you’ve definitely seen one. A trend item that has aggressively taken hold of the watch industry, NATOs can be found on just about any watch, from $35 Timexes to $7,000 Rolex Submariners to $50,000 Patek Philippes. Some watch enthusiasts may scoff at the idea of putting a nylon strap on an expensive timepiece, but NATOs are a fun, functional and quickly interchangeable way to show off your watch. While the straps have become fairly ubiquitous, their origin can be traced back to a single point in history.
The answer seems simple: the straps were originally made for NATO troops, right? Interestingly enough, the term “NATO strap” came into use as a shortened version of NATO Stocking Number (NSN), and otherwise has very little to do with the strap carrying its namesake. The more appropriate name for the “NATO” strap is actually the “G10” — which is how we’ll refer to it from here. In 1973, “Strap, Wrist Watch” made its debut in the British Ministry of Defense Standard (DefStan) 66-15. For soldiers to get their hands on one, they had to fill out a form known as the G1098, or G10 for short. Subsequently, they could retrieve the strap at their unit’s supply store of the same name.
Though DefStan’s name for the strap was decidedly nondescript, its specifications were distinct and specific. MoD-issued G10 straps were nylon, only made in “Admiralty Grey” with a width of 20mm, and had chrome-plated brass buckle and keepers. Another key trait was a second, shorter piece of nylon strap attached to the buckle. Since the strap was to be used by the military, it needed to be functional and fail-safe. The extra nylon had a keeper at its end through which the main part of the strap passed through after it had been looped behind the watch. This created a pocket, limiting the distance the case could move. As long as the strap was passed through properly and snugly on the wrist, the case would stay exactly where it was needed. The bonus feature of a strap that passes behind the watch is there so that in the event that a spring bar breaks or pops out, the case will still be secured by the other spring bar.