Not All NATOs Are Created Equal:
NATO Straps at 3 Price Points
Article By: Logan Hannen
WATCH101 | Jan 09, 2019
Today, we’re going to be taking a look at three NATO straps that I personally own that come in at the three most common price points you might find NATOs at, and then compare them to see where the value really is!
Now, I’ve got a confession to make: I, until very recently, couldn’t stand NATO straps. I’d picked up a few over the years, hoping that the whole obsession with them among the watchfam would finally click, and it just never did. I’m not 100% sure why that was, but I think a lot of it came down to me just not finding them very comfortable, and the ones I’d owned previously were definitely short enough that the excess strap would never stay tucked in, which would drive my OCD up an absolute wall. That is, until recently, when I decided to check out the straps that Bark & Jack began offering.
Adrian swore to me that his would make me a convert, so I decided to find out for myself. The straps definitely offered things that the straps I’d owned previously simply didn’t, especially in regards to the weave of the nylon and length, which helped to make them stand out more and gave me a better perspective on where the value can be found. So before we start comparing the three straps in question, let’s first take a look at each one individually, along with where I picked it up from. These three are, fundamentally, a sample of convenience, and are by no means meant to act as an exhaustive list of what can be found at the various price points. That said, they tend to hold up with some of the general pros and cons that I’ve heard about other brands in their respective price points.
1: Lowest Price Point – $1 Walmart Nato
Originally priced, I believe, at $5, I couldn’t pass up the chance to try this one out for a buck, and every single thing I expected to be rough about it was. The buckle was plasticy and incredibly flimsy, the actual nylon was rigid and scratchy, and not very well finished on the sides, the holes looked like they would fray with only a few wears, and the very end of the strap looked jagged and uneven. Nothing about the thing seemed, on the surface, to be even remotely pleasurable to wear. In comparison to the others on this list, it definitely isn’t, but for a dollar, I couldn’t really complain, and it gave me a thinner stripe on the so-called “New Bond” (black with grey striping) color scheme.
There is, of course, the little matter of it not being exactly a NATO strap in the strictest sense. It straddles this weird line between a NATO and a Zulu (maybe we can call it a ZATO), wherein it features some of the NATO’s key features (namely the more rigid keepers) while also the most vital feature of the Zulu (being comprised of one single piece of nylon with no extra section of material on the underside). This becomes most apparent when on the wrist (as we’ll get to when we discuss the wearability of each strap), but given the astronomically low price point, I’m willing to forgive it this technicality for the purposes of the comparison since this will really only give it an advantage in one category. Otherwise, it’s on the same playing field as the other two straps here.
2: Medium Price Point – $15 Black and Gold NATO from Wrist Candy Watch Club
Alright, so first thing’s first – I think they raised the price, because I very distinctly remember paying $8 for mine about two years ago. Still, currently priced at $15, the black and gold NATO from Wrist Candy Watch Club (WCWC) is one really good looking NATO strap. At the time I bought it, the company didn’t offer a black and gray option, and since that was right around when the most recent James Bond film, Spectre, came out (in which Bond wears an Omega Seamaster 300 on a black and gray striped NATO), that is what I was after. The black and gold seemed like the next best option, and in appearance I haven’t been disappointed.
The thing that has always set the WCWC NATO apart to me has been how thin the keepers and buckle are. They’re not tinny, the way the cheap and nasty buckle and keepers of the Walmart strap are, but they’re just inherently slimmer and it works. As far as the actual nylon goes, it’s soft and very pliable, and the sides and holes were smooth and seemed designed to hold up to wear thanks to the holes being heat sealed. Heat sealing, in this context, refers to using heat to weld portions of the strap together or, with respect to the holes, to keep the edges more rigidly bonded with each other. Now, this one was actually my first NATO strap and, all things considered, it wasn’t a bad experience, but it still didn’t grab me.
3: Premium Price Point – $23 Grey NATO Strap from Bark & Jack
One of the things that jumped out at me regarding these straps was their use of seatbelt nylon in their construction. Seatbelt nylon refers just as much to the weave of the strap as it does the actual nylon it’s made of, and is an incredibly strong but also incredibly soft kind of nylon that has made these straps the top of the NATO food chain in recent years. In addition to the seatbelt nylon, the Bark & Jack strap uses 316L steel hardware for the buckle and keepers, and has heat sealed the holes in order to help reinforce them and keep them from fraying and wearing away with repeated use of the straps.
Tune in next week to see how these three pieces stack up against each other in the Ultimate NATO Strap Showdown (with pictures!!). Until then, as always, keep it classy, watchfam.
MORE FROM THIS SERIES
Today, we’re going to have a look at three of my favorite (non Hamilton) field watches.
October 11, 2019 | READ
When someone asks for an alternative to the Rolex Datejust, there have become a series of go-to answers.
September 18, 2019 | READ