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The Origins of the Iconic NATO Strap

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NATO straps have enjoyed increased popularity in recent years though they have been around for a while. This increase has even caught the attention of high-end watch brands like OMEGA and Breitling but can be found on brands like Bulova, Hamilton, and Rado as well. Considering how popular NATO straps are, it’s helpful to know the background of this unique and multi-faceted watch strap. To help understand NATO straps better, we’ve decided to do a deep dive into the origins and history of the NATO strap. If this is something that you’re interested in, read on as we discuss the fascinating origins of the humble NATO strap.

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The Early Years

Many people think the development of the NATO strap had something to do with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, as both the strap and the international organization share the same name. However, the NATO strap was actually developed by the British Ministry of Defense, and got its name from the strap’s stock number. The strap was designed to withstand rugged conditions and environments, as it was originally used for watches that were issued to soldiers. This also explains why the strap is the perfect choice for hot summer days because they were designed to keep moisture away from the skin.

Because it was made for military personnel, its design is practical and is built to prioritize function over form. Despite its simplicity, the NATO strap maintains an aesthetic appeal as it is endlessly customizable to fit just about any style of watch.

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Modern Uses of NATO Straps

You may be wondering how a strap that was originally used in the military became so popular in the commercial market. The answer is that the NATO strap experienced a surge in popularity thanks to the world’s most beloved spy, James Bond. It was in  the 1964 film, Goldfinger that Bond (played by Sean Connery) wore his Rolex Submariner with a NATO strap. While it was only briefly featured in the film, the unique look of the watch, along with the “cool factor” that comes with the character, propelled the NATO strap into mainstream popularity. The trend of utilitarian-military wear would only make the use of the NATO strap more popular, as more enthusiasts started to appreciate the look and story behind the strap.

The strap has only become more popular since, and can now be seen on a multitude of different watches. Some collectors go out of their way to purchase NATO straps to install and swap on watches that traditionally come with metal bracelets. And while watch purists may scoff at the idea of changing the look of a watch from what the designer originally intended, there’s just no denying how good the NATO strap looks on just about every watch.

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With an understanding and appreciation of the iconic NATO strap, it’s likely you’ll begin noticing just how prevalent they are. The background of something as simple as the everyday NATO strap is the perfect example of how every part of watchmaking is rich with stories waiting to be told. We at Feldmar are excited to share these stories with you and answer any questions you may have along the way!

Feldmar Watch Company has been at the forefront of the watch industry for more than a hundred years. What started as a small watch repair business quickly grew into one of the country’s most celebrated sellers of luxury watches. If you’re in the market for brand new luxury watches in Los Angeles, get in touch with us today to see how we can help!

About The Author: Tom Roth


Born in Washington state, Tom developed an interest in photography during college at University of San Diego. There, he got started in music journalism, interviewing artists and taking photos at concerts. A life-long tinkerer and collector, it wasn’t long before Tom became fascinated with fountain pens and watches.

Those interests collided in November 2020 when Tom started at Feldmar Watch Company where he lives out every watch geek’s dream: photographing and writing about timepieces. When he’s not tinkering with his watch collection, Tom can be found traveling, biting his nails while watching PNW sports teams, and taking flying lessons.

Read more from Tom Roth

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