I, like most people, have always believed that the NATO strap was somehow related to the real NATO, that the straps were standard issue for the soldier’s of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and that’s how they got their name. Yet, the truth is that the straps don’t come from NATO at all, they’re actually a product of the British military and their official title is the G10 watch strap.
The British Ministry of Defense has had a long history of issuing nylon straps to their soldiers as part of their uniforms. Unlike leather or other materials, nylon is sturdy, light, and easy to take off in a pinch. While these straps went through many different incarnations over the years, the NATO strap as we know it today was issued sometime during the sixties, taking the name “G10″ from the title of the form needed to acquire one. The authentic military grade G10 only specifies a twenty millimeter watch strap in admiralty grey, so unfortunately all those bright colored NATOs that are out there today wouldn’t fly in the service. But it was that civilian attraction to the design of the G10 that brought the NATO strap to the plain clothes public, as military surplus stores began stocking the straps. And this is where the term “NATO” actually comes from, as the straps were identified by their NSN or NATO stock number, which was eventually just shortened to NATO. As Sean Connery exemplified in Goldfinger, NATO straps are an easy way to some character to your favorite watch, without skimping on durability. And while Bond kept it relatively reserved with his strap, companies today continue to push the envelope by offering NATOs in increasingly brash and inventive color ways.