Between the Lugs: BluShark Nylon Straps
How I got these straps: BluShark sent me a email asking if I'd like to test out some of nylon watch straps. I wore four different straps for two weeks before sending them back. This is not a paid review.
For a long time I have been envious of those with watches sporty enough to wear NATO straps. I love my Zenith Dual Time but sometimes, especially during the Summer months, I wish it was something more suited to something more casual. So when a window of opportunity presented itself, I jumped straight through it. As I was awaiting the Christopher Ward C8 UTC World Timer, Joe from BluShark Nylon Straps sent me an email asking I'd like to test out a few of his straps so for the last two weeks that's what I've been doing.
Whilst the NATO strap was first produced in 1973 for the British Ministry of Defense, the DNA of a single piece strap goes back much further. At the turn of the century the pocket watch was the timepiece of choice for gentleman and the wristwatch, or wristlet as it was known, was for ladies. In World War 1, these same gentleman realized that a pocket watch was ill suited for trench warfare so they took to customizing them. Two pieces of wire soldered onto the top and bottom of the case allowed a piece of leather to thread through them and wrap around the wrist.
Watch brands slowly changed with the times and soon the wristwatch was the timepiece of choice. Military watches of the 1940s & 50s sometimes had fixed pins in place of spring bars with either a two piece leather strap (Attached with two folding pieces of metal) or a nylon strap threaded through them.
The most famous instance of a nylon strap is that scene from Goldfinger. Watch fans have spent hours re-watching that pre-credits sequence in the hope of discovering the exact color of the strap. However Goldfinger was released in 1964 so the strap shown cannot be a true NATO strap as they weren't produced until 1973 when the British MoD requested that a wristwatch strap made to a certain set of requirements:
- Material: Nylon
- Color: Admiralty Grey
- Width: 20mm (18mm was later allowed)
- Metal: Chrome-plated brass (Stainless steel was later allowed)
The one other requirement was that a shorter piece of nylon must be present and have its own keeper on the end. Having the strap thread through just the spring bars allowed too much movement and if a spring bar broke, the watch would fall off. The keeper on the second, shorter piece created a 'pocket' which would secure the watch to the wrist, even if a spring bar broke, and meant a tighter fit.
The original name for the NATO strap was actually 'G10 strap', named after the form soldiers needed to complete to get one. So how a British strap get labeled with the NATO name? Well this strap had a NATO Stock Number (NSN) which identified the G10 as a 'Strap, wrist watch'. Over time servicemen started referring to the strap as a 'NATO strap' and the name stuck.
Joe founded BluShark because he was tired of low quality straps, uninspiring packaging and bad customer service. The latest line, AlphaShark, is the top-of-the-line nylon strap priced at $32 with the regular Blushark straps costing $15. These straps are sometimes twice the price of many of BluShark's competitors but Joe believes the quality speaks for itself. I happen to agree.
I was immediately impressed by the quality of both the BluShark and AlphaShark collection as from first touch to final wear, these straps were both comfortable and durable. From sitting at my desk to hiking, these straps performed wonderfully and will be great for a weekend warrior looking to upgrade their kit.
Made from a thicker (1.4mm compared to 1.2mm) high strength nylon weave, the Alphashark line also has a larger buckle and flat, rectangular keepers. The 0.2mm difference isn't instantly noticeable between the two straps but the quality of the keepers is. The flat, rectangular keepers do the exact same job as the rounded ones but I prefer their look, size and overall feel. I don't know if the the increased width and thickness is of any benefit but they feel more durable, and sometimes that feelings is all that matters. All of the straps I was sent were fitted with the premium buckle so I don't have a point of comparison to the smaller, standard one.
My personal favorite color choice to wear with the World Timer was the Admiralty Grey and British Khaki. These two colors complimented the dial and style of the watch perfectly, and I can imagine they work well with nearly every watch. I will admit the Black with PVD coated buckle and keepers wormed its way into my affections far more than I thought possible. It works good against the burshed steel but shines when paired against an all black watch.
To my surprise, I didn't find myself wearing the Bond 'regimental' strap as much as I thought I would, though this is down to my own taste about how good it looked on the Worldtimer, not the quality of design. The contrast between the lighter grey and the deep black is crisp and this would look perfect on any dive watch.
Changing the strap can totally change the look of a watch
Those who haven't worn a NATO before will instantly notice the increase in height and width of your watch. The Worldtimer was 44mm wide and the looped section of the strap added a few more millimeters to that. The Alphashark had a slightly more noticeable fold over than the Blushark but only by a few millimeters or so.
The BluShark collection is available in 18, 20, 22 and 24mm widths with the Alphashark limited to 20 and 22mm. I hope in the future that the Alphashark range has these smaller widths as they would look and feel great when worn with a smaller vintage military watch.
The Alphashark straps might be more money than you're used to paying for a simple NATO, but the price is representative of their quality. If you own a luxury or vintage dive watch, then it deserves to have a top quality strap, not something falling apart at the seams.