A number of fashion staples today began life as utilitarian products meant for use by the military. The now ubiquitous bomber jacket and aviator-style sunglasses were issued to fighter pilots during the Second World War, the khaki green field jacket is based on the M-65 field jacket worn by American soldiers during the Vietnam Conflict in 1965. Desert Boots were first used by British troops stationed in Egypt before it was co-opted by Mods in Britain.
Even in the world of horology, watches like the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms began life as tool watches for naval divers. The popular Pilot’s Watch style references a timepiece produced for German Air Force pilots during the Second World War. The NATO strap — the fabric strap that holds up everything from $100 Daniel Wellingtons to $15,000 luxury diver’s watches today — has a martial backstory too. Here are 9 cool facts you should know.
1. The NATO strap has less to do with that intergovernmental military alliance and more with the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) which introduced the strap to serving soldiers in 1973.
2. In army parlance, G1098 were like local stores manned by the Royal Army Ordinance Core (ROAC). A military unit or sub-unit would have a list (or table) of what these stores would stock, items would include things like spades, watches, straps, binoculars, sleeping bag and so on and each items was identified by a serial number. If these were lost by the soldier it was issued to, there would an inquiry into the matter, and he would have to pay for the lost item.
3. Military personnel issued with chronographs swapped their leather straps for nylon bands. For this they had to do was fill out a form called the “G10” and present it to the MoD store. The MoD stockists labelled these bands with the NATO stock number (NSN) G1098. So the watch strap should technically be called a G10.
4. The moisture-wicking properties of the nylon strap made sense for soldiers serving in tropical climates or even in the UK where every day could pretty much be a rainy day.
5. According to MoD-spec (DefStan) 66-15, the strap needed to open-ended so that it could be threaded through the fixed bar of the watch (Milspec watches didn’t have spring bars).
6. The original DefStan 66-15 issue was a 20 mm wide Admiralty Grey strap. British soldiers soon started wearing straps that featured their regimental colors.
7. Vintage watch enthusiasts often reference Sean Connery’s Rolex Submariner Big Crown Ref. 6538 that was paired with a fabric strap with navy blue, red and dark green stripes in the 1964 James Bond caper Goldfinger. However this is not technically a NATO strap since they were introduced only in 1973. But that anachronism notwithstanding, that strap did a lot to popularize the adoption of the Nato by the general public.
8. Ever wondered about the curious construction of the Nato strap? The long piece of the nylon strap has a second shorter piece that’s attached to the buckle. The shorter piece has a keeper at its end through which the main part of the strap passed through after it is threaded through the spring bars. This construction ensured that the case would be secured by the other spring bar even if one popped.
9. Once an object of utilitarian and tactical value, the Nato strap has now been adopted by the mainstream. Everyone from Daniel Wellington to Omega and Blancpain offers watches with these fabric straps.