Watch Straps

5 Best NATO and Zulu Watch Straps for a Retro Military Aesthetic

Artem Straps Nylon Watch Strap

Rounding out our series looking at the diverse world of straps from classic leather numbers to sporty rubber are our favourite NATO and Zulu straps. Typically made from woven nylon, these are some of the most hard-wearing and durable straps around, ideal for tough daily beaters and tool watches. They also have a strong tradition in military fields as they were originally developed for the British military due to their robust qualities and inbuilt fail-safes such as the fact that one set of lugs can become unattached without the watch falling off your wrist as it will still be secured by the others.

Zuludiver 1973 British Military Watch Strap, £18

Zuludiver 1973 British Military Watch Strap
Zuludiver 1973 British Military Watch Strap

There are, unsurprisingly, a great many accessible NATO strap options out there, nylon isn’t a hard material to come by after all. Bringing great value alongside a broad suite of colours is Zuludiver, a brand founded by the same minds behind the Geckota group.

The 1973 British Military Watch Strap is inspired by retro military gear and features the so-called Bond colourway of grey and black. It comes with a choice of satin brushed, polished or IP black hardware. For NATO novices, hardware is the term used to refer to the buckles and metallic loops.

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Artem Straps Bond Nylon Watch Strap, £51

Artem Straps Bond Nylon Watch Strap

Artem Straps is an Australian strap brand that has rapidly grown in the last few years. I remember back in 2021 that it was big news they had released new stitching colours for their black sailcloth straps and today their collection is a riot of colours and styles.

Colour is particularly important for their Nylon Watch Strap range, which ranges from the sleek black and grey Bond to the vibrant Summer Blue and intriguing Commander. Thickness is a particularly important statistic for a NATO style strap as it can dramatically affect how comfortably it sits on the wrist. Artem’s is 1.4 – 1.5mm thick, which is definitely on the thicker side of things.

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Zulu Alpha OTAN Watch Strap, £125

Zulu Alpha OTAN Watch Strap

Plenty of manufacturers make NATO or Zulu-style military straps, but if you want a team that really knows what they’re doing, you’ll want to go for guys that know precisely what the military demands. Alongside their civilian offerings, Zulu Alpha make things for the MoD, and as military men themselves, they understand what’s needed to keep a watch on your wrist.

Hence their signature OTAN strap which is, as they put it, ‘made famous by an ex-member of the Royal Navy. Now made by an ex-member of the Royal Navy.’ If that weren’t enough, its nostalgia-laced military style and superlative construction should be. It’s the special forces of Zulu straps.

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Bark and Jack Light Sand Tubular NATO Strap, £26

Bark and Jack Tubular NATO Strap
Bark and Jack Tubular NATO Strap

Looking for a NATO in a solid colour, Bark & Jack produce a wide range of nylon NATO straps in a variety of colours. This Light Sand edition has a light brown colour that pairs well with the khaki tones of desert camo and military fatigues.

It features a tubular construction, giving it a ribbed texture that is particularly tough despite being thinner than ‘seatbelt’ woven nylon at 1.2mm. If you want something a little more colourful, they also produce patterned versions in the classic Bond and Guld colourways.

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Phenome Straps NTTD Bond Nylon Strap, $40 (approx. £32)

Phenome Straps NTTD Bond Nylon Strap

Phenome Straps is a fabric strap specialist that started life in the same manner as many watch microbrands. A collector was looking for a specific type of product and couldn’t find anything on the market to match and so set out to create it themselves.

Specifically, they wanted to create an accessible version of Omega’s OEM strap, which is widely regarded as one of the best NATO straps in the industry and has a correspondingly hefty £170 price tag. Phenome Straps are handmade to order with a thickness of 1.2mm in numerous colours and patterns.

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About the author

Michael Sonsino

As Digital Editor for Oracle Time, Michael needs an eye for detail, which makes it a good thing that his twin joys in life are miniatures and watches. He's a lifelong fan of fine timepieces, especially those of a more historic nature - if it has a twist of Art Deco, all the better. Recent purchase: Seiko Prospex 1959 Alpinist Modern Re-Interpretation. Grail watch: Vacheron Constantin Historiques American 1921.