We often say that changing a watch’s strap is akin to changing its entire personality. This is probably the reason why there has always been a myriad of watch straps in the industry. From leather straps to perlon (nylon) straps to Milanese mesh straps, watchmakers are getting more innovative with the types of straps they can offer. However, despite the wide variety, every watch strap is designed with a purpose in mind. Let’s find out the purpose of NATO and perlon straps today!
What is a NATO Strap?
Did you know that the debut of NATO watch straps dates back to 1973 when the British Ministry of Defense introduced the strap for its soldiers to use in the field? Known for its durability and practicality, this 20mm nylon strap became a favourite among British soldiers. It was nicknamed G-10 as soldiers who were looking to get the NATO strap had to request via a G-1098 requisition form. So, why is it called NATO? The term “NATO” is derived from the alphanumeric code – NATO Stock Number (NSN) – used in the British MoD to identify all standardised material items of supply.
Besides being popular among soldiers, NATO straps are also insanely popular among the public. In 1963, 10 years before NATO straps were introduced, it was featured in a James Bond’s film, Goldfinger. Since then, it has always been a symbol of refinement and style on par with Bond’s Aston Martin cars. These light and breathable nylon straps have worn the hearts of many for being not only functional but also because of their less-is-more design.
What is Perlon (Nylon) Strap?
Unlike NATO strap that is rich in history, perlon strap, also known as Nylon 6, is synthetic nylon developed by a German chemist in 1938. Perlon is made by linking together materials into a tight and long chain, resulting in fibers that have higher tensile strength. This is very different from ordinary nylon that is made by condensing materials to form solid fibers, which are then woven together to make the finished fabric. The material itself makes perlon straps a highly sought-after item nowadays for its light, breathable and flexible material with amazing duality. What’s even better is an interchangeable strap for you to play around with different straps on different occasions.
What is the Difference between NATO and Perlon Strap?
While both straps are made from nylon, they can feel very different on the wrist.
NATO straps can safely secure the dials because of how it’s designed to loop under the case through both spring bars. As such, it is much thicker than perlon straps as a whole and sits a little higher off the wrist. Some may find the thickness an issue, especially on a hot summer. Therefore, people will either love it or hate it. Another feature that contributes to the love-hate relationship is the pre-cut holes. The pre-determined holes can fit either too loosely or too tightly on your wrist. One notch up, you will feel suffocated. One notch down, you will feel like it’s dropping off your wrist. Unless you are super lucky, there seldom is a perfect fit for NATO straps, in contrast to perlon straps.
With the light, crisp and elastic material of the perlon strap, it is extremely breathable which makes it perfect to wear on a hot summer day. The best part about the braided nylon material is that you can make micro-adjustments to have the absolute perfect length for your strap. Owing thanks to its flexible and mushy construction, you can adjust the buckle’s pin to slip into one of the strap’s many perforations. The nearly infinite micro-adjustment is probably one of the best reasons to get a perlon strap now, and not to mention the numerous styles that you can pair this gem with.
NATO vs Perlon Strap
How to Wear Them
Here’s a step-by-step instruction on how to wear a NATO strap.
- Slide the long end of the strap downward through the upper spring bar of the watch. Then pull it upward through the spring bar on the lower part of the watch.
- Take the long end again and slide it through the keeper. After you fasten it completely there should be two layers underneath the watch.
- Fasten the strap on your wrist as you normally would any watch strap. Then slide the tail upward through the two keepers.
- You then have two ways to tuck the remaining “tail” of the strap: inward or outward.
For a perlon strap, it is relatively easier compared to a NATO strap. Check out this video here on how to change the watch straps with our built-in easy-release feature. Then, just slip the buckle's pin into any of the perforations and you are ready to go!
How to Clean Them
Cleaning these nylon straps cannot get any easier. This method works for both NATO and perlon straps. When cleaning your straps, always remember that heat is your greatest enemy.
- Remove the strap from your watch.
- With a clean towel or soft brush, prep your watch and ensure there's no crud left on the surface of the strap.
- In an appropriately sized dish, mix a soft soap with warm water and submerge your strap for a few minutes. Do not use hot water; intense heat can (and will) affect the nylon.
- Once soaked, rub the strap between your fingers to work the soap into the fabric.
- Rinse thoroughly under running water.
- Roll the strap in a hand towel and compress to remove as much water as possible.
- Hang the strap to airdry it. Preferable stay away from direct sunlight
- If, after cleaning and drying, you find any frayed bits of nylon, use the residual heat from a lighter (not the direct flame) to melt away the fray and seal up the edge of the strap.
If you’re feeling lazy, here’s a trick for you. Place your strap in a wash bag and toss them in with the rest of your laundry. Don’t put them in the dryer. When the laundry is done, proceed to step 6 and 7 to properly dry them.
Even though both straps are made from nylon, you can see how different they are. Perlon straps are definitely more fashionable and breathable than NATO straps, but NATO strap is designed for the military, and hence serves a different purpose. When purchasing a watch, always consider the occasions or events that you will wear it because it will make a difference in the type of strap you ultimately choose.