How to Wear a Nato Strap Watch

by Jamie Wilson
How to Wear a Nato Strap Watch

Reviewed & updated: October 19, 2022 by Jamie Wilson BA

NATO straps watches have a history dating back to the 1970’s British Military. Despite their relatively recent creation, they’ve become a classic in their own right. It can be tricky to know exactly how to wear one, so we’ll guide you through what to look for, as well as some ways you can pull off the functional style.

NATO Watch Strap

If you’re looking for a watch strap that’s comfortable, will stay securely around your wrist and is easily adjustable, then the NATO design is for you. These specialised straps were born from military practicality, and their design has been perfected and modernised over the years. This ensures they maintain their traditional elements while taking on new materials, smoother finishes and different styles.

Traditional NATO watch straps are made from a nylon material and often come in colourful, striped designs, dating back to when military men customised their watches depending on what regiment they were in. These classic style watches are probably the most popular designs as they have a vintage vibe to them and fully embrace the military history.


Features of a NATO Watch Strap

It can sometimes be confusing to know if the watch strap you’re looking at is actually a NATO strap. They can come in a range of colours and materials, but certain features remain the same regardless of the style. Don’t get the Zulu watch strap and the NATO watch strap confused. They look similar but there’s a big difference that separates the two and makes the NATO strap unique.

This is its trademark extra strap and buckle which is used to help secure the watch securely to the wrist. This is what’s made the design so popular, and has become somewhat of a style preference for many watch enthusiasts. The great thing about these straps though is that they’re generally not associated with one set watch, so if you want to customise a trustworthy timepiece, you can grab a few NATO straps and mix and match as you please.

Daniel Wellington NATO strap men

How to Put on a NATO Strap

With the extra buckle and technique to keep the strap secure, putting the NATO strap can be a challenge. However, it’s really like tying your shoelaces – when you do it once, you know it forever. It really just involves getting the order of the buckles right and adjusting the size of the strap to suit you. This is the main benefit of the NATO strap – the ability to adjust it and it’s comfort.

Whether you’ve got thick or thin wrists, it’s an ideal strap for those that don’t fit neatly into the standard watch size, making it worth the small learning curve.

Leather NATO Strap Watch

With the modernisation of the NATO strap, it’s understandable that the traditional nylon model has been replaced with a softer, more elegant leather strap that’s great for classic looks and more formal occasions. If you’re working with a clean watch face but your strap has worn down, or you just fancy a change, you don’t need to compromise on style to get a secure strap.

You can choose a leather NATO watch strap in various styles, but a dark brown colour is something that will go with a whole range of faces, from minimalist styles ones to more abstract designs. Give your watch a new boost with an improved strap.

leather NATO watch strap men

What to Wear with a NATO Strap Watch

This might seem like a bit of an odd title, especially when watches are generally supposed to be tailored to your outfit rather than the other way around. However, if you’re going for a traditional nylon strap watch with the trademark coloured stripes, there are a few ways you can help to emphasise the classic look. If you decide to choose a modern leather strap, you can easily match it with a variety of outfits to showcase the sleek finish of it.


If your watch has a clean face and a tailored, elegant finish then you can show it off with a neat, smart outfit. You can go extra formal with a standard shirt and blazer look. Working in subtle colours to work with the brighter style of the watch strap. A brown or navy blue jacket will work especially well with a coloured watch strap.

If however, a nylon strap feels too laid back you can always opt for a classic leather strap instead, going for a darker tone to bring out a little more intensity that will work with sleek, formal looks.

nato watch strap formal look men


NATO strap watches are great for formal looks but of course, they work with casual outfits as well. If you’re looking for something to wear day to day, a simple nylon strap watch is perfect. The extra security of the NATO watch ensures you can run for the bus, through a busy supermarket and squeeze onto a packed train, never worrying your watch will come loose.

If you’re the type who likes to keep their clothing simplistic and focuses more on fit, then you might benefit from a striped coloured strap. Otherwise, it’s a good idea to go for a more versatile colour like navy, black or brown to ensure things are easy to match up.

leather nato watch strap casual men

How to Wear a NATO Strap Watch

  • Work out whether you want a traditional nylon strap or a modern leather one.
  • The NATO strap adds extra security to your watch, so it’s worth the investment.
  • Remember that Zulu watches and NATO watches look similar, but the NATO watch has an extra buckle.
  • The striped nylon watches link back to military regiments, adding a historic vibe to your look.
NATO watch strap men

On That Note

So there you have it. If you didn’t know before, you now know exactly what a NATO watch strap is. You’ll also know how it differs from similar designs like the Zulu strap. Its military history is an important part of its design. It comes in various colours and dates back to different regiments.

If you’re not a fan of the classic nylon design then go for a modern leather strap instead. It will still have the same security but will maintain a sleeker. It will also give a formal finish that makes it ideal for a variety of outfits. Regardless of what style you go for, the NATO strap is an ideal accessory which will give the perfect finish.

Feature image from Pexels

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