What a Difference a Strap Makes

Are you a watch stalker like me?

If you’re into your watches and regularly take public transport, then I’m guessing you definitely are. As your fellow passengers reach for a handrail, their sleeve slips back… to reveal, invariably, some carbuncle of a wrist adornment. More often than not, it’s something cheap and plastic with an LCD screen, accessorising a suit and a boot.

Cardinal sin, we can all agree.

But my prejudice stretches even further than that. That City guy across from me on the Tube could be wearing a Greubel Forsey, but he still deserves a long, hard stare if the strap is wrong.

For it’s only once you rummage out your watch collection and start playing around with the straps – buy this spring-bar tool and start mixing and matching – that you truly appreciate what a difference a strap makes to the overall look and feel of a watch. After all, it does constitute 75% of the thing circumnavigating your arm.

Obviously, this opens up a can of worms when it comes to watch enthusiasts who, despite an impressive safe of horological delights, still think things like sandals with socks or short-sleeve shirts with ties are an OK thing. But hopefully you’ll quickly learn a sense of what looks right, and hopefully conform to my hastily dreamt-up Five Commandments of Straps:

  1. Never a strap chunkier than the watch itself.
  2. Never a strap of lairy colour with a watch totally devoid of a corresponding colour (think pocket squares and ties, here).
  3. Never a strap all boxfresh and shiny combined with an obviously patinaed head.
  4. Never made of leather from an endangered species (though I still harbour serious concerns about how simple alligator or crocodile skins are farmed. This could be the greatest sleeping scandal of the fashion accessories industry yet…).
  5. Always a strap worn to properly fit. Dangly straps (and bracelets for that matter) are the equivalent of those kids with their trousers round their ankles. And, on a practical level, it puts serious strain on the bars whenever you gesticulate (rudely, to those aforementioned kids, for example).

So, with the ground rules established, it’s time to have some fun! And boy does Page & Cooper’s accessories page have some fun.

Fashion dictates that our first port of call is the ubiquitous NATO strap, which offers the simplest and most effective means of switching-up your old faithful with a funky colour-scheme, for next to no expense.

Page & Cooper has recently started selling Phoenix “NATO G10” straps. What makes these £12.99 NATO’s any better than the £5 jobs on Amazon? The simple fact that Phoenix has been making nylon straps for the British MOD since 1979. Combine this with the fact that “NATO” straps were an MOD conceit in the first place, and what you have here at Page & Cooper is the real deal.

The term “NATO” derives from the fact that the exact specification for this particular type of military strap, so beloved of hipsters spanning Brooklyn to Dalston, is detailed by the UK MOD Defence Standard, or “DefStan” 66-47 – a document that quotes a number of NATO stock numbers for variations of “Strap, Wrist Watch (Nylon)”. For soldiers to get their hands on one, they had to fill out a form known as the G1098, or “G10” for short, hence Phoenix’s suffix. Subsequently, they could retrieve the strap at their unit’s supply store of the same name.

Pictured here is the DefStan 66-47’s illustration. The whole idea being that if one spring bar on your watch pops out, it’ll all stay on your wrist.

 

 

And if you’re dawdling over colour on pageandcooper.com, just go for Admiralty Grey at 20mm width. That’s what our chaps in the field have to wear, and if it’s good enough for them, well then.

A word to the wise, however, not long after the simple “Admiralty Grey” G10 was issued, British military regiments began speccing their straps with their own regimental colors and stripes. A popular civvy variant is called the “Bond”, after THAT moment in Goldfinger when Sean Connery’s secret agent famously wrist-checks his Rolex Submariner, to reveal blue, red and green striped “NATO”. But only amateurs call it the “Bond NATO” – rewind the tape and you’ll notice that the props department have simply crudely threaded a single loop of fabric through the Sub’s bars. Not only that, but the strap is too narrow for the ref. 6538’s lugs!

Still, not as bad a blooper as Statham’s Panerai “beeping” in The Transporter, I guess…

And speaking of American gaffs, here’s something that’s actually Canadian, and not a gaff at all: Marathon. No, not a stale old Snickers bar, but rather a DefStan 66-47-based NATO style strap, in beautifully crafted leather. It was 1939 that Morris Wein founded Marathon Watch in Montreal, supplying fine precision timepieces to retailers throughout North America. In 1941 Marathon began manufacturing timing instruments for the Allied Forces and Marathon still supplies straps to the US Marine Corps, US Government, Canadian Navy and The Mounties.

Three’s the magic number they say, and our third and final stop is ISOfrane – quite simply the connoisseur diver’s no. 1 choice. A cult classic, laid waste by the Quartz Crisis in the Eighties, and now back since 2010, to a huge sigh of relief.

They may look like basic rubber straps with steel buckles to you, but the ISOfrane really was a game-changer back in the Sixties – the immediate choice of Omega for example, when it came to kitting out the cult-classic Seamaster PloProf. Before then, dive straps were usually made from rubber. They were sticky, uncomfortable and would often blister and crack in extreme conditions. These straps were even harder on the divers wearing them. Without ventilation, the skin doesn’t breath.

The ISOfrane strap changed all of that. Being manufactured using a compound called isoprene – a colourless, liquid hydrocarbon obtained in the processing of petroleum and/or coal tar – the ISOfrane was far more durable, breathable, and maintained its looks.

Armed with such knowledge, you can now take your watch-stalking hobby beyond the Tube, and out on the high seas. You’re welcome.