“The cheapest way to get a new watch is to get a new strap.” – Confucius, circa 500 B.C.
Now, I don’t know much about philosophy but I can say that Confucius got that spot on. Talk about coming up with great #lifehacks before ‘lifehacks’ even existed. Fancy the idea of wearing a dress-ish watch to the beach? Simple! Swap out the leather strap for a NATO or a rubber unit and you’re good to go. With that said, what’s the deal with strap reviews? What exactly is there to review?
Sure, you could go out and get any strap. After all, it’s a whole lot more convenient, right? Just don’t blame me when you end up with this:
See, I did exactly that. Go out and pick up the cheapest possible strap from the nearest possible store. Full story? That strap didn’t even last a year before snapping on me while I was on my way to an appointment.
So there’s the moral of the story. Unless you’re perfectly fine with replacing a snapped strap more than once a year, you should really take just a bit of your time to get your hands on a decent unit. Besides, I’m sure your watch deserves better, right? Pairing a low-quality strap to your watch would, in my opinion, feel like installing cheap, knockoff tyres on a performance car.
“Lesson learned, then?”
Yeah, most definitely. In fact, I now live by the mantra that a good strap is always worth its price tag. Which, conveniently, brings us to the topic for today’s conversation. Now, I’m sure all you watch aficionados out there have heard of strap manufacturers like Hirsch, Colareb and what have you, right? They make achingly beautiful straps of the highest quality with price tags to match.
If you’ve got deep, deep pockets, I highly recommend them. Unfortunately, I don’t fall into that category. Which is exactly where Dials&Straps come in. Not only do their straps pose amazing value for money, they get extra brownie points by being a Malaysian company. *cue chants of Malaysia Boleh!/Malaysia Baru!*
“Meh, M’sian products are inferior compared to (insert foreign country)’s goods.”
If you happen to think that way, YOU are part of the reason why Malaysia will never move forward. With that said, let’s move on to the straps. Firstly, I have with me the James Bond and Regimental Helgray NATO straps in 20 mm. As far as first impressions go, I’d say they are fairly impressive for the money. Let’s not kid ourselves, okay? Comfort levels are not on mind-blowing levels but the medium weave ballistic nylon webbing meant that I could pair these up with my Seikos and wear them for hours on end without that dreaded scratchy sensation one would get from a lower quality NATO strap.
The buckle and hoops are fashioned out of polished stainless steel. The James Bond NATO is also available with brushed metal surfaces but I did not get the chance to handle said variant. Also, according to Dials&Straps, newer batches of the James Bond and Helgray NATO will have the company insignia laser-etched onto the buckle. As for the measurements of said straps, the length is quoted at 28 cm with 10 holes so it should fit most wrists.
Now, here’s the best part. The James Bond NATO goes for RM29 while the Regimental Helgray NATO is on sale at RM18. As far as sizes go, the Regimental Helgray is only available in 20 mm while the Bond is available in 18, 20 and 22 mm.
With all that said, let me just get my take on the aesthetics out of the way. I will be the first to admit that the Regimental Helgray is not exactly my personal cup of tea. Perhaps I don’t have the right kind of watch to make it really pop or my tastes are just skewed towards more sombre shades. In my opinion, the tricolour combination of the red, white and blue visually overpowered the Seiko SARB065 Cocktail Time I paired it with.
What about the sombre-looking grey and black NATO?
Yes, you mean the James Bond NATO. Well, that was a different story altogether. The minute I laid my eyes on it, I knew it was meant for my Seiko Presage SARX017. The grey/black stripes complemented the vertical pinstripes on the dial of the SARX017 to a tee. Also, I felt that the aesthetics evolved from a smart-casual, everyday vibe to a slightly more utilitarian, tool-like appearance with the Bond NATO.
Furthermore, the buckle has the aforementioned laser-etched insignia so that’s a nice little touch. However, a closer look revealed a minor anomaly with both these straps in particular. See, it was stated earlier on that the straps would have 10 holes for adjustment but the pair I have with me each possess 13 holes. Not exactly a deal-breaker, just something that struck me as a tad odd.
To sum up just how right the Bond NATO looked and felt on the SARX017, I can confidently say that it’s staying on for the foreseeable future. Sod the stock leather strap. As for the tricoloured Helgray NATO, perhaps I’ll try it on a watch with a less striking dial – watch this space.
“Aren’t you forgetting one more strap?”
Quite the opposite, actually. I was just saving the best for last. Introducing the Premium Seatbelt Grey NATO Strap – and yes, premium is the best way to describe how it feels. This particular example differs from the previous two by being completely made out of used seat belts salvaged from Italian exotic cars.
Only kidding but it’s that smooth to the touch. However, my first gripe with it is that the finishing at the edge of the strap is a bit rough. Aside from that, the Seatbelt NATO is a strap that I’d seriously consider packing along for my extended vacations. While I could wear the previous two for hours and be totally comfortable, this strap practically dissolves into my skin after an hour or so. The only constant reminder that I have something attached to my wrist is the actual weight of the watch itself.
Additionally, even the buckle and hoops feel more substantial. Also, the laser etching is a tad larger and clearer than the regular variants. If you’re not a fan of the polished stainless steel buckle, you can option it out in either a brushed steel or black PVD treatment. Personally, I think another factor that adds to the “heft” of the strap is the 1.4 mm thickness which might not seem like much but it completely alters the way it feels in your hands and around your wrist when you’re strapping it in place.
Since we’re already on the topic of numbers, let’s get the rest laid out. The entire strap stretches 290 mm long and has 11 holes to accommodate a wide variety of wrist sizes. Sizes are available in 20 and 22 mm. Last but not least, the Premium Seatbelt Grey NATO is priced at RM99.
Is this the perfect NATO strap, then?
Aside from the finishing at certain points, well…
I would say that for the money, it’s as close as it gets. There is one caveat, though. The strap does lean on the firm side and is not as flexible as the regular variants so you might need to really break it in before you can slide it on with absolute ease. As it stands now, I need to yank that bit harder when putting my watch on. In conclusion, it’s still a strap I’d highly recommend, regular NATOs included. Of course, the folks at Dials&Straps have way more in their inventory than I will ever get to review so check them out here to see what they have in store.