What’s behind the strap you’re wearing?
All too often we inspect and admire the watch that's being worn but have you actually looked at the strap that’s holding it there? For years straps have evolved from simple functionality to expensive enhancements of the timepiece.
Here’s some history behind one of the most popular watch straps.
The NATO or DefStan 66-15 G1098 strap (to be precise)
How was the strap named? The answer seems simple - the straps were originally made for NATO troops, right? Not quite, the term “NATO strap” came into use as a shortened version of NATO Stocking Number (NSN) and otherwise had very little to do with the strap carrying its namesake.
The more appropriate name for the “NATO” strap is actually the “G10” — which is how we’ll refer to it from here. In 1973 the G10 strap made its debut in the British Ministry of Defence Standard (DefStan) 66-15. They were the perfect simple design for watches that may be used in battle or training, where even if the strap broke, the watch remained intact and on your wrist. The strap became very popular and for soldiers to get their hands on one, they had to fill out a form known as the G1098, or G10 for short. Subsequently, they could get the strap at their unit’s supply store of the same name and that’s how the name G10 was born.
Though the Ministry of Defence’s name for the strap was decidedly nondescript, its specifications were very specific. The MoD-issued G10 straps were nylon, only made in “Admiralty Grey” with a width of 20mm, and had chrome-plated brass buckle and keepers.
Another key trait was a second, shorter piece of nylon strap attached to the buckle. Since the strap was to be used by the military, it needed to be functional and fail-safe. The extra nylon had a keeper at its end through which the main part of the strap passed through after it had been looped behind the watch. This created a pocket, limiting the distance the case could move. As long as the strap was passed through properly and snugly on the wrist, the case would stay exactly where it was needed. The bonus feature of a strap that passes behind the watch is there so that in the event that a spring bar breaks or pops out, the case will still be secured by the other spring bar.
Since 1973, the genuine G10 strap has seen only a very slight modification. The current version has been downsized to 18mm and now has stainless steel hardware. In 1978, a company known as Phoenix took over production of MoD-spec G10 straps; those would be regarded as the originals if you’re interested in keeping your watch authentic.