Watch Guides

Explained: NATO vs Zulu Watch Straps


Confused about the difference between NATO and Zulu watch straps? Learn about how these two types of watch straps differ and why people like them.

Which is better, Zulu or NATO?

If you’re curious about the differences between NATO and Zulu straps, then don’t worry — you’re not alone!

In fact, many watch enthusiasts still aren’t familiar with the distinctions between these two nylon straps, as they appear quite similar in style and appearance.

After our previous post showcasing some of the best NATO watch straps, a few of you inquired about the differences between that style of band and Zulu straps.

That’s why today, we’re going to delve into the complexities that set NATO and Zulu-style straps apart and uncover the stories behind these popular watch bands.

Let’s dive into the details below!

What’s The Difference Between A NATO And Zulu Strap?

NATO vs Zulu Watch Strap

Both NATO and Zulu watch straps have a single-piece “slip-through” design, meaning the straps go through the watch case and spring bars instead of inserting it into the spring bar directly.

However, an obvious distinction between the two is that NATO straps have an additional layer of thin nylon or extra loop that keeps the watch on the wrist in case the spring bars break, which adds another set of protection.

While Zulu-style straps are made of thicker nylon cloth and have only one layer of woven nylon.

Physical Differences: NATO vs Zulu

NATO vs Zulu Watch Strap

Besides the double loop design of a NATO-style strap, there are more physical disparities between NATO and Zulu straps. Specifically, this difference pertains to their buckle and keepers.


Zulu Straps have significantly thicker buckles with rounded corners. They often also have more robust metal hardware than the NATO-style straps. 

On the other hand, NATO straps have more thinner tang buckles. This is due to the design of NATO straps, which require the strap to fold back on itself and pass through the hardware.


NATO watch strap features slimmer and rectangular keepers. 

These rigid keepers help maintain a secure fit and tidy appearance. Meanwhile, Zulu straps have large rounded keepers to accommodate a thicker nylon strap while providing a robust and practical design.

History: What Is The Point Of A NATO Strap?

The origin of the NATO watch straps, also known as G-10 nylon straps, dates back to the early 1970s when the British Ministry of Defense used them as part of their standard equipment for British military personnel.

These grey color NATO straps replaced the traditional leather and metal bracelet formerly used in battles, which posed issues in combat situations. 

They are waterproof, lightweight, and extremely durable, making them the perfect watch bands to use in fighting.

Today, the NATO strap remains one of the most trusted watch accessories that pay tribute to its military heritage while serving as a fashionable and functional alternative for watch enthusiasts.

Why Do People Like NATO Watch Straps?

NATO vs Zulu Watch Strap

Many watch enthusiasts prefer using NATO straps for their durability, versatile design, and functionality. 

These watch bands are crafted from tightly woven nylon, which makes them both lightweight and sturdy. They can be easily swapped out and allows you to switch straps within a minute. 

Moreover, they are designed to provide the utmost comfort to their wearers.

They are double-looped behind the watch case, designed to save your timepiece and prevent it from being lost due to a broken spring bar. 

This is especially crucial in diving since dive watches are important tools for divers to know how much time is left in their oxygen tank. 

Today, they are available in different colors and designs that fit almost everyone’s taste. They also offer different width sizes to accommodate different sizes of the watch head, even if they have wide lugs.

History: What Is The Point Of A Zulu Strap?

Unlike the NATO-style strap, Zulu straps have no well-documented history of origin, and there is only limited available information to trace back its history.

As far as our research goes, it is believed that Zulu straps were inspired by the pre-NATO fabric strap used by the British Royal Air Force in the past World Wars.

This NATO strap look-alike is similar to the navy blue watch band (with red and green stripes) sported by Sean Connery in his famous James Bond film, the Goldfinger, which is why they are sometimes called “Bond Nato.”

Why Do People Like Zulu Watch Straps?

NATO vs Zulu Watch Strap

Zulu Straps are single-piece fabric made of thicker nylon, which means they are more durable than any other nylon-made straps.

Although they don’t have two layers of fabric, they offer a tight fit on the wrist that ensures your timepiece stays securely in place during various activities while giving your watch a much slimmer look.

They also feature much more durable buckles and heavy-duty hoops, which are larger than those found on NATO straps. Their hardware ranges from plated brass to stainless steel and often comes in brushed, polished, or PVD finishes.

Moreover, they are easy to wash and clean. Just put them in a laundry bag and machine wash them, and voila! You can now use them again!

NATO vs Zulu – FAQ

How do you wear a NATO strap?

The most common way to wear a NATO strap is to insert the long end of the strap through the spring bars and then thread it into the extra loop underneath before adjusting it to fit.

How do you wear a Zulu strap?

Thread the long end through the watch and get the placement where you want it. Then go through both rings and back through the first ring to lock.

How Do You Fit a NATO or Zulu Strap?

Almost all NATO and Zulu straps are designed to have longer lengths, making it a one size fits all watch band.

NATO vs Zulu – Conclusion

And there you have it!

Those are our detailed comparisons of NATO and Zulu straps, two of the most popular nylon straps used as alternative watch bracelets. With this guide, we hope you can pick the perfect watch strap to complement your style and needs.

And if you want to have more choices, you can also check our top picks for the best rubber watch straps today.

So if you have questions, comments, or suggestions, feel free to leave us a comment below!

Ethan Hunt is the executive editor of, a luxury lifestyle website. With a background in education, he has a keen interest in educating readers on the finer things in life, particularly in the realm of fashion and luxury style. His love for these topics has led him to pursue a career in editorial work and he continues to share his knowledge with readers around the world.

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