I haven’t had a lot of NATO straps before. One was included with the Sea-Gull 1963 chronograph, but frankly, it wasn’t good.
I also had a leather one on my 1939 Tissot Antimagnetique, however, it was terrible. Stiff, sharp edges, and thick enough to make rolling the excess into the metal loop impossible.
So, when I had the opportunity to test two NATOs supposedly a step ahead of the rest, I did. So, how did it go?
The straps tested
The two BluShark straps I tested were the AlphaShark in British Khaki and the Orca Caramel. Both in 20mm, and I tested both with a watch that badly needed something better – the 1939 Tissot.
Material: Ballistic nylon
Hardware: Stainless steel, brushed
This one wasn’t my favorite of the two bands. I suppose a part of it is a difference in style between the strap and the watch I tested it with.
The heavy, brushed hardware would play along much better with a vintage-ish tool watch like a Rolex Submariner or an Omega Speedmaster. Or with any tool watch, for that matter. It’d be a great choice for a Seiko diver as well.
The weave, slightly more coarse than that of the AlphaShark, was also a factor. It’s not “scratchy.” It’s just that if I go for a NATO, I suppose I’m more likely to choose the softer material. Still, it’s supple and the edges are finished really, really well.
The hardware, however, is impressive. The brushing and the unobtrusive and finely done logo are excellent. It might just be the best hardware I’ve seen in an aftermarket strap.
AlphaShark British Khaki
Hardware: Stainless steel, polished
I think this might be the best NATO I’ve ever had. As I said before, not that I had a lot. Just, out of the ones I’ve had – hands down – it’s the best one.
The fabric here is far more supple than the already good one of the Orca. Anything but scratchy and the edges are finished excellently.
The slightly lighter, polished hardware is definitely a better match for the “lab rat” watch I’ve had it on. There’s no step down in quality in relation to the brushed hardware. You’re getting the same level of finishing.
I must say, that it did have me wear that Tissot more often. Previously, the drab leather NATO that I had it on has really made it something of a “once in a while” watch for me. That’s no longer the issue.
On that, I suppose I can rest my case.
All in all…
BluShark’s NATO straps are an excellent option if you’re in the market for a NATO.
The way I see it, the AlphaShark is the better option of the two. Still, if you simply want a relatively inexpensive NATO for an entry-level tool watch, the Orca is a great choice as well.
Now, because the hardware in the Orca is slightly more beefy and hefty, I wouldn’t advise it as a choice for a vintage watch, except for perhaps a diver or a sports chronograph. That, however, is only a matter of taste.