As you may have seen, our current giveaway is for a pretty nice package of straps from Cheapest Nato Straps. Â Far from being a selection of nylon straps, they are, instead, made of sturdy, beautiful, and quite-nice smelling leather. Â Far from just passing those straps on to you sight unseen,Â Cheapest Nato Straps also sent us over a duplicate of the giveaway package so we could take them for a hands-on ride.
Of course, reviewing straps is a tricky business. Â Itâ€™s not like thereâ€™s a lot of tech that is bundled into a strap, nor are you necessarily comparing the merits of different buckles. Â Given how they impact the look of the watch, itâ€™s more of an aesthetics thing. Â Not to say that there isnâ€™t something to consider in the non-looks department. Â Iâ€™m talking about quick-release spring bars. Â Iâ€™m starting to see these more direct from brands (say, like on this Grayton) and I like seeing them on the independent strap sites as well. Â Frankly, itâ€™s in their best interest – anything that makes a strap easier to change (for anyone, not just us with several different strap changing tools) is good, as it makes folks more likely to pick up a few, and change them at-will.
For this roundup review of the stuff fromÂ Cheapest Nato Straps, I put my usual suspects to the test – my Michelsen Arctic ExplorerÂ and Seiko Orange Monster. Â I also conscripted a watch that was still around from itâ€™s review, the Grayton Automatic. Â All of these have 20mm lugs, and they all had straps with quick-change spring bars already in place, which makes swapping these straps fromÂ Cheapest Nato Straps in a breeze.
All of the straps we reviewed from Cheapest Nato Straps are made from leather that comes from theÂ KvarnsjÃ¶ tannery. Â Iâ€™ve no idea how big they are, or how popular (maybe they are the Horween of Sweden, maybe not), but it seems like good leather to my untrained eye. Really, itâ€™s how they hold up over time that will tell the true story. Â For now, they looked good, felt good, and most importantly for a leather, smelled good. Â The leather smelled like it should – deep and rich, not even a hint of chemical plastickyness that you can find from lower-end leathers.
Also good on these straps fromÂ Cheapest Nato Straps? Â Theyâ€™re made of single pieces of leather. Â That also speaks to the quality, as you donâ€™t have to have things layered on top of each other to cover up a less-desirable substrate, which means you wonâ€™t get that weird wrinkling cheaper straps will have. Â Single piece also means less stitching, and on this review (and giveaway) bundle, itâ€™s really minimal. Â A pair of stitches at the ends to hold the spring bar in place, some more for the buckle and fixed keeper, and then a little bit of detail on the tail of the strap. Â Depending on the strap, this is either color-matched or contrast.
While there are very specific names and models for the straps (and Iâ€™ve linked them all below, with their pricing), they fall into two categories, in my mind – racing style (shown by the perforations that call to mind driving gloves) with contrast stitching, and the â€œretroâ€ line, which is a cleaner (and color-matched) look. Â I also found that the retro watches had much more of a wax-packed feel to them. Â By this, I mean they didnâ€™t feel slick or smooth. They had a slightly tacky feel, which (hopefully) means a well-conditioned leather that should pick up nice character over time.
Before I got in this package fromÂ Cheapest Nato Straps, I wouldnâ€™t have figured myself for liking a racing-style strap. Â Well, funnily enough, I did rather like the look. Â Paired as they were, it lent another touch of sportiness to the watches, and of course breaks up what could be (to some eyes) an otherwise boring strap. Â With a variety of colors in the mix (between the leathers and contrast stitching), it ended up enlivening the watches. Â The biggest hit (and surprise) for me was the grey one with itâ€™s orange stitch, as paired to the Orange Monster. Â Wouldnâ€™t have put that down for a diver, but it works. Â It just works. Â Coming in a close second, though, was that burgundy strap on the Michelsen. Â Iâ€™ve normally got a blue strap on that watch, but the burgundy warms things up a bit, and the red is subtle, so itâ€™s not screaming at your eyes.
So, yeah – I am very happy that we learned aboutÂ Cheapest Nato Straps and their very extensive catalog. Â From what Iâ€™ve seen here, whomever wins this monthâ€™s giveaway is going to be a very happy camper indeed. Â And for everyone else? Â Well, these straps are really quite affordable, especially with as nice as the leather and stitching is. Â With pricing starting at $15.95 and topping out at $19.95 (at least for what we reviewed), these are the very definition of a good deal. Â And, given how varied the catalog is, there no doubt is a strap (or three) fromÂ Cheapest Nato Straps that will fit your watch, tastes, and of course, wallet. Â cheapestnatostraps.com