Shopping Cart
Nato Vs Zulu Whats The Difference Header Updated

NATO vs. Zulu Straps—What’s the Difference?

NATO and Zulu straps are both common types of single-piece watch straps, so what’s the difference? That’s the question we hope to answer for your today!

Although distinct, NATO and Zulu straps do share many similarities. As mentioned, both styles feature a single-piece “pass-through” or “slip-through” design, rather than the two-piece design often found on other types of watch bands. Additionally, both styles are commonly available in similar color schemes and materials, such as nylon and leather.


Physical Differences

The most notable physical differences between NATO and Zulu watch straps are the buckles and keepers; Zulus sport a much rounder and thicker set of hardware, whereas the NATO has thinner and more rectangular keepers, as well as a Tang-style buckle.

Nato Vs Zulu Whats The Difference Physical Differences

NATO straps commonly include an additional piece of material on the underside, which serves to keep the watch on your wrist, should one of the spring bars break or come loose. Some Zulu straps include this feature as well (known as 5-ring Zulus), whereas others do not (known as 3-ring Zulus).


A Brief History

The history of the NATO strap begins in the early 1970’s when the British Ministry of Defense made these straps standard issue. The ‘G10’ nickname associated with NATO straps is a reference to the G10 form that had to be filled out in order to get one.

Nato Vs Zulu Whats The Difference History

Although Zulu straps don’t have a well-documented military history, it is thought that they were inspired by pre-NATO single-piece straps such as the RAF (Royal Air Force) straps, similar to the one famously worn by Sean Connery’s James Bond in Goldfinger.


Are you sporting a NATO or Zulu strap with your watch? Let us know in the comments, and don’t forget to check out our NATO strap installation guide!

8 comments

  1. Frederick F-35 pilot

    NATO — and / or Zulu straps to me are the same type of annoying straps, save the two-piece ones, because thën one can wear a non-annoying and 100% non-sliding and nórmal feeling watchband, without being rattled by the thin nylon / resin material.

  2. And a Zulu doesn’t have to have heavy round metal loops, thinner metal, or more originally nylon to match the band can be used. And the zulu style is also much older than the NATO or British MOD style, having been used by the US military starting at least around 1960, if not earlier. I assume the zulu name came about because of the military using zulu time (which was the same as GMT or UTC time) for all military operations, based on US phonetic alphabet designators for time zones.

  3. crbswiss

    I agree with RCR and Steve. I must also add that the second retainer of the Nato does NOT help keep the watch on the wrist in case of spring bar failure. The single pass of both strap types has that purpose (if one is broken the chain of the strap isnt broken. The retainer only keeps the watch from sliding around on the strap itself which keeps it from sliding off the strap and onto the floor if you’re not careful when taking it off the wrist

  4. I’m with Steve. Your article didn’t quite explain it. There is a lot of confusion out there because people use both terms to describe the same band! To me, a Zulu is a “single-pass” strap of one layer of strap. A NATO is two layers between your arm and the watch.
    I’ve also seen NATOs described as single-pass which I don’t like? I guess a NATO has a single-pass through the watch spring bars, but it has two layers.
    Also, a Zulu, to me, has the round, heavier keepers, while the NATO has the flat, square corner keepers.

  5. Jeffery S.

    Sporting a 22mm Navy & Grey 5-stripe NATO on my PHOIBOS 1000-Meter Dive Watch.

  6. Stephen Nyberg

    This article is wrong. Both straps pictured in this article are NATO. Like Steve Warren stated the Zulo only has one layer under the watch where the NATO as two. The difference has to do with the strap configuration – not the hardware.

    1. Absolutely correct!

  7. Steve Warren

    The difference between a Zule and a NATO is that the Zulu does not have the extra retaining strap that the NATO has. The benefit is that there is only one layer of the strap passing beneath the watch instead of two. This can be an advantage, especially with very thick watches and/or very thick strap material.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.