"Seatbelt" NATO strap roundup: BluShark, Cincy, PhenomeNato, and WatchGecko (Picture heavy!)
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Thread: "Seatbelt" NATO strap roundup: BluShark, Cincy, PhenomeNato, and WatchGecko (Picture heavy!)

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  1. #1
    Member Iandk's Avatar
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    Mar 2016

    "Seatbelt" NATO strap roundup: BluShark, Cincy, PhenomeNato, and WatchGecko (Picture heavy!)

    With the recent introduction of a number of "seatbelt"-styled straps from a number of different strap companies, I decided to pick up a few of them for comparison between them, as well as with my other NATO-style straps, so here are my thoughts and opinions on them. I have no affiliation with any of these companies, other than having purchased straps from them for my personal use and interest. I should also note that I have not worn or handled the Omega NATO strap, which seems to be the "gold standard" of comparison for NATO straps, so I am unfortunately unable to offer any comparison between these and the Omega one.

    I will be going through them in alphabetical order, and the straps in question are:

    BluShark: AlphaShark, Bond version.
    Cincy Strap Works: "Seat Belt" SB, Black with grey edges version.
    PhenomeNato: Black version (short length)
    WatchGecko: Prototype ZuluDiver Seat Belt NATO.

    First of all, some group shots. In the same order, from top-to-bottom or left-to-right:

    You can see there are some significant differences in the material and weave.

    Some close-up comparisons (sorry for the slightly out of focus middle picture):

    For some individual thoughts:

    BluShark AlphaShark strap

    Not marketed as a "seatbelt" style strap, but nonetheless it seems a commonly recommended strap to those looking for a higher quality strap. Stated to be a 1.4mm "high sheen nylon weave", it is a thick strap. I confirmed the 1.4mm with a set of calipers, and I do have to note that some of my watches I cannot fit this strap on due to its thickness. This also does mean that the strap will cause the watch to sit higher up above the wrist as well.

    The thread is fairly thick and the weave coarse, as can be seen in the photographs. The weave is dense though, and the strap has very little stretch when I pull on the ends, less so than I get from a run-of-the-mill NATO. The feeling of the fabric is nice and smooth, and the cuts and holes look well sealed. Stitching looks well done as well, however I did have a few spots of scratchiness on the skin where the ends of the stitching were heat sealed.

    As you can see the hardware is pretty substantial, and I probably say on par or even a little bit nicer than those found on ToxicNATOs. Has "Shark" engraved on the large buckle. Due to the large tongue, the holes are cut quite large. I have some questions about whether this will positively or negatively affect the longevity, since there is more of the fabric cut away, but the larger tongue will also spread out the pulling forces on the strap over a larger area as well, rather than concentrating them in one spot. Only time will tell of course, but my feeling is that this will be a really tough strap.

    Cincy Strap Works "SB" strap

    Stated to be "1.2mm premium weaved nylon", it comes out to be slightly more than that when I measure it, at about 1.35mm. The fabric is somewhat more compressible and "cushiony" than all the other ones here, so I can squeeze it down to ~1.15mm. This does make the strap feel quite comfortable to wear, as it's got some give to it (though not as much as, say, a ToxicBUTTA), though it's not quite as smooth feeling as the other three.

    The thread and weave are pretty fine, though not as dense as the other straps. As I mentioned the strap has some give to it, which does also mean a greater degree of stretch when I pull on both ends, more so than I get with a run-of-the-mill NATO. Stitching looks well done, and no scratchiness here. I do have some concerns about the holes though, since they do not seem as well sealed as I would like, and the one hole I've been wearing the strap at has started to stretch out and slightly fray. Will be keeping an eye on that as I continue to wear it.

    Hardware on the strap is the standard hardware you'll find on other straps, engraved with "CSW" on it.

    PhenomeNato strap

    This strap has the finest thread and weave out of all the samples here, and feels smooth and soft. Stated to be 1.2mm thick, with no mention of type of material, my measurement puts it at 1.1mm. However, I will point out that every standard "1.2mm" NATO strap I own measures at 1.1mm thick when I take my calipers to them, with the exception of the Cincy SB strap that comes up thicker, so this is pretty much par for the course. Very dense weave, I can see almost no stretch at all if I pull on both ends. By far the nicest fabric out all the straps I've tried out.

    Holes and ends are well cut and sealed. Stitching is one area which is a bit sloppier than the others, with regards to stitch spacing and straightness. I don't think it's anything that will affect the durability, but it is something that might bother you if you're looking at the fine details.

    Hardware is beefier than what you'll find on a run-of-the-mill strap, but not as substantial as the AlphaShark or ToxicNATOs hardware. The keeper adjacent to the buckle is sliding, rather than fixed into place, which is a nice feature for those who like to tuck the extra end of the strap on the outside, since you can position it to catch the end wherever it ends up. There is no engraving on the buckle; there is a small tag hidden on the inside with the PhenomeNato logo on one side, and "Made in EU" on the other.

    WatchGecko prototype seatbelt strap

    Stated to be "1.2mm durable woven nylon", this one has a coarser weave and thread than the Cincy or PhenomeNato, but still feels nice and smooth. It's also got the alternating lanes with a change in the weave pattern. My measurement put it at 1.1mm as well, like every other "1.2mm" NATO strap I've got. Not much stretch in this strap, about the same as I get from a run-of-the-mill NATO.

    Holes are very well sealed, as you can see in the picture, but slightly off-center. Stitching is probably the finest on this strap out of the four straps I'm comparing here.

    Hardware on this strap is the standard stuff, engraved with "Zuludiver" on the buckle. There's also a hidden tag on the inside labelled with "Original Zuludiver" on both sides.

    Some thoughts...

    I found it somewhat amusing that of the three straps advertised as "seatbelt" style material, only the WatchGecko had a weave that looked similar to the seatbelt in my car, while the Cincy and PhenomeNato straps actually had finer weaves than my car's seatbelt. The AlphaShark is in a class of its own though, having a rather different design than the other three here. Admittedly, it's not really advertised as a "seatbelt" style strap, but I decided to include it here since it seems to often come up in comparison.

    Final verdict?

    BluShark AlphaShark: Big and tough, a bit more scratchy, might be a bit too big for some watches or some people.
    Cincy Strap Works "SB": Comfortable and flexible; some concerns about potential stretching and fraying due to the flexibility of the fabric.
    PhenomeNato: Overall the nicest of the bunch, soft but dense fabric, nice hardware; minus a point for crooked stitching.
    WatchGecko prototype seatbelt: Soft and comfortable, well sealed holes. Probably the plainest looking one compared to the fine weaves of the other two, but doesn't feel any less nice despite that.

    As for long-term durability, will see as time progresses!

    Addendum: Added photos and comparison with the ToxicBUTTA here: https://forums.watchuseek.com/f222/se...l#post36101442

    Addendum 2: Added wet strap length increase comparison here: https://forums.watchuseek.com/f222/se...l#post36363938

    Last edited by Iandk; December 11th, 2016 at 01:38. Reason: Minor phrasing correction. Spelling. Addendums.

  2. #2
    Member EXCALIBUR1's Avatar
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    Dec 2010

    Re: "Seatbelt" NATO strap roundup: BluShark, Cincy, PhenomeNato, and WatchGecko (Picture heavy!)

    Nice review and beautifully detailed photos. Thanks for sharing.

    Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

  3. #3
    Member Watches503's Avatar
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    Mar 2013
    Oakdale, CA

    Re: "Seatbelt" NATO strap roundup: BluShark, Cincy, PhenomeNato, and WatchGecko (Picture heavy!)

    Thanks a lot for sharing this ! Really cool of you.

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  5. #4
    Member Soo Fuego's Avatar
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    Feb 2014

    Re: "Seatbelt" NATO strap roundup: BluShark, Cincy, PhenomeNato, and WatchGecko (Picture heavy!)

    Thanks for the review and pics.
    Seiko: SNZG03K1, SNZG13K1 & SNE107P2
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  6. #5
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    Nov 2009
    Dallas suburbs

    Re: "Seatbelt" NATO strap roundup: BluShark, Cincy, PhenomeNato, and WatchGecko (Picture heavy!)

    Thanks, for all the effort in this excellent and helpful review.

  7. #6
    Member valuewatchguy's Avatar
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    Jun 2012

    Re: "Seatbelt" NATO strap roundup: BluShark, Cincy, PhenomeNato, and WatchGecko (Picture heavy!)

    I'd love to see a Toxic butta in comparison as well.

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  8. #7
    Member Iandk's Avatar
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    Mar 2016

    Re: "Seatbelt" NATO strap roundup: BluShark, Cincy, PhenomeNato, and WatchGecko (Picture heavy!)

    Quote Originally Posted by valuewatchguy View Post
    I'd love to see a Toxic butta in comparison as well.
    Sure. :) Haven't disassembled my makeshift lightbox yet, so snapped some quick photos.

    Straps added to comparison:

    ToxicNATOs: ToxicBUTTA, Grey version.
    ?????: Average, not bottom-of-the-barrel, NATO out of the collection. (Just for pictures of the fabric/weave)

    Group shot with the ToxicBUTTA added along with the generic strap at the bottom:

    ToxicBUTTA in between the PhenomeNATO and WatchGecko Prototype:

    And a closer shot of a more generic NATO, in between the Cincy "SB" and the PhenomeNato, for comparison:

    Weave of the more generic NATO which we all know and love(?) is a totally different pattern than those which have been chosen for the various "seatbelt" straps. It's a nice tight weave, which doesn't stretch too much, but of course with a pretty rough feeling thread, and fairly stiff as well. I don't remember where this particular strap came from, as it has no brand labelling on it, but it's fairly average out of the straps in my collection (it's not one of the really cheap ones, with similar looking fabric, but which feel even more coarse and stiff, and which are the least comfortable to wear).

    As I mentioned in the original post, like the rest of the regular NATO's, it's a "1.2mm" thick strap, but which I measure to be 1.1mm thickness when I use the calipers. Perhaps is just that little bit of give in the fabric, but it seems to be the same all across the board, whether it's the old straps I've got or the new ones I'm reviewing here.


    Stated to be 1.4mm thick "super plush nylon", I measure 1.4mm with the calipers, but with the "plushy" material, it's easily compressed down to 1.1mm. So while it may take a bit of a squish, like the Cincy "SB", you can get it into the watches with tighter clearances around the springbar.

    The fabric is fairly smooth and soft feeling; I'd say it's a tiny bit rougher than the Cincy "SB", with the super smooth PhenomeNato/WatchGecko Prototype Seat Belt straps being another step up. Not a super dense fabric or fine weave, being quite plushy, and stretches more than I get with a run-of-the-mill NATO. I'm doing this all by eye and feel, don't have any equipment to measure numbers, but it seems like a similar amount of stretch to the Cincy "SB". Holes and ends look well sealed, and the stitching is tight and neat. Very comfortable to wear, but likely not as durable compared to the rest. As stated on the ToxicNATOs website: "I would not use this strap for kicking down doors, and doing super bad ass SEAL Team s***. But it would be great for banging on the keyboard everyday, to earn some cash so you can buy the next bad ass watch to hit the market at Basel."

    Hardware is the nice solid ToxicNATO hardware. Note that because the keepers are the same size as those used on the 1.2mm straps, folding the end and tucking it back in takes a tiny bit more fiddling with the ToxicBUTTA's 1.4mm thickness, since you have to squish it a bit to fit it in.

    Side thickness comparison (Left or right: AlphaShark, Cincy "SB", ToxicButta, PhenomeNato, WatchGecko Prototype, Generic):

    Final verdict on the ToxicButta? Comfortable and plushy, great hardware, durability may be a concern if you're rough on your straps.

    A few other thoughts that come to mind:

    Hardware comparison (AlphaShark, ToxicBUTTA, PhenomeNato):

    I'd have a hard time saying whether the BluShark premium hardware or ToxicNATOs standard takes the crown. The ToxicNATO buckle is held on by a springbar, whereas the AlphaShark buckle is sewn in, which may be a consideration if you want to change out the buckle for a branded buckle, or have thoughts about springbar failure. Other than that, the main difference is the larger tongue, which does have less side-to-side play making it easier to find the holes in the strap, but for which I'm awaiting more long-term experience about whether the wear and tear with the larger holes in the fabric will be better or worse.

    The PhenomeNato hardware is a definite step up from the usual generic NATO stuff, with thicker metal construction finished with nice crisp edges, but not quite as heavy-duty as the ToxicNATO or AlphaShark hardware.

    Fabric stretchiness comparison summary:

    Moderately stretchy: Cincy "SB", ToxicButta
    Mildly stretchy: WatchGecko Prototype, most generic NATO's
    Not much stretch: AlphaShark
    Can barely see any stretch: PhenomeNato
    Last edited by Iandk; December 2nd, 2016 at 20:10. Reason: More clarification, added links, punctuation. And spelling!

  9. #8
    Member Iandk's Avatar
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    Mar 2016

    Re: "Seatbelt" NATO strap roundup: BluShark, Cincy, PhenomeNato, and WatchGecko (Picture heavy!)

    One question that came to mind as I was going through this was one of materials.

    Alpha Shark: "high sheen nylon weave"
    Cincy "SB": "premium weaved nylon"
    Phenomenato: "nylon" (according to the "Terms & Conditions" page)
    WatchGecko Prototype: "durable woven nylon"
    ToxicButta: "super plush nylon"

    "Nylon" in itself refers to a large range of polyamides that can be used for fabrics, which can come with all sorts of properties, as we can see from the different feel of all the different NATO straps out there.

    I'm curious if anybody out there has considered the use of polyester for a watch strap, seeing that vehicle seat belts are made out of polyester. And as far as my limited research has been able to find, polyester is more abrasion resistant, has less stretch, has greater breaking strength, and greater resistance to rot as well, though it looks like it's more expensive as well.

    (Is the Omega NATO made out of polyester perhaps?)

  10. #9
    Member valuewatchguy's Avatar
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    Re: "Seatbelt" NATO strap roundup: BluShark, Cincy, PhenomeNato, and WatchGecko (Picture heavy!)

    Here are few pics that you might be interested in. I don't own a Blushark, Phenome, or Toxic so I cant compare. The Omega is REALLY REALLY REALLY nice. Is it $150 nice......probably not for me. I want to try the Phenome since the weave looks so similar to Omega but I am very happy with the Cincy so it may be a waste of money. To start we have a Speedy on Cincy SB Nato

    Hopefully the pics are decent enough to see the weave patterns.

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    TJ Boogie, Iandk, duc and 8 others like this.
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  11. #10
    Member TJ Boogie's Avatar
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    May 2015

    Re: "Seatbelt" NATO strap roundup: BluShark, Cincy, PhenomeNato, and WatchGecko (Picture heavy!)

    I like the argyle patterns I've seen on a couple of natos (with the right watch of course). Sadly I only know of 1 distributor who sells argyle natos, and the selection is 2 designs (with very limited hardware now, as they've so many).

    At any rate, it would be cool to see an sb argyle.

    Thank you, and great reviews by the way Iandk. Your contribution to watch-lovers is gratefully noted :)
    Last edited by TJ Boogie; December 2nd, 2016 at 23:00.

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