Thoughts on Premium/"Seatbelt" NATOs (Phenomenato, BluShark, CSW)
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Thread: Thoughts on Premium/"Seatbelt" NATOs (Phenomenato, BluShark, CSW)

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  1. #1
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    Thoughts on Premium/"Seatbelt" NATOs (Phenomenato, BluShark, CSW)

    Over the last year or so, I've gone a little ways down the premium NATO rabbit hole, and since this forum has been such a good resource for me, I thought I'd share my thoughts on what I've owned, in order of my preference.Your mileage may vary, but I thought this might be interesting to someone researching a purchase

    Phenomenato:
    Pros
    - Smooth material with a tight weave.
    - Thin yet robust, flexible but feels solid without raising the watch too far off the wrist - a big drawback of the NATO style imo. (1.2mm)
    - Sliding keeper – this is fantastic.
    - The holes don’t show much wear or stretch. No fraying either.
    - Stitched edges instead of just fused.
    - Works well as a “dressy” NATO, if such a thing really exists.
    - The Bond nato uses a darker grey that looks really nice.
    - Very comfortable wearing.

    Cons
    - It’s either a hair too short or a bit too long for my wrist (17.5cm, or just under 7”).
    - Color selection is limited.
    - The hardware (buckle and keepers), while fine, seems a bit generic.
    - Ordering/shipping to the CONUS takes a while.
    - $40 each + paypal fee means these are pricey.

    Overall Thoughts
    These are definitely the best of the premium NATOs I've tried - they get a lot of praise, but they deserve it.I have owned both long and short lengths in all colors, and I really like them. I currently have a Bond and a Navy Blue (both 20mm, short length) and while I wish they were 10mm longer, they’re my favorite NATOs. Otherwise, my Cons are a bit nitpicky.

    BluShark AlphaShark Slim:
    Pros
    - Smooth material, weave not as tight as the Phenomenato.
    - Thin and supple, flexible and doesn’t raise the watch too far off the wrist. (1.2mm)
    - Sliding keeper!
    - The material is a bit shiny but not too shiny, if that makes sense. Basically, it looks good.
    - The length is good for my wrist – leaves enough to tuck back without being too bulky.
    - Robust hardware.
    - Very comfortable to wear.
    - Quick shipping and good value on the buy-2-get-1 deal.
    - Good customer service and quick shipping.

    Cons
    - I’ve only worn my AS Slim a couple of times and already the hole that the buckle goes through is starting to stretch. I contacted BluShark about this, and they suggested running it over a flame to tighten it up. They also offered to replace it if it was defective, but I don’t think that’s necessary. Still, it’s not as robust as some of the others on this list.
    - Color selection is limited.

    Overall Thoughts
    This is probably my second-favorite premium NATO strap. I have the forest green strap in 20mm, and it looks great with a tool watch like a diver or my Damasko. It’s less dressy than the Phenomenato, if that makes sense, but it’s the closest I’ve found to the Phenomenato in feel. I would LOVE it if they made this in some brighter colors, especially yellow and/or orange. The durability is a little bit concerning, but I have enough to rotate through, and while it’s pricey to just buy one, it’s on average less expensive than many of the others when you do the buy-2-get-1-free deal. I’ll likely be getting more of these.

    Cincy Strapworks “SB” NATO:
    Pros
    - Smooth material with a tight weave – tighter than the AS Slim.
    - Thin yet robust, feels solid without raising the watch too far off the wrist. (1.2mm)
    - Works well as a “dressy” NATO, if such a thing really exists.
    - The “Stealth Bond” strap is a bit more interesting than a plain black NATO, and it looks really nice.
    - The look and the feel might be the closest to an actual car seatbelt of any of the so-called “seatbelt” NATOs.
    - The length is good for my wrist – leaves a little to tuck back.
    - Comfortable to wear.

    Cons
    - The hole spacing means that this wears either a little too tight or a little too loose. Not so much as to make me not want to wear it, because it does fit, but it’s not quite perfect.
    - Fixed keepers. They work with the length of the strap, but a sliding keeper would be much nicer.
    - The hardware does what it needs to, but looks to be the same as the hardware on a “regular” NATO.
    - The stiffness and length of the strap combined with the fixed keepers makes getting a “tight” tuck a little bit of work. This is nitpicky, but it does stick out a little bit more on the outside of my wrist than the other straps do.
    - Limited color choice – there are only a few of the “SB” straps, the rest are “premium SB” straps, which appear to be identical to the BluShark Alpha Sharks (of which more below).

    Overall Thoughts
    This is a decent strap and I really dig the “Stealth Bond” pattern. The AS Slim is just a bit nicer feeling, and the lack of the sliding keeper here holds this back. Put a sliding keeper on there and give me some more interesting color choices than black, grey, and Bond, and I might even prefer this.

    BluShark AlphaShark:
    Pros
    - Thick and tough material that’s both stiff and flexible, if that makes sense. This really gives the impression of durability.
    - Robust hardware looks and feels very solid.
    - Lots of choice for colors.

    Cons
    - The material is smoother than a regular NATO, but in comparison with the 3 above, it’s got the loosest weave and feels the roughest. Not scratchy, but not quite as nice as the others.
    - 1.4mm thick – doesn’t sound like much of a difference, but it’s noticeable in how much higher it raises the watch off the wrist.
    - Fixed keepers.
    - I’ve noticed that a number of different companies are now offering “seatbelt” NATOs that look to be identical to the AlphaShark – 1.4mm, rectangular holes, similar if not same hardware, mostly the same color choices. Cincy Strapworks and Gnomon jump to mind. Not necessarily a “con” for the AS, but it does make me think about the value proposition here. The buy-2-get-1 is still a good deal.

    Overall Thoughts
    These are definitely still nice straps, but I sold mine because they were a bit thick in terms of their feel on the wrist and they had the fixed keepers. This is purely my preference, but I don’t think they’re in the same class as the others above. I could see wearing these again if durability was a concern, or for something where I know I could be beating up the watch, and I really do appreciate the variety of colors and patterns available.

    The other straps I’ll talk about don’t fall into the premium category, but briefly I’ll mention the Cincy Strapworks regular NATO (CSW) and Cheapest Nato Straps (CNS).

    The CSW is a nice enough strap for the price – it’s thin but durable enough, comes in a variety of patterns, uses the same hardware as the “SB” nato and fits well enough. Obviously it’s rougher feeling than the premium straps I mentioned, but it’s not scratchy or irritating on the wrist. I bought it for the green/white/navy stripe pattern and as something to rotate in once in a while. I’m not concerned when it frays or stretches. It’s a solid choice for a “regular” nato.

    CNS, I’ve owned a variety of their regular, “premium,” and leather natos. The regular and leather natos are worth what you pay, which is to say, they’re cheap feeling, especially in comparison to the others I’ve mentioned. The “premium” was downright uncomfortable to wear, scratchy and irritating on the wrist where the crooked stitching poked out, and I got rid of it after 2 tries wearing it. Given how long they take to ship, I won’t go with these again. They do have a great selection of colors, but the quality isn’t there in my experience. For the price, though, you could get and wear through 3 or 4 for the cost of a Phenomenato or BluShark.

    What’s next? I haven’t tried the Toxic Nato Shiznit, but its thickness, fixed keeper, and muted color choices don’t really make this super interesting to me. I have my eye on a Haveston, though the thickness gives me pause. Otherwise, I’m mostly hoping that BluShark makes the slim in some brighter colors for summer.

    Thanks for reading!
    Last edited by jfwund; April 25th, 2018 at 19:02.
    Hizami_83, Iandk, WiZARD7 and 2 others like this.

  2. #2
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    Re: Thoughts on Premium/"Seatbelt" NATOs (Phenomenato, BluShark, CSW)

    My latest Alpha Shark has the sliding keeper, but my old ones don't.

    Toxic is worth picking up, IMO, even though they don't have a sliding keeper. The grey one looks great.
    jfwund likes this.

  3. #3
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    Re: Thoughts on Premium/"Seatbelt" NATOs (Phenomenato, BluShark, CSW)

    Quote Originally Posted by jfwund View Post
    Phenomenato:
    Pros
    - Smooth material with a tight weave.
    - Thin yet robust, flexible but feels solid without raising the watch too far off the wrist - a big drawback of the NATO style imo. (1.2mm)
    - Sliding keeper – this is fantastic.
    - The holes don’t show much wear or stretch. No fraying either.
    - Stitched edges instead of just fused.
    - Works well as a “dressy” NATO, if such a thing really exists.
    - The Bond nato uses a darker grey that looks really nice.
    - Very comfortable wearing.

    Cons
    - It’s either a hair too short or a bit too long for my wrist (17.5cm, or just under 7”).
    - Color selection is limited.
    - The hardware (buckle and keepers), while fine, seems a bit generic.
    - Ordering/shipping to the CONUS takes a while.
    - $40 each + paypal fee means these are pricey.

    Overall Thoughts
    These are definitely the best of the premium NATOs I've tried - they get a lot of praise, but they deserve it.I have owned both long and short lengths in all colors, and I really like them. I currently have a Bond and a Navy Blue (both 20mm, short length) and while I wish they were 10mm longer, they’re my favorite NATOs. Otherwise, my Cons are a bit nitpicky.
    Thanks ;)

    Let me answer on some of the cons:
    -if you (or anyone) need custom length let me know, and I can do it ;)
    -new colors are here, will be available to order soon
    -these are custom made HW, new buckle is coming soon (~1 month)
    -planning to have some stock to dispatch the straps faster, but shipping to US will still take 2-4 weeks :(
    SaoDavi and jfwund like this.
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  5. #4
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    Thoughts on Premium/"Seatbelt" NATOs (Phenomenato, BluShark, CSW)

    Thanks, WiZARD7! As I tried to convey in my op, my "cons" for Phenomenato are very nitpicky. That said, I will definitely contact you for a custom length the next time I'm ready to buy. I saw the new colors and like that you're expanding your product line. I don't know that it makes business sense, but at some point in the future if you were to offer a bright orange or yellow strap, I'd buy in a heartbeat.

    Love my Phenomenatos - in fact, I'm wearing my blue nato today...

    WiZARD7 likes this.

  6. #5
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    Re: Thoughts on Premium/"Seatbelt" NATOs (Phenomenato, BluShark, CSW)

    Quote Originally Posted by jfwund View Post
    Thanks, WiZARD7! As I tried to convey in my op, my "cons" for Phenomenato are very nitpicky. That said, I will definitely contact you for a custom length the next time I'm ready to buy.
    No problem, I'm always trying to improve it, so happy to read the cons also.
    (You can try to move the watch between the fixed keepers for a little different fit/length)
    jfwund likes this.
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