07 Apr Hands On Review: Phenomenato Straps
As many of you know NATO straps have grown in popularity these past few years, and they’re showing no signs of going away. Indeed, it seems hardly a month goes by when I’m not hearing of some new pop-up brand offering a variety of straps in cool colours, and at great prices.
The NATO strap has its origins in 1973, when the British MoD commissioned the manufacture of a nylon watch strap in “Admiralty grey” to be issued to military personnel. Fun fact: the NATO actually gets its name from “NATO Stock Number”, which denotes all ‘standardised material items of supply’ as they have been recognised by all NATO members. It’s also sometimes called a “G10” after the numbered form soldiers were required to fill out to requisition one.
Last year I started looking for a premium NATO that matched up to the fabled quality of those offered by OMEGA (but without the crazy £150 price tag!). There are a variety of companies who offer premium NATO’s with “seatbelt” material and beefed up hardware. Cincy Strapworks, Watch Gecko, Blushark, and Crown & Buckle all offer alternatives at great prices, but I thought I’d see if the Phenomenato was worth the extra cash.
After some deliberation I opted for a dark blue Phenomenato. They are a small company based in Hungary that offer a small range of premium NATO’s that aim to be as close as possible to the quality of the Omega straps. There are 4 colour options – black, dark blue, admiralty grey and the ever-popular “Bond” black and grey stripes. You can then choose to have a long (33.5cm) or short (29cm) strap with brushed or polished hardware, in either 20 or 22mm widths. That’s a pretty solid range of options to suit most tastes and wrist sizes, and there are plans for a few more colour options in the works.
It’s nice to see that the price is the same whichever configuration you choose to. At $40 each, plus shipping and tax, these are probably the most expensive NATO’s I’m aware of outside of those offered by OMEGA and other watch brands, but I believe it’s justified given the premium quality of the strap.
The main downside if you order one of these is probably the lead time. Each strap is made to order, so you’re looking at a 2 week wait plus shipping whilst the strap is manufactured. A fortnight isn’t an eternity to wait though, and if anything it builds the anticipation of receiving it.
The strap itself arrives in a branded Phenomenato cardboard box. It’s a simple but nice touch that shows they put thought into the product and the brand, and gives a great impression after the wait. (Especially over simply receiving a strap in a bag.)
Moving onto the strap itself the material is the softest I’ve had the pleasure of handling. It’s extremely soft and pliable, yet the weave is also incredibly dense. This means that the material is not only very comfy on the wrist, it’s also extremely resistant to fraying. In the few months I’ve had mine I’ve not noticed more than a couple of fine stray threads. The weave is also perfectly even, helping to give the strap a luxury feel over a standard NATO, and helping to make whatever watch the strap is on look classy, no matter how much it cost!
The stitching could be straighter, as it is slightly crooked, but it’s a very minor fault in my opinion. The stitching is barely visible when the strap is on the wrist, so it’s not something I worry about. On the plus side the buckle holes are perfectly cut and well-sealed, meaning that you won’t get much fraying, unlike on cheaper straps. There’s also a small tag sewn into the underside, marked with the company logo and “made in the EU”, which is another nice touch.
The polished hardware was flawlessly finished, and the rectangular keepers give the strap a really sharp look on the wrist. The secondary keeper also slides along the strap, just like the Omega NATO, meaning you’ll always be able to tuck in the excess material – no matter how little there is. The buckle is reasonably flat, so it isn’t obtrusive, and it isn’t removable – which removes a potential fail point from the watch. However it would be nice if the buckle was a bit sturdier.
The deep shade of blue of the strap material is brilliantly chosen. It’s a rich shade of midnight blue that catches the light exceptionally well, and gives a great depth of colour. It can go between looking almost black in low light to a vibrant navy in the sun. As a result the strap pairs really well with watches that have blue and black tones, bringing out the shades of colour on whatever it’s paired with.
Overall, whilst the Phenomenato is one of the more expensive choices of NATO strap out there, and you’ll have to wait a little longer to get one than with other straps. However, I’m a big fan of the quality it offers for the price. It’s a great alternative to the Omega straps, and it really looks the part when paired with higher-end timepieces, as well as everyday beaters. Honestly, it’s probably my go to strap option after a metal bracelet. The Phenomenato is comfortable, looks smart, and offers added security over a leather strap in the event of a spring bar failure. So my advice is, if you’re looking for a versatile luxury strap that can stand up to the rough and tumble of the elements – the Phenomenato is a solid investment.
If you’d like to check out Phenomenato for yourself, and maybe buy a strap, you can do so here.