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Not just another leather “NATO”

There has been a marked increase in the popularity of “NATO”-style straps over the past year (whether true NATOs, half NATOs, Rhinos or any other variety). Where once these were only available from such veritable purveyors as Timefactors or Phoenix (who actually does produce NATO straps for our armed forces), these bands are now popping up in Urban Outfitters and J Crew. High end versions have been appearing all over the place, with prices of up to $200 for Shell Cordovan, or $145 for a one-piece leather NATO, and there have even been videos posted on Hodinkee describing how to wear them. But in all the excitement, many people may have missed a new offering from Tender, best known for making some of the best jeans on the planet, and one of my favourite brands (I even have a denim apron from them). I must declare an interest here – I have met William Kroll a number of times, and would consider him an acquaintance, but do not believe that this has influenced my thoughts unduly.

The Hands-On from Tender Co.(C)
William recently opened an online store – the Trestle Shop – to sell Tender products that are not available though his normal stockists. Amongst these is a watch, and a leather NATO-style strap. The watch (called ‘Hands-On’) has been cased-up in England and contains a hand-wound Swiss movement. It is set on a custom-made English oak bark tanned leather NATO-style one-piece strap with a solid English cast brass buckle. The Hands-On function is taken from early Twentieth Century drivers’ watches – the dial is rotated by 45° to make the watch easily readable without taking your hands off the wheel of a car. The ‘Explorer’ dial has numerals at 3,6, and 9 o’clock, with Tender’s Plautus brand at 12 o’clock. The minute register is represented by Tender’s signature train track, with heavier sleepers marking the hours. Pencil hours and minutes hands are blued and filled with luminous material, and there is a sweep centre seconds hand. The dial is protected by an extra-high domed acrylic crystal, with the movement visible through an exhibition case back, and a power reserve of up to 48 hours. The case is milled from solid stainless steel, with a push-down steel crown at 1.30. The Hands-On costs £495.
Tender Co. NATO on Squale50 Atmos

The leather strap is also available on its own – and I picked one up the other day. At £45, it’s about twice the price of many of its rather cheap-looking and frankly flimsy peers, but not an extortionate amount to pay for a hand-made strap. It’s 19-20mm wide, so I fitted it on to the watch I was wearing – an NOS Squale 50 Atmos. Now I know that leather on dive watches is a non-traditional look, to say the least, but it works for me. Actually, leather on dive watches is increasingly on-trend – just take a look at Ben Clymer’s wrist, if you don’t believe me. The leather itself is oak bark-tanned, and is a soft brown, with a chunky brass buckle and ring. These have been sand-cast, and have an irregular, hand-made feel to them. The Tender logo and information is foil-stamped on the inside of the strap, along with the proudly displayed phrase “Made in England”.

Tender Co. oak bark-tanned strap

It’s a very personal strap and reminds me of some of the leather and fittings that have accompanied some of the (many) vintage Smiths watches I have bought over the years. The buckle, in particular, grabs the attention: it’s a relatively large piece of brass that has been hand-made using the sand-cast method, and is large enough to allow the leather to fold back under the brass, in the “NATO” style The leather is unstained, and so will vary from strap to strap, and will darken over time. I’m going to wear this on heavy rotation, as I’m very interested in how it will age. I may also resurrect one of my Smiths, as I think it’ll be the perfect match for a DeLuxe or even an Imperial. William sent me photos of the strap that he’s been wearing on his watch for almost a year, and his has darkened a few shades (and been stained by indigo, which gives it a rather nice look). The straps are available from the Trestle Shop and are priced at £45.

the #watchnerd

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