Pad & Quill NATO strap review: high-quality leather and a unique design


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The first new Apple Watch band in years from Pad & Quill pays tribute to the British NATO band from the 1970s. This all-leather band has a unique design that we haven’t tested.

We’ve been fans of Pad & Quill’s Apple Watch bands for years, as the company uses premium materials such as full-grain leather and marine-grade stitching.

We last reviewed Pad & Quill’s cuff-style Apple Watch band in 2020, which was also unusual in its design. The new NATO strap has similar elements, but is not as heavy in its appearance.

A unique take on the NATO strap

NATO straps are common in the Apple Watch market, although they often have a two-piece nylon design. This is a one piece leather version.

The stitching is bold on the strap but very durable.

In particular, Pad & Quill pays tribute to the British under-case band of the 1970s issued to withstand the brutality of combat. It was a single strap band, held in place with stainless steel hardware.

Straps under the case are usually not possible with Apple Watch due to the myriad of sensors on the side worn on the wrist. A strap under the case would prevent the watch’s sensors from monitoring your vital signs.

To get around this problem, Pad & Quill cut a circle from the center of the tire. This allows the belt to remain in one piece while allowing the sensor array to function. Unfortunately, the O2 sensor still can’t work with this tire.

There is a hole in the strap so that the sensors can continue to function normally.

There is a hole in the strap so that the sensors can continue to function normally.

Deviating from its inspiration, Pad & Quill uses matte black nickel hardware for weight and durability. You have the rounded oval shape for the buckle and matching lugs, a style found on most other NATO straps.

One of the two lugs is secured in place, anchored by the leather. The second cam floats, allowing the tire to slide behind it.

As far as we can tell, the reason for this is the way the Apple Watch charges. The hole in the center isn’t big enough for our charger, so instead we need to undo the strap under the watch to fit the charging puck.

This is rather annoying because you can’t just drop your watch on the charger, but have to add the slack to the band first. It’s a two-handed operation instead of just one.

There are many other little details about this tire that we appreciate. The band is available in two darker browns – whiskey and chestnut – but both have a contrasting light stitch that runs down the sides.

The End of the Pad & Quill NATO Band

The End of the Pad & Quill NATO Band

This wire is strong and should not fray easily. Pad & Quill says it’s “marine quality” because of its common use on ships and paracord – plus it’s UV resistant.

The bottom has a black ultra-durable leather back to prevent stretching and improve durability. There is a metal rivet on the end where it is folded over, but although the metal is dark it will wear out with time, as will the leather.

Also hidden on the underside of the strap is a hand-stitched bright orange thread to keep the loop in place. Each craftsman will also sign the band here, emphasizing the handcrafted nature of the band.

Should You Buy the Pad & Quill NATO Strap?

We’ve been wearing Pad & Quill’s new NATO-style strap for the past few weeks, and it’s one of the most comfortable leather straps we’ve tried. The leather feels great and fits well on our wrist.

It has a great look that sets it apart from a market that is starting to get old. After years of being on the market, few newly designed bands are released.

The Pad & Quill NATO strap offers a stylish look on the wrist.

The Pad & Quill NATO strap offers a stylish look on the wrist.

Pad & Quill’s new NATO-style band only fits the larger Apple Watch size – 42mm, 44mm and 45mm – and fits wrists from 125mm to 215mm in diameter.

This is a solid option for those who want something that emphasizes craftsmanship and history while working with Apple’s modern timepiece. The charging aspect can be annoying, but the trade-off can be worth it.

Strong full-grain leather construction Two-year warranty Unique and vintage design Ultra comfortable Only available for the larger Apple Watch No big difference in brown tones and no black options Charging can be tricky Does not support blood O2 sensor

Rating: 3 out of 5

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