Cheapest NATO Straps- I lost my watch
Taking the positive from this, Ive now got an awesome watch story, my Citizen Aqualand has the best memories associated with it and I learned what can happen when you buy one of the cheapest NATO straps on the market.
It might sound a bit strange or even fake that someone who owns and runs one of the biggest NATO watch strap manufacturers and retailers would write a story about losing a watch when you swap a divers rubber strap for a NATO strap but bear with me and you will soon see the moral of the story.
So in April 23 I purchased a Citizen Promaster Aqualand JPW-2007-017. Ive always wanted a full lume dial watch and when I saw the aqualand in gunmetal titanium with incredible lume, 200m of water resistance and true dive heritage I pulled the trigger. I'd become a recent convert to Citizen watches when I bought a vintage Citizen Challenge Diver and had it fully restored and serviced by Mitka.
The watch was presssure tested and the build quality was excellent for such an old dive watch and it made me start thinking again about Citizen which I'd kinda written off as a manufacturer of airport watches.
Anyway, I bought the aqualand and loved it! I couldn't take the damn thing off, it was so so good. I even shelved my Tudor Pelegos 42 which I adore. I think the Aqualand was a great alternative to the Pelly, same grey titanium tool watch, genuine dive heritage but less than 10% of the price of the Tutdor means I didnt care about dinging it up or worrying about it being nicked.
So for the last week I've been on holiday in Croyde, North Devon with my family. We live in wetsuits and we have had a wonderful week of surfing, snorkelling, paddleboarding and spending endless summer days on the beach.
I'd worn my Aqualand all week but prior to coming down to Devon I swapped out the OEM silicone dive strap for a green NATO. The strap that came with the watch was comfortable enough but a bit too thick and the buckle would make Arnies wrist look tiny and it was bit macho for my pencil wrist. Unfortunately though the lug width on the Aqualand is 24mm! Which meant I didn't sell or make a green NATO strap wide enough. So I purchased one from another retailer in the UK. It was military green with grey metel hardware and it cost me £6.99. When it turned up, it was as thin as paper and the buckle and keepers all looked a bit spindly but it fit the watch and would do for just a week. Yeah yeah I know, stupid move.
So yesterday we hit Combesgate beach, which is glorious and dived in for a surf. My two boys Josh and Jacob were surfing the whitewater and I paddled out to get beyond the breakers. I’ve surfed all week with my watch on the NATO and although the strap quickly faded in the sun and saltwater besides the buckle now rusting and staining the strap (Hmmm not 316L stainless steel clearly!) It's been fine.
Today I get in the water, strap on the watch over my wetsuit and paddled out to catch some waves. 20 mins in I get caught in the impact zone and feel my watch moving on my wrist. I look over just as a wave hits me and my watch slides off my wrist. I make a grab for it and it’s gone. The wave hits and despite diving down to try and find it I’ve got zero viz and I’m in about 7 or 8 feet of water. Gone. I make a mental note of my position in the water, head in and grab the kids goggles. Can’t see shit. There’s a guy next to me surfing on a belly board, he asks me what I’ve lost and get into a chat with him. He says next time buy one of these, he’s wearing a yellow Scurfa diver one. Big chat about watches, he said,"You’ll never find that watch mate. It will probably turn up still working two years later with barnacles on it." (Quick sidenote, it turns out the guy is a local surfing legend called Simon Skelly Skelton and his dad was one of the first speardivers in the UK, if you ever read this Skelly, I owe you a beer! Skelly is a big supporter of the British Surf Museum in Braunton, if you get chance go check it out).
Gutted. My favourite watch with all the memories of this holiday gone to Davy Jones locker. I spent 5 hours searching the shoreline and upto waist height water. the tide is going out. Nothing. Clare, my wife shouts at me for ruining the day and not spending time with the kids. I’m convinced I’m gonna find the watch. I don’t.
Six hours later I give up. I go onto eBay find my previous order and order the same watch from the same guy. It’s £6 cheaper. Bonus.
I decide to go for a surf to take my mind off it, catch a few fun waves then head over to play with the kids in the white water. Joshua is holding my watch. He saw 2 inches of the strap sticking out of the sand in knee deep water where he was playing. After lots of whoops, hollers ,high fives and hugs I run to my phone and cancel the order. The seller graciously refunds me when I send him a photo of me holding my returned watch.
So I now have my Aqualand back on my wrist, back on the rubber dive strap. When I checked the cheap NATO strap, I immedately spot the probelm, the buckle pin being so thin and cheap had bent behind the buckle frame so it wasnt fastened correctly at all and didnt penetrate the hole far enough. My own stupid fault!
I'd learned a valuable lesson, got myself a great watch story and renamed my kid "Watchfinder".