Military Watch Straps - The Origin of the W.O.E. Zulu Alpha Strap

Military Watch Straps - The Origin of the W.O.E. Zulu Alpha Strap

Order HERE

In this week’s Dispatch, we’re talking about straps. We get asked all the time for advice on straps, OTANs, single pass, RAF, etc.  We are of the mindset that a strap is a great way to completely change up the look and feel of a watch with ease.  A single watch collection with 5 unique and complementary straps is better than a multi-watch collection with no strap choices and variations. 

There are some great companies out there making straps but it’s a crowded market with little differentiation among the myriad of straps. The vast majority of nylon/fabric straps for sale online are imported from China and sold at a significant mark up. That said, there is a clear demand for premium handmade fabric straps, which is why we partnered with veteran-owned and UK-based Zulu Alpha Straps for our first premium single pass strap.

W.O.E. Zulu Alpha Strap - Single Pass  - Handmade in the UK with UK-made material by veteran-owned Zulu Alpha Straps. Overengineered in every possible way to deliver a dependable, premium, traditional style strap. 

W.O.E. Zulu Alpha Strap - Single Pass

Origin: At Watches of Espionage, our product development model is to partner with true professionals –masters of their craft– to develop distinct and highly functional products that honor our community and our core belief that you should “use your tools.” If it doesn't follow our mantra, it doesn’t get made. 

When it comes to fabric straps, Zulu Alpha (ZA) is the leader in the space.  W.O.E. worked with ZA to design a purpose-built, British-made single pass polyester strap.  The strap is durable, functional and has subtle accents that honor our community.  While we appreciate the historical features of a classic military OTAN (French acronym for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization), we’re minimalists after all, that’s why we went with a simple, single pass.  

Overview:  This Limited Edition strap was personally designed by W.O.E. with the input, guidance and expertise in craftsmanship of the professionals at Zulu Alpha Straps. Allied Green single pass Zulu Alpha strap with tan side stitching and a discreet W.O.E. insignia in between the strap keepers.  Brushed 316 Stainless Steel buckle, in both 20 and 22mm sizes.  Woven, sewn and constructed in the United Kingdom by veteran-owned Zulu Alpha Straps.

The custom UK weave with tan side stitching was modeled on fabric from compass straps used by British and American Intelligence and Special Operations personnel during and after World War II.  

The watch strap contains a W.O.E. patch based on the OSS spearhead, an hourglass base and the signature red “WOE.” In line with our community’s ethos, the insignia is visible when the strap is open, but covered up when the strap is fastened. Designed with the quiet professional in mind.

W.O.E. Single Pass Zulu Alpha Strap Travel Pouch
Nothing beats handmade in the US/UK.  Strap Paired with Travel Cases V1 and V2- These items cannot be mass produced (Photo Credit James Rupley)

Origin: In early 2022, we approached Zulu Alpha Straps to create a custom fabric “W.O.E. Strap.” We knew we wanted the strap wholly made in the US or UK, and ZA is one of the only companies that does this at scale.  Veteran ownership was not a requirement for us, but the fact that ZA is veteran-owned is a bonus, as we enjoy working with like minded people who understand our unique community.

Darren, the owner of Zulu Alpha Straps and former British Royal Navy, agreed to this partnership on the spot and committed to designing a unique and functional strap, including weaving a new webbing and overall design.  Over the next few months, we designed a strap that is overengineered in every possible way to deliver a dependable, premium, traditional style strap.  

 (Photo Credit James Rupley)

Special Relationship:  This project honors the US-UK “Special Relationship”, the historic and present day military and intelligence relationship between the two countries.  If you have deployed to a conflict zone in the past two decades, then you have witnessed this relationship firsthand with members of the British/American Intelligence and Special Operations communities working seamlessly.

The strap was designed by a former American CIA Case Officer (W.O.E.) with the input, guidance and craftsmanship of a British counterpart (Zulu Alpha).  The partnership was cemented with a mutual understanding that we will honor our countries respective heritage and develop a product that enabled supporters to “use your tools.”

Espionage Watch William Joseph Wild Bill Donovan OSSThe U.S.-UK “Special Relationship” was cemented under the leadership of William Joseph ('Wild Bill') Donovan, Head of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) During World War II (Photo Credit: Wiki Commons)

Compass Strap:  The custom “Allied Green” weave was modeled on compass straps used by the Jedburgh/SOE/SAS forces at the end of WWII and throughout the latter half of the 20th century.  Initially, the Jedburgh/SOE/SAS forces at the end of WWll, and subsequent early 1950’s campaigns, were issued with the Mark VI wrist compass and used a strap similar to the W.O.E. Strap.  The custom homage is Allied Green with tan side stitching.  

Watches of Espionage

The strap will be available on Thursday, December 1st at 6pm Eastern Standard Time.  Order HERE.

A Primer on Fabric Military Straps:

When it comes to securing a tool watch to one’s wrist, a fabric “pass through” strap is invaluable.  In addition to looking good, they offer two key advantages for those who believe in the W.O.E. ethos of “use your tools.”  First, they are easily adjustable and the same watch strap can be expanded to be worn over a diver suit or directly on the wrist.  Second, since the strap passes through both spring bars, should one of them break, the watch will remain on your wrist.

There are three main variations of traditional fabric straps:  

OTAN (French acronym for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization): This classic military strap has two layers of fabric that pass under the watch. This is a purpose built military strap, however some believe the second strap is redundant and has led to many collectors going as far as cutting off the second strap. 

G10 Nylon Strap Sketch Watches of Espionage

Zulu: The Zulu is a close cousin of the OTAN, but only has one long strap which is generally made of thicker nylon.  The benefit of a Zulu is that it eliminates the extra layer of fabric, for a more minimalist design,

RAF: This strap is similar to the Zulu, but uses a fabric loop instead of metal hardware.  Made most famous by James Bond RAF.

James Bond RAF Watches of Espionage Zulu Alpha BlackbeardZulu Alpha RAF Style -Blackbeard Bloodline

Of course, there are many other variations and variants of the above straps.  We encourage you to try them all and find out what works best for you.  While some companies may feel competition in this space, as a consumer you can, and should, use a plethora of straps to complement your timepieces.


**Available 1 December, 6pm Eastern Standard Time**

Zulu Alpha: Zulu Alpha Strap Company was founded in 2018 to create straps fit for purpose in arduous environments. They looked at the market and could only see high end leather and rubber options or low-quality fabric straps which were manufactured in the far east. The few fabric straps that were made to higher qualities weren’t really designed for field work. This created a void for both ethically produced and dependable watch straps that could accompany end users on operations. On their journey they have created products for Tier 1 British military units and have become the only strap company Officially Licensed by the British Ministry of Defence to use military insignia.

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