The VB Hygienique strap
The VB Hygienique canvas strap was a forerunner of the NATO strap, and was available at the end of WW2 for use on military watches with fixed bars.
The VB Hygienique strap had a ladder buckle, made from wire and painted khaki in colour. The tongue of the buckle was not sharpened. The buckle could be removed from the strap, and fitted through one of 2 eyelets, which allowed the length of the strap to be adjusted. The 2 canvas keeper loops at the buckle helped keep the buckle in the selected position, and could slide along the strap.
The strap was 2 layers of fine canvas, with a stiffening material inside, sewn all around the outside. The strap was either 14mm, 16mm or 17mm wide, and 205mm long, The end of the strap had a 60 degree point, and there were 5 pre-sewn eyelet holes to fasten the strap.
The VB Hygienique strap was slightly adjustable in length, as the buckle could be positioned at either of 2 eyelets, but the maximum length was 205mm. This was a severe drawback to the popularity of the strap.
The original VB Hygienique strap is shown below.
Image courtesy Omega Forum user : chadpowell
Original (NOS) VB Hygienique straps are still available with an asking price in the range of €100 to £150. One possible reason that they are still available is the fact that they do not fit bigger wrists.
There was a similar design of adjustable NATO style strap available at the end of WW2, with a wider backing piece behind the watch, and an adjustable D buckle, but these are much harder to find. These have been seen at both 16mm and 18mm widths. We would welcome any information on this strap. The 18mm strap is shown below.
Here is the 16mm strap compared with a 16mm VB Hygienique strap.
The VB Hygienique strap – modernised
We have been asked to make a faithful copy of the VB Hygienique strap, but in a length which suits the modern wrist. The original length of 205mm is too short for vintage watch collectors.
So, we have modernised the dimensions of the strap to fit bigger wrists. We have made the strap 40mm longer, and have added 2 extra eyelets at the buckle, increasing the number to 4, to allow the length to be adjusted in the range 205mm to 270mm.
We are making these in 16mm and 18mm widths.
Where does the VB Hygienique strap sit in the NATO strap timeline
This is the second known NATO (two loop) style watch strap, after the initial leather strap.
The first NATO strap was a leather strap with a retaining loop, and dates to 1908. WW1 era wrist watches were rare, and had wire lugs. Pocket watches were far more common.
The Victor strap, above, from 1908, was 205mm long and 9mm wide.
The next milestone was the VB Hygienique strap from late 1945 with a canvas retaining loop strap.
This is a unique NATO strap, but was not official military issue, although available to purchase by the military.