The 18mm (or 20mm) wide 6B/2617 NATO strap
Feedback from our backer surveys following our successful Kickstarter campaign for the first nylon NATO strap, the iconic 6B/2617 strap issued by the RAF in 1954 for the 6B/346 watch, has indicated a demand for both an 18mm and an 20mm version of this unique strap.
Image courtesy : Gary Pusey
The 16mm wide 6B/2617 on the JLC 6B/346 above, and below, shows a little of the fixed bar. The 18mm 6B/2617 on the IWC 6B/346, and the 20mm 6B/2617 on the Rolex Oyster Commando both have a better fit.
Image courtesy : Robert Gordon
The British military did not produce an 18mm wide (or wider) wrist watch or wrist compass strap in the 1950’s or 1960’s, sticking to their standard 5/8 inch (16mm) strap width.
Indeed, during the relevant Joint Service design meetings at the time (Army, Navy, and RAF), they even narrowed the lug width of the proposed General Services (GS) watch of the 1950’s to 17.5mm because of the 16mm width of the GS strap, the 6B/2954 strap. The resulting Smiths GS watch is shown below, on the cover of the servicing information manual.
Photo credit : John Senior
There were approximately 300 of these GS watches made and issued to the RAF as stores reference 6B/542 in 1954, 1955 and 1956, and 600 issued to the RAAF in 1961 as stores reference 6645-66-010-6032. The watch cases were all made by Dennison.
Also, in 1956 the RAF underwent a program to rationalise their stores, and they produced a new, stainless steel screw back Dennison ‘Aquatight’ case for all their remaining stock of WW2 watches. This new case replaced the low-cost alloy cases with which the watches were originally ordered, and allowed the RAF to keep using the high quality movements. The 17mm lug width on the new 1956 case for the Omega, Longines and JLC 6B/159 watches kept the RAF focus on 16mm watch straps.
Here is a JLC 6B/159 on a 6B/2617 strap.
Photo credit : Joe Walters
The fit of the strap at the lugs was not a fashion statement for the RAF.
Today, many people want their watch strap to fit neatly between the lugs of their watch. But, this did not worry the military, nor James Bond in the 1964 movie, Goldfinger. His Rolex still looks fine on the 16mm Bond RAF strap.
The story behind the development, and issue in 1954, of the RAF 6B/2617 nylon NATO strap, and our recent successful Kickstarter campaign to provide a true copy, is in the link below.
Here is our faithful copy 1954 6B/2617 strap on the 1953 6B/542 Omega watch.
Photo credit : Hideyuki Ito
Feedback from this campaign was that many military watch collectors think the RAF, and British military, erred in sticking to the 16mm standard watch strap width for too long.
Had they been fashion conscious, this is what the 1953 Omega 6B/542 could have looked like in 1954.
Photo credit : Joe Walters
We will be bringing to all collectors, via another Kickstarter campaign, the 18mm wide 6B/2617 strap, the strap which was never issued, but should have been. The perfect fit for any 18mm lug width military watch, including the 1953 6B/542 Omega.
And, we will also bring to collectors an even wider 20mm 6B/2617 strap which provides the missing link to the 20mm nylon NATO strap from 1973.
The reissue of the 1973 CWC asymmetric pilots chronograph looks great on a 20mm strap.
Photo Credit : Jason Heaton
Photo Credit : John Rivera
Review of our 6B/2617 16mm strap
Here is one review of our 16mm 6B/2617 strap.