BluShark bills its products as "a better breed of nylon watch strap." This struck me as an interesting claim. It's not because I believe nylon straps can't be improved, but because nylon pass-through straps follow a pretty basic formula. They are simple and inexpensive by design. How exactly would you improve the breed? BluShark sent me an assortment to find out, including the budget minded Original, the heavyweight Orca, and the top of the line AlphaShark.
BluShark straps are a standard 280mm (11") length, two-layer NATO design. Those seeking a shorter strap can buy the Piranha, a 260mm version of the Original. Some of the straps come with standard NATO hardware, which is to say the slim keepers and short, sewn-in buckles we have grown accustomed to. The review samples all had BluShark's premium hardware, which consists of heavy, squared keepers and a sturdy, flat-tang buckle that is signed and removable. You can order many of the straps in a choice of Standard Premium hardware in brushed, polished, black, or gold finishes. All of the samples were brushed except for the blue AlphaShark, which was polished. Right off the bat, the buckles were a significant step up. I don't often swap buckles on NATO straps, but it is nice to have that option when your watch has a distinctive buckle that matches its case (Zelos and Halios spring to mind). That said, there is really no reason to switch at all, as BluShark's buckles are as nice as I've seen on most watches and make the straps feel all the more substantial.
All three straps exhibited top-notch construction and finish: the hardware is sewn-in, the square adjustment holes are neat and sealed, and there were no rough edges or loose threads to be found. This may seem rather basic – and it is – but I have been astounded at how many inexpensive nylon straps fail in one or more of these areas so I applaud BluShark for getting the foundation right.
The Original is the least expensive of the three, starting at $15.50 with standard hardware and $18.00 with Premium. Most common NATO straps use a fairly lightweight nylon weave that is about 1mm thick. The Original is heavier. According to the precision instruments here at Time Bum Laboratories, it is 1.2mm thick. Of the three, it offers the most variety in terms of both available colors and sizes. You can order most colors in sizes 18-24mm and those of us with smaller wrists can try Piranha collection, which uses the same weight weave but in a 260mm length. I got a gray sample that looked quite nice on my Lew & Huey Orthos.
The Orca is the bruiser of the collection, sporting a heavy-duty 1.5mm weave in a 20mm or 22mm width. You would be hard-pressed to notice a difference between the Original and the Orca in photographs but the difference is readily apparent in person as the Orca's beefy weave has a pronounced waffle pattern as opposed to the Original's horizontal striations, and is stiffer to the touch. My 6.5" wrist requires that I tuck the excess tail on a NATO strap back into the keepers. I was concerned that the thicker material would prove to be too much, but I had no problem fitting it through. It sells for $19. The Orca is recommended for tool watches so I paired the 20mm olive sample with a chunky Maratac Mid.
The AlphaShark was the strap I most looked forward to reviewing, as it is billed as the "luxury" nylon strap, which sounds like a contradiction in terms. Let me tell you, they are not kidding. The AlphaShark is just at thick as the Orca, but a high thread count makes is silky smooth and a touch more malleable. It has a luxury price too, selling for $32. It is only available with Premium hardware and in 20mm and 22mm widths. The black and gray stripe was a nice pairing for my Bombfrog Minesweeper and my Manchester Watch Works Morgan just rocked the rich navy blue.
So does BluShark deliver on its promise? Absolutely. All of the straps exhibited quality construction and materials, the differences in the grades of nylon were immediately apparent, and frankly, once you have tried the AlphaShark, you won't want to go back. I really have only two criticisms. My first is that the straps' thicker weave can be both a blessing and a curse. It certainly adds substance, but also adds bulk. My second observation, which is that the delicious AlphaShark is only offered in two widths and a standard length. I'd love to see this collection offered in a shorter width and a greater variety of styles.
Check out the BluShark collections at blusharkstraps.com and take advantage of their 2-for-1 offer, 10% signup discount, and free shipping on orders over $25.