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Three Watches and a Grey NATO

I recently found myself traveling with the sole intent to relax outside of the hunt or the pursuit of something ultimately focused and or related. If you have been following along I’m often traveling for C+T for a watch related adventure so for the first time in 4 years I am in this odd place where I am traveling for pleasure.

But with that being said of course what watches I was bringing on this trip were thoroughly thought about as watches and horology as a whole are the main focal point of my life and the watch on my wrist is always determined by where I am in the world and what I’m ultimately going to be doing while I’m out there. 

When traveling as much as I do it’s always for watches and I always have a few watches that I travel with that check the boxes for me. Matter of fact, I wrote an article last year about the watches I found myself wearing the most frequently over a year. And of course, I always have other options with me whether it be watches that I have sourced for C+T on the road or watches that are being presented to clients, so even then I have other options that check the boxes to satisfy my inner watch nerd savant.

I landed in Kauai Hawaii, and like most trips, the first stop was coffee where someone handed me a sticker that said “Slow down and take it easy”. This kind of made my brain malfunction a little bit, I remember thinking in my head “ What does that even mean?” especially as I was going through my ritualistic caffeinating routine to fight off what feels like perpetual Jet lag. I grew up around the ocean and spent a lot of time in the water as a youth surfing, spearfishing, and diving. Watches were not a focal point of my life in my youth but being in Kauai I knew I would spend time in the water and exploring. 

The ocean and the outdoors always reminded me that as a human on this planet nature and the ocean especially doesn’t give a fuck about you. It will hurt you, it will clear your head, and it forces you to pay attention and to focus because if you don’t you may miss something beautiful or rare, but the moment you stop paying attention it will flip you on your ass if it doesn’t kill you first. I always found beauty and a feeling of calm in the complex yet simple rules of nature, especially the ocean. I’m staying on the “rainy side” of the island so watches with screw-down crowns and water resistance were a must because the weather is very unpredictable here. I also wanted flexibility in what I was going to be wearing on my wrist and didn’t want to fiddle with bracelets and such. After opening up my personal watch boxes I ended up bringing 3 watches and one NATO strap.

Before we get into the watches let’s talk about the strap because the one strap plays a huge role in all of this. Not to fully out myself as the obsessive that I clearly am but I did put a likely unhealthy amount of thought into the strap that I was going to wear the selected watches on. I could have chosen a Tropic two-piece strap for watches with bracelets but what I needed for this trip was ease and flexibility. A NATO strap allows you to set the spring bars and not fuck around tools, I wanted quick and easy flexibility and a NATO strap affords that convenience. My selection was a Pheonix NATO strap in admiralty gray that I ended up buying a few years back from my friend Skip Powell of @sagatradingco. There is something about a gray nato strap that seemingly works with pretty much any watch. Hence the watch insider podcast The Grey NATO.

The Pheonix NATO straps were the original straps made for the British MOD and have a different feel to them than the standard heavy nylon NATO straps that you can commonly buy online. They have a more fabric-like quality and they develop a great feel after you wear them for a while. I prefer a “thinner strap” and I modified the strap by cutting the keeper side off to make it more of a single pass style of strap. Pheonix the company that made the straps went out of business a couple of years ago and finding them can be a bit tricky these days so I have a few stashed away and the one I brought in particular I have put some heavy miles on. Like most of my favorite things in my life like vintage Levi’s, or old Leica M body cameras, these things just get better with age and they always just seem to work regardless of how old or outdated they may appear on the surface.

I also wanted to bring 3 watches for different activities I had planned. To just bring one watch would be impossible for a guy like me. So the thought behind the NATO strap is that it would look good on the 3 watches I brought along with me but also has a function in relation to durability, comfort, purpose, and overall look. 

Ok, enough about the NATO strap as I’m obsessed with them and could wax on forever about Pheonix straps let’s talk about the watches.

Tudor Black Bay 58

My first selection is my trusty Tudor Black Bay 58, this is a watch that I have not only traveled extensively but a watch that fits all of my needs when it comes to a vintage-inspired modern timepiece. When I put the watch on I get the feeling of wearing a vintage Rolex “Big Crown” Submariner without the endless worry that comes with wearing a watch that has reached a high price point and collectability. The Tudor BlackBay 58 offers versatility while being a great daily driver and if I found myself wanting to hop into the water for a last-minute surf session, snorkel, or running around the unpredictable weather of Kauai this watch had me covered. I wore this piece most afternoons while exploring beaches, or the pool. While not the most rare or sought-after piece in my collection, if this was lost or stolen I’d replace it immediately – this piece is the perfect manifestation of Tudor’s rich heritage blended with all the modern tech you’d want.

1979 Rolex Explorer 1 ref. 1016

Watch two is my Rolex 1016 Explorer (Ref. 1016). This piece wears like a Rolex Datejust and outside of a Datejust is one of the most versatile practical watches in my collection. It’s a watch that I reach for when I don’t know what the situation or adventure is going to call for and has become a watch always in constant rotation. The 36mm case slips under a shirt cuff seamlessly and finds itself suited for more formal situations just as well as it does for hiking or being outdoors. While still a vintage piece, I had Greg Petronzi install a TrueDome® D22 crystal a while back and made sure it passed a pressure test for water resistance and was still up for its daily driver role. The watch spent its time on my wrist during the more formal yet seemingly more casual Hawaiian-style dinners yet accompanied me while exploring the muddy and unmapped backroads of the Kauai coastline chasing rainbows and secret beaches in a rented Rubicon that I carefully put through its paces and did not abuse at all while on the trip. The amount of earthen material returning with us from our day trips consistently found us met with “Looks like you had fun today Mr. Barr” comments from the hotel valet at the end of the night.

Doxa Sub 300T Divingstar “Poseidon Co-Signed” prototype

Admittedly,  I hadn’t worn this watch much after acquiring it in a charity auction from Jason Heaton. Jason tested the watch for DOXA (which you can read more about here) before they made production examples of the watches to be sold to collectors around the world. I wore the watch just a few times and it was on the DOXA beads of rice bracelet which added a bit of bulk to the watch. I’ve struggled with this watch and may have felt a bit of imposter syndrome knowing its backstory and previous owner – swapping this onto my familiar worn NATO helped it feel more at home the yellow dial paired with the gray NATO strap was fun out of the water but also very useful as the dial is paired with lume filled black hands that jump off the dial and are highly legible even in low light or murky silty diving conditions that are typically found around reefs in Kauai.


The DOXA Sub 300T was the watch I wore the most. All 3 watches were in rotation depending on what I was doing and all got a fair amount of wrist time. Sometimes a watch would be switched in the hotel room before dinner or before heading out for an adventure, and some days I’d wake up the next morning to find it still on the wrist as a reminder of the adventure I had experienced the day prior. Before the internet comments roll in – No, I don’t always sleep with a watch on my wrist but the days were packed and not much was left in the tank when it was time to turn the lights out. 

The watch I wore the least was the Rolex Explorer 1 ref. 1016. Even though the watch is vintage and more collectible than they once were in the past and good references are becoming harder and harder to find, I think I have this feeling that the Explorer is always going to be there like a good old friend, It’s a watch that always feels like home when it’s in my wrist and maybe that’s why I reach for this watch so often and why I felt the need to bring it. 

Although as I write this the Explorer 1 is back on my wrist and I’m already changing gears ready to get back into full-time C+T work and preparing myself for the welcomed yet relentlessness that has ultimately become my life’s work of “Chasing Time”. It’s funny how these seemingly small, outdated, unnecessary “timekeeping” devices hold such a special place in our hearts and minds, especially in a place like Kauai where time almost seems to stand still.

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