review: Alba solar watch (AQGD403)

2021.11.28 (updated : 2020.02.05)

For the past year, I've been using a solar watch from Alba as a weekend watch. Alba is an inexpensive sub-brand of Seiko, featuring mostly quartz models that appear to be made in places like China and Malaysia. Alba appears to be a domestic counterpart to Lorus and Pulsar, which in Japan are more rare.

The model number is AQGD403, and it cost me ¥7,500 -- about $US66.

the good

The dimensions on this watch are perfect. By that I mean the dial takes up just the right amount of the 40mm case, with just a slender bezel and chapter ring. The indices are nicely designed, a bright white with silver trim that stands out well from the purple-blue dial in high contrast. The hands are sword-style and just the right length in my opinion. The second had reaches out to about 1.5-2mm from the chapter ring, the minute hand ends at the middle of the indices, and the hour hand ends about 2mm from the inside edge of the indices. There's a double index at the 12 o'clock position and a tiny date window at the 3 o'clock that slightly truncates the index there. The dial has a texture portion inside the indices, and the portion of the dial under the indices themselves is a non-textured flat track. The case is 11mm thick including bezel and flush crystal, and has a strap width of 20mm. With the strap it weighs about 120 grams, with the FKM strap it's 64 grams. The case has an art deco vibe to it with lugs that are two-tier. The upper surfaces of the lugs are lightly brushed (or buffed) while the rest is polished.

For an inexpensive watch this is all as it should be. The watch is very wearable, perfectly legible, and only moderately flashy. The crystal appears to be mineral glass, but so far I've yet to experience any chipping or scratching, and the crystal is certainly more limpid than the sapphire crystal on some of my more expensive watches.

The size, weight, and fairly low presence on the wrist make it perfect for lightweight tropic FKM straps.

Solar: check. 10bar/100m water resistance: check.

the bad

Straight off the top, I discarded the bracelet, which was a cheaply-made, noisy affair that I found uncomfortable because it pulled hairs and sometimes didn't fold properly. I replaced it with the strap from my MDV-106 (which this watch replaced) and then more recently with the FKM ("fluoro") strap you see above. I've found that when buying a cheap watch I usually wind up putting it on a "fluoro" rubber strap instead of whatever came with it.

The watch bezel has scratched easily.

The crown doesn't screw down, which is okay but as you can see in the pic above it tends to pull out to the first step. I haven't noticed the watch changing time this way but it does bring into question the claimed water resistance!

the ugly

Incredibly, the paint in the numerals on the bezel started flaking off almost immediately. When I reach the six month mark, all the paint had gone. This changes the look of the thing, and it now feels like a cheaper effort than was my first impression. This being a Seiko and solar, I expect it to last more than a decade, so the surreal cheapness of the paint on the bezel is frustrating.

If you open this watch and see how the dial looks from behind, you might be put off by its cheap construction and appearance, and see the watch in a new light. I recommend not doing this. This watch looks OK because of the dark dial. There is a white-dial version that throws the cheap nature of the dial into high relief -- I do not recommend finding the white-dial version.

why buy this watch

With my previous "weekend watch", a Casio Duro (the MDV-106), I learned a few things about every-day knock-about watches:

To avoid these problems, I'll avoid cheap diver-style watches and I'll stick with solar. This will strictly be for urban use such as doing errands by bike, cycling to work, the odd hike, yard-work, and knocking about with the kids in a park and so on. I may also wear it when I think I might be somewhere that I'd rather not endanger a more expensive watch. Some people buy watches like a G-Shock for these cases, but I find the legibility a major problem. I want to see the time without effort, and not deal with the limited viewing angles, bulk, and ready scratching of a G-Shock.

I referred to my MDV-106 as a 'fishing watch' but it was too delicate for that and I won't make the same mistake by mixing uses. Fishing is surprisingly hard on watches. For fishing I'll use a truly cheap watch that can sponge up the shocks and nicks and scratches and abuse that did in my Duro.

All in; I like it. And I'd buy this again, but only for the purposes stated above. With the paint readily flaking off it's not presentable enough for wear at the office and it's certainly not a fashion watch.

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im not as dumb as I look

I just had 2 email you again 2 say that im not the dumb-ass i may seem.Hopefully you didnt notice that I put Miss when you asked for title>>wwell you know now!! I also wanted 2 say 2 all of those evil people who just wanna say sum really horrible stuff, y don't you just get a life??

sarah wicks
2002.10.27 00:00:00

Actually, I did notice the title of 'Miss'. I thought it was very a stream-of-conscious answer!


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