Alba AL-4005X "Manta Ray" Diver’s 200m review

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Watch History

  • Date acquired: Apr 2nd 2007
  • Production Date: Sep 2005
  • Source: A small quaint watch store in Penang
  • Price paid: MYR280 (USD85)
  • Status: In production

Background

It’s a diver’s watch. It’s big. It’s blue. It’s very affordable.

It’s a very interesting offering from Alba, Seiko’s sub-company specializing in lower end quartz and automatic timepieces at down-to-earth prices.

What is it? It’s the Alba AL-4005X and when I first saw it at my watchmaker’s store back in 2005, I was intrigued by Alba’s surprising foray into dive watches based on Seiko’s highly successful entry level, 7s26 caliber.

Alba boldly introduced its 7s26 diver’s models into its “Alba Active” lineup, expanding its sports watch category. I’m not sure if the AL-series are Alba’s first divers but they certainly are the first ones that borrowed the 7s26 movement from Seiko.

I didn’t quite like the ones which my watchmaker showed me – I remember they were the white dialed AL-4001X and black AL-4003X, both on stainless steel bracelets. However, the build quality of these watches impressed me – not bad for a sub-USD120 automatic diver.

At the time I was more interested in Seiko divers and wasn’t particularly inclined to get an Alba diver. Still, it surprised me that Alba decided to introduce true diver’s models into its present offering lineup of watches targeted at the young and trendy.

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The AL-4005X is available only on a 22mm polyurethane rubber strap (borrowed photo)

Years passed and I noted with interest that SCWF members discussed the AL-series divers on and off. A few bought the watches and proudly unveiled them in the forum. Of the entire lineup only two models stuck some interest in me – particularly the blue AL-4005X and the black AL-4055X. These two had a special dial watermark that consisted of tiny embossed tiny manta ray shapes. My eyes were drawn toward the AL-4005X due to its lovely sunburst blue dial. Forum members wasted no time in finding a nickname for these interesting species – they settled for “Manta Ray”, a tag very much befitting the AL-4005X and I couldn’t agree more! 🙂

Here’s a partial lineup of the Active AL-series divers.

Alba 7s26 diver family

Alba’s lineup of its diver’s watches from its product website. The white AL-4001X is curiously omitted from the list.

Limited editions are available in two versions – the AL4055X with black TiCN coating for the Asian market and the hard-to-find, AL-4011X “Ji Dai” yellow-and-blue model for the Japan market. Due to its appearance, some folks dubbed it the “Lego” after the famous Danish toy manufacturer of educational model construction sets.

Alba AL4055X LE

Above: The Limited Edition, AL-4005X (400 pieces only)

Closeup pics of the Limited Edition AL-4011X (photos from SeiyaJapan.com)

Look and feel

The Alba AL-4005X is surprisingly a comfortable timepiece despite its 44mm case diameter size. It settles on your wrist nicely and doesn’t wiggle around. I noted that the underside of the case has a generous footprint which means less pressure on your skin.

My watch came with a 22mm polyurethane strap which in my opinion is of a rather inferior quality. Firstly, the strap keepers were not wide enough to let the strap end through. It was a very tight squeeze and once threaded through, it was very difficult to retract the strap. Furthermore, the strap was rather rigid and hardly pliable. It was uncomfortable to say the least. 🙁 If you thought Seiko’s standard Z-22 rubber straps are stiff, this one is even worse.

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The stock rubber strap didn’t meet my expectations and had to come off (borrowed photo)

Although the AL-4005X doesn’t come with a stainless steel bracelet, you can purchase it separately. Some owners have done this – junked the polyurethane strap away and retrofitted with a bracelet.

I’m no longer a fan of rubber straps and I knew that I would change the factory strap to a Morellato Cordura-Lorica, which is a water resistant strap with a leather backing. Morellato is a premium leather goods manufacturer from Italy and also supplies OEM straps to high end Swiss watch brands. Needless to say, as soon as I returned from Penang off I went to my watchmaker’s for a strap change.

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My Alba AL-4005X next to my SHC063P Sawtooth, both on Morellato Cordura-Lorica straps.

Naturally, the special sunburst dial and repeating manta ray outlines are the main highlights of the Alba AL-4005X. I’ve never seen Seiko produce diver’s watches with sunburst dials before and I’m glad Alba wisely experimented with two models with these radiant-looking dials.

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Closeup photos of the AL-4005X’s dial and hands and crown (borrowed pics)

The Alba’s case is well constructed and its sides are polished. A nice touch is the well-designed crown guards that protect the recessed screw-lock crown. The crown itself is easy to twist and I like the knurled edge, which is not only aesthetically pleasing but also aids grip.

The bezel and top side lugs are semi-matte or semi-polished, if you like. Speaking of the bezel, it has rather fine knurls for grip. Unidirectional turning and with 120 graduations (or clicks), it turns quite easily despite its low profile. The minute markings are engraved and filled with enamel paint. The first 20 minutes are in red and the rest in black. However the shiny bezel means contrast is rather on the low side and reading off it is difficult in tricky lighting conditions.

I would have liked the lumed dot on the bezel to have a triangle surrounding it because locating the dot is a bit hard, no thanks to the bezel’s low contrast.

Thankfully, the AL-4005X’s day/date is the white-on-black type which complements the glossy black dial ring nicely and the calendar window itself is framed in a white outline. The hour markers are also framed in chrome and the markers’ shape remind me of shark teeth to me.

The standard watch comes with unique, thin wedge shaped hands. Of particular interest is the hour hand which has an elongated “Y-frame”, dividing the luminous surface into three sections. I suspect the design of these hands is aesthetically motivated rather than to serve as practical and functional.

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Shark tooth-like markers are the hallmark of the Alba 7s26 divers. The hands are rather thin for a proper diver’s watch though.

The second hand is painted red to match the equally red “Diver’s 200m” text on the dial. Unfortunately I think red color against a blue background is kind of hard to read. A better alternative color would be yellow, which would have a better contrast. Or at least, plain white. If you’ve seen lots of photos of professional diving watches, you’ll notice that they don’t use red color or avant-garde shaped hands. 🙂

If there’s anything that’s disappointing with this Alba 7s26 diver is the rather mediocre lume. It’s slightly dimmer as the Seiko SKX007 and certainly nowhere near the brightness of the Seiko Sawtooth, Sumo, Knight or Monster. I would rate its luminosity to that of a conventional Seiko 5 automatic or a contemporary Seiko quartz.

Here’s a borrowed shot of the Alba’s lume. I haven’t gotten to taking my own lume photos of my watch yet, so this will do for the time being. 🙂

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The AL-4005X’s lume is actually dimmer than this time exposure photo suggests.

I have no idea why Alba didn’t elect to use the same grade of LumiBrite that Seiko uses – perhaps the company didn’t want it to compete against the higher priced Seiko divers. This has got to be the poorest performing stock lume in my entire diver’s watch collection (vintage divers not counted).

Dimensions

Here are the measurements of the Alba AL-4055X:

  • Diameter: 44mm (without crown), 46mm (with crown)
  • Lug-to-lug: 47mm
  • Thickness: 14mm
  • Lug width: 22mm

It’s definitely larger than the classic Seiko divers like the SKX007 but falls short of the more gargantuan divers like the SBDC001 Sumo. The use of 22mm lugs mean myriad aftermarket strap/bracelet combinations. You’re gonna have fun doing a mix-and-match, trust me. 🙂

Here are two wrist shots of my AL-4005X, on a 6.5-inch wrist. The manta ray pattern is clearly visible in the picture on the right.

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In case you’re wondering how the same watch looks like on solid linked, stainless steel bracelet, here’s a photo courtesy of Thomas H. (Motowatch) from the Seiko & Citizen Watch Forum. 🙂

Motowatch's AL-4005X

Specifications

  • Caliber: 7s26A, 21 jewels
  • Caseback type: 7s26-X005
  • Movement: Automatic, non-hacking
  • Beat rate: 21,600 bph (6 beats/sec)
  • Loss/gain: Less than 40 sec/day
  • Power reserve: About 42 hours
  • Calendar: Day/date, dual language
  • Construction: Stainless steel
  • Crystal: Hardlex glass, flat profile
  • Bezel: Unidirectional, 120 graduations
  • W.R. rating: 200m, ISO certified
  • Luminous material: LumiBrite™
  • Movement Singapore, cased in China

Conclusion

I gotta admit that if not for the awesome sunburst blue dial and the ridiculously low price, I wouldn’t have bought the AL-4005X in the first place. 😉 The Alba diver looks more like a fashion sports watch than an actual tool-of-the-trade timekeeper worn by serious scuba divers. It’s good-looking enough to take to the local swimming pool and impress onlookers but this would not be the watch of my choice if I ever went scuba diving.

The AL-4005X gives great bang for the buck and I would recommend this to “desk divers” like myself -those who collect diver’s watches but don’t take them to the water.

Would I buy this watch again? Yes I would, but it’ll be the same model. I would probably swap the hands as well while I’m at it. For the time being, I’m leaving the hands as they are. When I get tired of them, there a plenty of choices from Seiko’s 7s-caliber divers to select from. 🙂

What I liked:

  • Well designed case with Seiko’s dependable 7s26 movement
  • Exceptionally unique sunburst blue dial
  • Crown guard and crown design
  • Easy-to-grip knurled screw-in crown
  • Standard 22mm lugs
  • Probably the cheapest 7s26 based diver from the entire Seiko Group

What I didn’t care for:

  • Factory rubber strap is uncomfortable and poorly made
  • Mediocre lume for an ISO-certified diver’s watch
  • Hands design could have been better
  • Red second hand and text doesn’t blend well with the blue dial
  • Bezel markings difficult to read in poor lighting conditions

Quartzimodo’s Rating

    Price: 5-star
    Looks: 4star515
    Build quality: 3-half-star
    Features: 3halfstar4
    Value for money: 5-star
    Overall: 3-half-star

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Comments

looks like a prettier blue monster

Hi lloydy,

The Blue Monster and the Alba AL-4005X are not in the same league. Agree with you that the Alba has a nicer looking dial but the Monster is a more proper diver’s watch than the Alba.

The hands and weak lume of the Manta Ray makes it a poorer choice for a practical dive watch than the Monster, IMO. 🙂

Nice watch, I understand the band dislike, I’m a metal fan myself. Thanks for the pics

Jéjé

Hi Jerome,

I’m not partial towards rubber straps and the Alba’s strap is the worst that I’ve tried on. That’s why the rubber band had to go.

IMO, the Monsters’ Z-20 rubber straps are the most comfortable ones that I’ve worn. They’re softer than the Z-22 models on the 7s26-002x divers.

Quartzimodo

Hi, I recently came upon a black Alba of the manta type with a yellow second hand and markers. Ever seen anything like it? I thought at first that someone must have mistakenly attached the green second hand from AL4017X unto an AL4009X, but a closer look confirmed that it was indeed a bright yellow. A factory mistake perhaps?

I got the black wavy dial with rubber straps. Straps r inferior to Seiko’s. But hey, it’s well built watch n a proven engine at a affordable price. Anytime easier to read during night dive than my g-shock Mudman.

Hi Wochomi,

Congrats on your Alba 200m diver purchase. 🙂 The factory resin/rubber strap that came with my watch was the absolute pits. The strap end could hardly fit through the strap keepers. I’m not much of a fan of rubber straps and the only ones that I could tolerate are the Z-22 straight-vent type that comes with the SBDA005 orange Ti Samurai and the Z-20 type for the Seiko Monsters.

Seiko has always priced their sub-brand Alba watches at lower prices and the Alba Active divers are quite admirable for every dollar that goes into them. 🙂

Quartzimodo Admin

A small quaint watch store in Penang — can u give the detail address information for this shop?
Thanks in advance!

Hi Eason,

I didn’t take photos of the shop and I’ve since then lost the receipt. I know that store was along Jln Penang opposite the Police State HQ on the left side. I remember the KOMTAR shopping mall was ahead. The Alba AL-4005X I purchased was certainly a bargain, though I doubt if you can find one at the same shop. Alba diver watches didn’t live a long market life and thus, has been discontinued.

cheers
Quartzimodo Admin

Hello

Finally… after so long since May 2009, I’ve changed the ridiculous Alba straps for Seiko Diver’s strap!For RM45, I should have done it a long time ago! Now it fits better and I wear it almost everyday coz it’s such a joy to put on/off.

Why was the Alba divers watch discontinued? Any defects? I dun see anything wrong with mine. But I didn’t take them scuba diving either (use G-shock instead).

Hi Wochomi,

I have no idea why Alba chose to fit the crappy and uncomfortable resin strap for their divers but I think they were trying to keep their costs down.

I can think of only one reason as to why the Alba AL series divers were discontinued – they did not sell that well. You and I may be fans of this watch, but like any other profit oriented company, Seiko/Alba is more interested in their bottom line: sales. Alba was experimenting with its first automatic 200m divers and wanted to see if they would become an instant hit. Unfortunately they didn’t, so I guess the decision was made to discontinue the series. Let’s hope that Alba will make a comeback with its automatic diver’s watches in the future. 🙂

cheers,
Quartzimodo

Just bought my alba divers automatic with a blue dial and black rubber strap last sunday, for me who is on a tight budget, hopefully it will be durable for my everyday use.

Hi batangpier,

Congratulations on being able to find the long discontinued Alba blue 7s26 diver! They didn’t sell well therefore the AL-400x series lived a fairly short market life.

Take good care of your new watch, it will be a collectible piece many years from now. You may not like the uncomfortable factory issued rubber strap; if you like rubber I’d recommend that you swap for the straight vent Z-22 one from Seiko.

best regards,
Quartzimodo

Hi Quartziman!

Do you have any finds in this Alba AT3065x watch. It is being sold at 3000Php around $73 here in Manila. It looks good but no idea if it is really “good” one. Is Alba a great brand?

Thanks George

Hi George,

I haven’t seen the Alba AT-3065X model in person before, but it seems that this watch is sold exclusively in the Philippines. The VD53 caliber chronograph movement is not used by any Seiko watch model that I know of but by Alba. This is not unusual because traditionally, Alba watches use quartz movements specially made for the Alba brand. Alba has been a subsidiary brand of Seiko for the Asian market since the late 1970s and Alba makes good watches too.

In terms of finishing and materials, Alba watches generally are a notch below comparable Seiko models but they are just as reliable as the Seiko brand. While Alba watches are generally for export outside of Japan, Alba also has their designer Riki Watanabe Collection of dress watches, which are meant for the Japan market.

Happy buying! 🙂

Quartzimodo

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