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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Seiko Divers Wave

Authored by Isthmus

The Watch collecting world is filled with enough myths and misinformation to make for a good season of Mythbusters (ok maybe a not very exciting watch collecting WIS mythbusters). Every brand has watch collecting myths attached to it and seiko is no exception. One of the most enduring and popular Seiko watch collecting myths pertains to the origin of the Seiko Tsunami logo, and the claim that it is based on the Hokusai wood cut, "In The Hollow Of A Great Wave Off The Coast At Kanagawa":

[u][b]The Seiko Tsunami logo has nothing to do with this image[/b][/u]. There I said it. Other than the orientation of the wave and some passing similarities, the two are completely unrelated. This is yet another watch collecting myth that refuses to die. Now to provide supporting evidence.

With a few vintage exceptions, Seiko's Tsunami logo is used on ISO rated divers with ratings of 200m or more. A variant of the same design is also used on 200m ISO rated Alba Divers:

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Seiko used to use the logo on ISO rated divers with ratings of 150m (6309's and first gen 7002's) or more before they raised their minimum depth rating for its ISO rated divers to 200m. The Tsunami logo was introduced it in the early Silverwave sportdivers of the mid 60's, which came in ratings of 30m and 50m:


That is the only time, to my knowledge, that the Tsunami logo has been used on a seiko that was not a professional dive watch. As used after the Silverwaves, the wave basically means that the watch is a professional, ISO rated diver.

Unlike some claim, the Tsunami Logo is not a representation of Hokusai's wood-cut "In The Hollow Of A Great Wave Off The Coast At Kanagawa" from "36 Views Of Mount Fuji". That print actually shows an [u]okinami[/u] (which is a large, open-sea, wind-driven wave), not a tsunami (which is seismic in nature and only grows to great heights in shallows, such as the shore), and it's main focus is a view of Fuji as seen through the harsh experience of Japanese fishermen, while using the wave to comment on the duality of nature (it give and it takes).

The Seiko tsunami logo, on the other hand, is a realistic representation of the earlier, more stylized caseback wave logos used by seiko (see chart below). Those designs were not used on ISO rated divers. In those designs, the one wave logo was meant to denote water resistance of 5 bars, while the 2 wave logo was mean to denote water resistance of 10 bars. However, neither was mean to denote an ISO diver rating. Only the Tsunami logo does that. Here is a chart showing those other designs and their meanings:


The claim that the Tsunami logo is a representation of Hokusai's Okinami is a common misconception and watch collecting myth that periodically shows up in watch forums. In fact, while there are some similarities the waves are not the same or share the same style of design. That plus very similar wave designs (some closer in style to the tsunami logo) were very popular in Japanese art during this time, and not just in Hokusai's work.

For reference here is a picture of "In The Hollow Of A Great Wave Off The Coast At Kanagawa" from Hokusai's "36 views of Mount Fuji" (note the multiple waves, the fishing boats and of course, fuji in the background).

Compare that to the Seiko Tsunami Logo and note the very different rendering styles:


BTW, Hokusai was definitely not the only person to produce similar works depicting similar waves. Run a google search and you will find several similar works by other Japanese artists focused on mount Fuji as viewed from the sea. Most of those include works in similar styles to Hokusai's famous print, depicting large off-shore waves. For example here is a picture of a wave from a similar work, also called "Thirty Six Views of Mount Fuji" by Ando Hiroshige:


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and here is another from a later work of the same name by the same artist:


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Here is a reprint of a very similar picture also done by Hokusai. This one is from his latter 3-part book, "100 Views of Mount Fuji":


Lastly, I'm not denying that Imagery of the sea has a strong history and cultural affiliations with the japanese. Heck I suspect that the tsunami logo quite likely draws from, and was inspired by, that long history. At issue however is whether it was inspired by this specific Hokusai image. The points I raise to counter that claim are:

- That is a claim made by watch collectors, not by seiko;

- Seiko had wave logos in use that predate the use of the full tsunami logo;

- The image in question is not about the wave, but rather about Fuji;

- The two images are stylistically very different;

- The seiko logo is called (by seiko) a tsunami, where as the Hokusai print shows an Okinami (seiko would not make such a mistake);

- Even in Hokusai's time artistic renderings of very large waves were common and not something only Hokusai did. In fact several other of his contemporaries produced similar works (some that were closer in style to the seiko logo), and even Hokusai himself produced other woodcuts depicting similar waves; and

- Lastly I've followed this up with a very well known Japanese collector who followed up with his contacts at seiko and they had no knowledge of that claim being accurate. this doesn't mean that lack of knowledge equals being correct, but you would think that if such was indeed the case that this would be a well known and documented piece of seiko corporate lore (it isn't).

As a result, the only conclusion that I can reach is that all the evidence points to the seiko logo being an evolution of existing seiko logo design, and not a rendering of this particular famous Hokusai artwork. It is, however quite possible that the original logo design was inspired by japan's long history with the seas and long history of artwork depicting similar scenes. The two images are unrelated and as I see it, the myth of the origins of the Seiko Tsunami logo is more popular, interesting and romantic than the reality, so it refuses to die.
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