Watch tale: A turtle, a snail and a tattoo

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By Shane Snider

PETALUMA, Calif. — Motorcycle mechanic and Seiko enthusiast Jared Hermann’s “turtle” build may be one of the most intensely personal projects he’s worked on, but it also stands out for another reason. The 40-year-old WATCHA member might be the only person in the watch world to have actually eaten part of his timepiece.

 

Abalone is a large shelled snail popular in Northern California for its unique and colorful inner shell – and also as a culinary delicacy. Hermann’s family had been diving for Abalone since he was young. After his brother pulled one from the ocean in June and the family cooked and ate the Abalone meat, an idea clicked in Hermann’s head. The beautiful shell was the perfect way to finish a watch build idea he had been thinking of – one that would pay homage to a family heirloom and his California roots.

Turtle love

When Hermann was a teenager, he would visit his grandmother and admire a large turtle shell she had hanging on a wall. His grandmother told him he could have the prized piece when she passed away. “She told me to put a piece of tape with my name on it on the back, so I did,” he said.

 

Years passed and his infatuation with the turtle only grew, as did his fascination with tattoos and watches. Hermann was so taken with his grandmother’s turtle shell, he had his tattoo artist brother begin work on an epic, full-back turtle shell tattoo.

 

Hermann’s grandmother, now 93, surprised him earlier this year, summoning him to her home to retrieve a box — inside was the turtle shell he had admired. “It’s your’s now,” she told him.
Connecting the pieces

As a mechanic, Hermann loves Seiko sport watches for their durability. He had grown a small collection and even tried his hand and modifying them with after-market parts. But in 2016, Seiko released a reissue of the 6109 “turtle” and Hermann knew he had to have one – it was the perfect tie-in with his grandmother’s turtle shell. “As a watch, it was just a turtle name and no significance to my story. I just knew there had to be a way to tie it all together,” Hermann said. “It just sort of all came together when I looked at that Abalone shell.”

 

He had never made a dial before but was determined to make the Abalone shell work. He needed to grind it down to about a millimeter thick to fit in the 6109 case, using an aftermarket dial as a guide. He had a dremel tool, some fine sandpaper and a dream, but not much else to go on. Hours into his project, he began to understand why Abalone is a rarely used watch dial material.

“You have to find a piece that’s flat enough to work with,” he said. “Then, it’s just hours of sanding and trying to get it just right. And it doesn’t work out the way you had it in your head. As you sand down, the patterns change. With parts you order online, you know what you’re getting and it’s easy – it looks the way it looks when you order it. This takes a lot of time and patience and you never really know how it’s going to end up.”

The first dial he finished fit in the watch, but he wanted to try for a better pattern, so he set it aside and started another dial. “It just didn’t fit the image in my head of what I wanted it to look like,” he said.

He found another flat piece of the shell with concentric patterns and bursts of color he thought would complement his watch. He worked for another few hours and had his dial. Not wanting to just throw away the first attempt, he decided to build another watch with a Seiko pilot.

 “Everything just kind of came together,” he said. “I had the turtle on my back and on the wall, the watch… Then I gave the other watch to my dad for Father’s Day. It’s all family-connected.”

 

The only thing left to finish was the large tattoo on his back. Hermann just finished up his last sitting with brother Clayton James, owner of Electric Oni Tattoo Parlor in Petaluma.

 

With the journey finally complete, one question lingered: How did the Abalone taste? “Cooked properly, it’s like eating a cloud with a touch of salt and hints of lobster and calamari. Incorrectly cooked, it’s like trying to eat a bouncy ball crossed with an old shoe,” he said. “This meat was perfection; sliced thin with a light egg and breading and pan-fried. If heaven was a seafood, it would taste like Abalone.”

 

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