Rolex watch belonging to former Vancouver Island octopus wrestler fetch over $ 150,000 at auction

VICTORIA – A Vancouver Island senior is six figures richer after parting with a rare Rolex wristwatch that was instrumental in his brief but successful octopus wrestling career.

The Rolex Explorer, circa 1953, sold at a New York auction house last month for US $ 126,000 (Canadian $ 158,000).

The man who sold it is Bill Hook, 89, of Qualicum Beach, British Columbia.

After dropping out of high school at age 15, Hook became one of the first divers in British Columbia.

He would later wear the Rolex at spearfishing and octopus wrestling competitions in Victoria and Seattle.

A January 1966 issue of Vue magazine featuring Bill Hook and his octopus fighting adventures in Victoria, BC

When it comes to catching and battling a giant Pacific octopus, precise timing and team coordination are essential.

“You come out and dive in and look at the rocks and if you could see any crab shells out front, you had an octopus den,” Hook told CTV News Monday.

“When he is out, whoever found him has the first chance to catch him. Then when you catch him, you can put your arms around him and he will have his arms around you, and you will swim to. ‘on the surface,’ he explained. “They did this to Victoria for years. It is politically incorrect today. But people don’t realize that we have the biggest octopus in the world here. “

The watch was a gift from Hook’s first wife, who bought it for him in Switzerland.

Well-named, the Explorer watch has accompanied Hook on several adventures across Europe, Australia and Africa, including to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Bill hook
Bill Hook (right) and his brother Allan after a spearfishing competition.

In 1980, Hook’s wife “abandoned him” and the watch became a crucial accessory in his love life. “I mostly used it while checking out,” he says.

Forty years later, with his “tomcat” days behind him, Hook talked to a friend about the Rolex Explorer over coffee.

“He almost jumped out of his chair,” Hook recalls.

The friend told a watch store owner Victoria about Hook’s watch.

“This is a very rare Rolex Explorer from the start of their manufacture,” said Jonathan Mossop, owner of Meticulous Watches.

Rolex launched the Explorer watch shortly after climbers Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary gained worldwide fame for reaching the top of Mount Everest, sparking a sudden interest in high-performance sports watches.

“Rolex was capitalizing on this interest in the explorer market,” Mossop said. “And since Bill was the original owner of this watch, it gives the watch legitimacy to collectors.”

Mossop facilitated the sale at the Phillips auction house in New York City, which described the watch as “truly breathtaking” and one of the best explorers ever to hit the market.

While the identity of the buyer is kept confidential, Mossop said it was purchased by a man in the United States.

Hook said he plans to pass on the money he earned from the sale to his daughter’s family.

Floyd N. Morlan