Only Watch: Q & A With Luc Pettavino, Founder Of The Legendary Charity Auction
Only Watch has raised over 35 million Euros for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Why is this auction so successful and enticing to collectors? Pettavino answers our burning questions.
It's a biennial mecca for watch collectors and the brands that feed their insatiable appetites for rare timepieces. It also has a higher purpose - providing financial support for crucial medical research into finding a cure for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a disorder that causes progressive muscular weakness. Only Watch is coming up on its eighth edition, to be held on November 9th in Geneva. Since its inception, none other that HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco has been actively involved in guaranteeing the auction’s runaway success.
Luc Pettavino, whose son Paul suffered from the debilitating disease, shared information about this year’s edition in an exclusive dialogue with Watchonista. How does Only Watch draw the biggest and the best in the industry? Here's what he had to say.
Hyla Bauer: Are there new brands participating in this year’s auction?
Luc Pettavino: Yes. There is a 20 to 25% rotation of brands in every edition. Some come, some go, and some go and come back again. The door is always open when there is a will to “create beauty to do good.” And the door is also open when [a brand] wants to take a break for whatever reason.
HB: Are there brands that have participated in every auction? If so, which ones?
LC: Yes, many of them! But as you know, Only Watch is a group effort, and identifying some in comparison to others is something we don't do. Most important for us as "temporary conductors" is to make sure we are totally in the present moment with a unified team of extraordinary talents.
HB: How far ahead do the brands plan and make the watches for the auction? What is the process for the brands to “sign up” to participate?
LC: Some of them [start] as soon as the [auction] is over. Some others wait for the gentle debriefing of the last edition and the new ideas (collaborations, experiences, new color, etc.) for the one to come. It's like at school, some prepare the exam far ahead, others are more 'last minute.' Today, seeing the worldwide success of this unique project, brands tend to plan far ahead.
HB: Do you collaborate with the brands on their unique timepieces?
LC: Whenever we have an idea, we share it with them in a very open and non-committing way. Some brands specifically ask us to be part of the brainstorm. And that is a privilege.
HB: What has been the highest price for a watch sold at Only Watch so far?
LC: In 2015, the Patek Philippe (ref 5016 in steel) beat a world record at that time at 7’300’000 Swiss Francs.
HB: How much have the Only Watch auctions raised in total for the charity?
LC: Only Watch has collected more than 35 million Euros in its seven editions:
2005: € 1.9 million
2007: € 2.7 million
2009: € 2.2 million
2011: € 4.4 million
2013: € 5 million
2015: € 10 million
2017: € 9,5 million
HB: How involved is HSH Prince Albert II? What does he do specifically for the auction? Is he a watch collector himself?
LC: HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco was on the project since day one. He, like others, wanted to be one amongst others helping, in a very strong and friendly way. He is a very openhearted individual, and he knew and loved Paul Pettavino and his family. So, yes, he writes the word of welcome in the official catalog, participates in the auction, discreetly buys pieces, and attends and greets the watchmakers and partners at the warm-up cocktail before the sale.
“I am proud to see that an international, successful, altruistic project like this one has its roots in Monaco,” Prince Albert II said in a statement. “Only Watch is a one-of-a-kind charity project which combines innovation and the principle of creating beauty to do good.” And there will be lots of beauty for sale in the array of one-of-a-kind luxury watches. Fifty watches, to be exact.
"The funds that we have raised over the past seven editions have been an incredible enabler for researchers all around the world to develop their science and get closer to a therapeutic solution for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy," Mr. Pettavino who is also the President of the Association Monegasque contre les Myopathies, said in a statement. "In an awe-inspiring collective effort, we create beauty to do good."
Certainly, luxury watch brands have the ability and the means to create this beauty, and they do just that for every auction, to great acclaim. Creating beauty to do good further elevates the desirability of the exceptional, unique timepieces that the brands craft for the occasion. This auction will certainly be one to watch.
(Photography by Pierre Vogel)