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Only Watch - Interview with Luc Pettavino

Only Watch Interview with Luc Pettavino

The founder of Only Watch talks about his charity auction

Out of the eight previous editions of Only Watch since 2005, which made the biggest impression on you?
The first and the last! Despite the improbability of an idea becoming reality that is inherent in every project, the first one embodied that very dream come true! This foundational momentum was immediately backed and supported. With almost every new edition, bids have risen steeply, even doubling from one to the next. The last one broke a glass ceiling with a total of 38.5 million Swiss francs, which was truly incredible! Its intensity and scale acted like a groundswell that positioned Only Watch as a benchmark event in terms of watchmaking creativity. Its purpose places it firmly in  the spotlight and we are indeed receiving an enormous amount of requests from potential buyers to register for the sale on November 6th in order to attend it in person and in greater numbers. The younger generation in particular wants to give meaning to their purchases and to enter the circle of collectors on the occasion of Only Watch. It’s a tipping point and something is definitely happening.

Interview with Luc Pettavino

Luc Pettavino © Gian Marco Castelberg Photography

How do you explain this?
Probably a combination of consistency, emotional intelligence and a simple pitch that a five-year-old child can understand: with Only Watch we are going to ask people to create a watch, donate it to us so that it can be sold in order to help, and one day, cure suffering children. Over the years, we have seen new possibilities opening up in a process that has taken place naturally and with confidence. Word of mouth has been accompanied by parallel transmission of the project’s inherent kind of energy, with each of us becoming a responsible custodian. Only Watch is a like a house that watchmakers, media, partners and collectors have jointly built in a spirit of mutual respect. It is beautiful to see, to enliven, to coordinate. It is a privilege and a source of great satisfaction in my life.

You used to run the Monaco Yacht Show, what do you particularly appreciate about watchmaking?
There is true genius in watchmaking, along with exceptional expertise and great intelligence, for example in concentrating all these complications within such a small space – although I don't try to understand all the technical ins and outs. My mission in this project is to unite, to release energies, to allow transcendence. I love the human relationship which is very delicate and fleeting because I never stay long enough to leave my mark. I trust my respondents and salute their open-hearted attitude and their style when they quickly say: "Yes, we are going to create a unique AND breathtaking timepiece". They all have a real talent for telling the same story in different ways.

Interview with Luc Pettavino

Prince Albert II of Monaco and Luc Pettavino during Monaco Yacht Show 2021 © Only Watch

What is the nicest comment you have received from a participating brand?
If I had to single out one reaction rather than another, I would mention those that followed my call on stage at the 2019 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève ceremony, when I was awarded the Special Jury Prize. I was subsequently the last person to leave the Théâtre du Léman, as the speech I had improvised touched many hearts. One after another, people came up to me to share their life stories or to say how reassuring it was to see such energies blossoming without being stopped in their tracks; and to realize that simplicity, excellence and success could be expressed in such a refreshing way. Only Watch is a typical example of a personal story that has become a universal story. 

Furthermore, the unconditional support of the Monegasque head of state since the first idea in 2004 means a lot to me. Despite the fact that he is increasingly busy, he is always very open and benevolent, approving all the programs submitted, writing words of welcome, consistently including OW in his calendar and asking how he can help on each occasion. The project is fortunate to benefit from his trust and friendship

Interview with Luc Pettavino

Luc Pettavino during the 2019 Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève © GPHG

What is different about the 2021 edition?
It is different firstly because it comes after the 2019 tipping point I mentioned earlier, but also because of the record number of brands and the even greater overall quality of the watches. This is the best guarantee of Only Watch’s longevity. It also stands out with regard to the new capacity of the auction, which for the first time will be held at Palexpo at 2 pm on November 6th. While we are maintaining the timepiece exhibition – from November 4th till noon on November 6th – at the Hôtel des Bergues with its magical team and its amazing comfort, the modular rooms at Palexpo will enable us to host more participants.

What proportion of the proceeds from the biennial sales is donated to research against muscular dystrophy?
About 99% of the amount is donated to research, meaning 74 million francs since 2005! Only Watch has no office, one employee every other year, and all participants work free of charge, be they watchmakers; Christie's which hosts part of the travelling exhibition and the auction; Ferrari which handles the shipping of the watches; Air France for my travels; or the media, which provides visibility. My work for this project is also pro bono. 

The researchers benefiting from Only Watch have a unique opportunity to do their very best over the long term thanks to substantial funds, while nonetheless carefully monitoring costs.

And life is now offering them an opportunity to see the fruit of their labor transformed into clinical trials on humans as early as 2022. It is so rare to be able to offer real hope of a therapy for a serious disease!