In Conversation with Luc Pettavino, Founder of Only Watch

Revolution speaks with Luc Pettavino, founder of Only Watch to hear his thoughts on the 2017 installment of the charity and its continued success in creating awareness of and benefiting research for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

Only Watch is growing every year in prestige and participation despite the ongoing slow economy for luxury timepieces. What do you think this tells us about the industry’s commitment to charitable causes and their pragmatic business reasons for doing so?

Like with every interaction in life, it’s all about how you connect with people. How you manage to make another person become part of the project, making him or her understand, in this particular case, that this is not my project, but an altruistic community project (involving brands, partners, press/media, donors etc.) for a great cause. I strive to be an honest, empathetic conductor, allowing each musician to play his part, in order for the orchestra to deliver the best possible performance.

There are two sides that need to be kept in mind with the participating brands. Firstly, people are ready and want to help. They understand the Only Watch project, the concept, the purpose and they feel at ease with the type of energy in it. They like it. On the other hand, they also have the responsibility of the brand’s image and need to make sure the project doesn’t jeopardize it. We the organizers (the charity, the auctioneer, the media, the hosts of the world tour) always do our best so that ensure that being involved in Only Watch is a positive step for everyone.

Only Watch 2015
Aurel Bacs in action at the 2015 Only Watch auction.

The auction has come a long way since its first edition in 2005. How have the challenges in organising the most important charity watchmaking event in the world evolved over the last 12 years?

Only Watch is a very small, yet at the same time, a very big team. Very small: an assistant and myself at the head of Only Watch (this is the first year that I’ve hired someone to assist me in the coordination). Very big: involving the auctioneer, watch brands, press and media, logistics, hosts and partners of the world tour and so many more. Please keep in mind, almost all of these dozens of companies and individuals work for free or at cost for Only Watch. One example amongst others: in the 144 pages of the official catalogue, the sources of data come from around 100 different companies.

It has been like that with Only Watch since day one. It requires a lot of energy. But working for an altruistic purpose is truly wonderful. It’s a privilege.

How did the collaboration between Only Watch and Christie’s come together?

Only Watch happens every two years, and so watch brands come and go, with around a 20 percent turnover. Sometimes they come back. The same can be said for the partners/sponsors in general, and the auctioneers in particular. They come along, make a strong consistent effort (more than one can imagine) for one or many editions, then, in coordination with me, pass on the baton in a friendly way to the next auctioneer: Antiquorum, Patrizzi & Co, Phillips in association with Bacs & Russo, and now Christie’s. I will take this opportunity to thank all of them whole-heartedly for their past, present and future contributions.

We expect a strong performance from all the watches, but from what you’ve seen so far, which are the lots that you think will be especially exciting for us to look out for?

I’m not a specialist in watches, just as I was not a specialist in yachts when I was at the head and shareholder of the Monaco Yacht Show. Yet my position as a conductor of sorts leads me to appreciate each and every piece and experience offered. I honestly am interested in and excited by all the 50 different lots of Only Watch 2017.

Tudor Heritage Black Bay One
The Tudor Heritage Black Bay One, which sold for an unprecedented 375,000 Swiss Francs at Only Watch 2015

As the Only Watch 2017 lots prepare to go on tour, how do you hope to increase outreach in each of the cities visited? Will there be different approaches to suit the different tastes and appeal of each market?

For this edition, when I met the various brands during SIHH (Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie) or Baselworld, I suggested adding a unique experience to their unique piece, or proposing a collaboration with another brand, media or Ambassador. Half of them answered favourably, which was above expectation. In doing so, the Only Watch charity auction enlarges its window of interest towards the non-collectors: the lifestyle donors. And it’s fantastic. I can already see the impact of interest in the lifestyle press.

As for the world tour, we made sure the stopovers were balanced between Christie’s offices, important retailers (The Hour Glass Singapore, Westime LA, Seddiqi Dubai), and important events (Monaco Yacht Show, November Geneva Watch Week, if I may call it as such, being and intense period which gathers the Grand Prix de l’Horlogerie, auctioneers vintage sales and Only Watch.)

Geneva, Switzerland

Of course the most important thing to remember is the cause behind all this — awareness of and research for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. How has Only Watch helped to advance its goal, from the beginning until now? And what is the next step you hope to achieve?

If we look in the rear view mirror at the path taken thanks to Only Watch until today, we can say that each participant in one or more editions should be proud of his contribution and aware of the importance, pertinence and value of this unique project, just like the watches themselves that have been offered every two years to collectors and amateurs of beautiful objects.

Since its creation in 2001, the Monaco Association against Myopathies has dedicated almost all of its resources to fund international research. And the chaining of actions in this past decade has been the following:

First, we brought together experts and researchers in many roundtable meetings organized in Monaco, in order to evaluate and explore the different possible strategies towards therapy: Genetic therapy? Cellular therapy? Pharmacological approaches? Exon-skipping approaches?

After reasoning and reflecting with researchers and clinicians, we agreed that the most promising strategy, which could lead to a successful therapy, would be the exon-skipping approach. And it’s thanks to Only Watch that we have now become major associative players, internationally recognized by the scientific community.

Today we are at the doorstep of the clinic in the phase of toxicity studies. Research always takes longer than the time of people affected by this heavy pathology, but, objectively, the path taken seems honorable to me. In any case, we are doing our utmost to ensure this and that hope prevails.

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