Why Santa Laura wants Only Watch to demonstrate full transparency
The major collector has raised a number of pertinent questions regarding the organization, how it is run and how its funds are managed.
On 4th October 2023, the global watch industry was riveted by a social media post shared by one of the most prominent watch collectors in the world. Known for his insane collection of epic timepieces and even crazier collection of supercars, Santa Laura’s Instagram posts and stories are always eye-catching and highly engaging, but this time it wasn’t a sick new watch or car he’d posted about. Rather, it was an open criticism of Only Watch and how the charity organization had fallen short in terms of financial transparency.
This came just a little over a month before the 2023 Only Watch auction was set to put a record 62 unique watches under the hammer. Santa Laura had posted two Instagram Stories relating the exchange he’d had with Only Watch, where a request for the organization’s annual financial report was politely declined. To his disappointment, Only Watch stated that its financial reports are filed with the Monaco government and that it is not required to publish them.
Believing that more needs to be done and sensing a deficit of accountability, Santa Laura continued with his inquiry through five Instagram posts raising key questions regarding Only Watch’s state of internal governance and management of charity funds to date. Triggering a series of responses not just from Only Watch but journalists and brand owners as well, Santa Laura has proven to be the watch industry’s most candidly outspoken stakeholder on this matter.
To find out more about the motivations behind his questions, Revolution got in touch with Santa Laura and the following is our conversation with the famed watch collector, published in verbatim and edited only for clarity.
In conversation with Santa Laura
Wei Koh: I would like to know why you felt it was important to push for greater clarity in terms of how the funds are being allocated at only watch.
Firstly Wei, many thanks for reaching out to me for my thoughts on the events of the last couple of weeks. The reason I felt it was important was simple — because it is abundantly clear that nobody in the industry, whether it be the brands donating watches, Christie’s who runs the auctions, or journalists like yourself who have been reporting on Only Watch for many years, could have ever been bothered to ask for that clarity. If they had, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
Whatever the legal requirements are for AMM (Association Monégasque contre les Myopathies) to operate in Monaco is irrelevant. It is my opinion that they have a moral obligation to all those that support Only Watch to be completely open about how they use those funds, on what basis they are disbursed, how those disbursements are invested, and — particularly given the ownership of the companies receiving the bulk of those funds — what returns are achieved on those investments.
Celine Yap: What prompted you to contact Only Watch to make the initial inquiry?
Actually, I have been trying to get this information for a while. I tried going to a few watch journalists and asked them for information which they didn’t have. I’ve tried my luck with the retailers who participate in providing venues for Only Watch events. I asked them for financial report with regards to Only Watch, they also couldn’t provide me with any. As a last resort, I left a comment on Only Watch per my Instagram post.
CY: When did you first start trying to search for the information?
About two to three months ago.
CY: What do you think Only Watch or Luc Pettavino should have done?
They should have been more transparent, especially raising over €100 million. In my opinion, Only Watch should not be domiciled in Monaco, where there is a shroud of secrecy. They should aim to domicile themselves in more transparent country like the UK.
WK: I would also like to know what you think the legacy of Only Watch will be if no clarity is provided.
I believe the legacy of Only Watch goes far beyond just that of the charity and the research it has funded to date (It is worth remembering that approximately 50% of the funds raised so far have been held in reserve for future anticipated expenditures. Pharmaceutical R&D and clinical trials are very expensive, so this does make perfect sense from an operational point of view).
Obviously clarity is required not just on the accounts of the charity itself, but arguably even more importantly on those companies and individuals to whom it has been making disbursements over the years.
The letter to the community that Luc sent out just over a week ago ended up raising even more questions than it addressed. Here’s a couple of obvious ones that nobody has bothered to ask: Why was no mention made in the letter that Dr Luis Garcia — a recipient of around 130,000 Euros in direct individual funding from AMM over the years — is now a board member of Synthena? Why did Dr Luis Garcia neglect to mention this board membership in his list of accreditations at the bottom of the appendix that he himself wrote?
It is of course perfectly possible that there are completely sound reasons behind Dr Garcia’s funding by the charity, and his subsequent appointment to the Synthena board — although it would be very interesting to know whether he holds any equity in the company — but given that the letter was supposedly written in the spirit of openness (and indeed, the funding to Dr Garcia as an individual is mentioned in the second appendix), why was there no mention of this clear conflict of interest in one who has been asked to justify why the funding has been distributed in the way that it has?
Frankly, I was shocked. But perhaps on reflection I shouldn’t have been surprised — by the way that this letter was received and considered by those who reported on it, with seasoned watch journalists taking it at its word and openly chastising those who had dared to ask the questions in the first place; and others simply not considering it worthwhile to even comment on.
The simple fact of the matter is that the symbiotic (some might use the word incestuous) relationship that exists between the watch industry and those who make a living “reporting” on it is fundamentally accountable for the reason why we are here today. With Audemars Piguet apparently feeling that they have no other option other than to withdraw their watch from this year’s Only Watch auction.
How many times every year do we see the same group of people being flown around the world, put up in fancy hotels, and wined and dined in order to “report” on a watch launch, or to get them to write yet another hagiographic puff piece on a brand? This week we even had the ludicrous example of an “Editorial Director” of the self-proclaimed “number-one website for watch lovers and watch professionals” extol the virtues of her job precisely because of the feting they receive from the brands? They just came right out and said it, as if it was something to be proud of, and to aspire to!
And we expect honest, probing, objectivity from these people into what happens to the money paid for the most expensive wristwatch ever sold? So, to answer your question: Regardless of the outcome for Only Watch themselves, the legacy of this debacle should be that those responsible for allowing this situation to escalate to where it has got to today, take a long hard look in the mirror this morning, and reflect on how they may have contributed to the problem staring the community in the face.
At the end of the day, who pays for those flights, fancy hotels, parties, cocktails and canapes that these so-called journalists so enjoy sharing on their social media, and openly promote as primary reasons as to why people should consider a “career” in watch journalism? We do — the people who buy the watches.
CY: The organizer currently has no plans to postpone the event, what are your thoughts on this?
It’s unfortunate, because it goes to show that the star of the show is the watch industry, and not the charity. If they care truly care about the charity, they should pause until a more transparent report is available as to how the Only Watch has spent, or is spending over €100 million.
WK: We are reaching out to Luc as well. Is there something that you would specifically like to ask him?
Recently, a report was published on the DMD (Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy) market stating that the market dynamics are anticipated to change in the coming years “owing to the improvement in the R&D activities for efficient treatment options” expected to come to market.
There would appear to be no mention of either SQY Therapeutics or Synthena AG in the report summary (the full report costs $7,500 and I have not purchased it), but it does say this: “The landscape of the DMD market is poised to undergo significant changes in the near future due to advancements in research and development efforts aimed at providing more effective treatment options. The DMD pipeline is robust, with numerous potential products in the advanced stages of clinical development. Notably, several new therapies for DMD treatment have gained recent approvals, including VILTEPSO’s launch in Japan. Therapies like Capricor’s CAP-1002 and Antisense’s ATL1102 are now poised for broader commercial opportunities. These therapies specifically target the improvement of upper limb functions in DMD patients and cater to a much larger patient population compared to exon-skipping therapies.”
My question is a simple one: Does Luc remain confident that the investment of funds disbursed by the charity are being targeted correctly?
CY: Have you ever bid on or bought an Only Watch lot?
Yes I have bidded [sic], unsuccessfully.
More details from Off Investigation
Along with his comments, Santa Laura shared an article published by a French political website Off Investigation. The article raised a few incisive new points:
Luc Pettavino and his daughter Tess are shareholders in SQY Therapeutics, each owning 4,000 shares; AMM is a 49% shareholder and also managed by Luc and Tess Pettavino
A “well-informed observer of the watchmaking sector” who fears that an Only Watch scandal could spill over into the watchmaking industry comments: “We understand that the Pettavinos have discreetly built up an asset that may one day be worth its weight in gold if the company succeeds in developing a cure for this disease.”
In January 2023, SQY Therapeutics was transformed from a SARL (limited liability company) into a SAS (simplified joint stock company). SAS status is considered more credible for investors and, above all, allows associates to join or leave the company easily. Moreover, as the new articles of association of SQY Therapeutics state, the company “may make offers reserved for qualified investors or a restricted circle of investors.”
However in his letter to the community, Luc Pettavino asserts that “No dividend has been or will be paid. Once certain stages of development have been reached, and should the biothech ever become profitable, its form will evolve in order to protect its non-profit orientation.”
Meanwhile, the article mentions that an Only Watch spokesperson has stated that “the principle of transferring the shares to the parents’ associations (who were behind the creation of the company) by the end of the year has been confirmed.”
The article also raised questions about the CNRS research director named Dr. Luis Garcia. He is a minority shareholder in Synthena AG and has received funding fees from SQY, Synthena and the WMA (World Medical Association). Research revealed he is based in Noisy-le-Roi, France — sharing the same postal address as SQY Therapeutics and the Duchenne Parent Project France.
The article questions Dr. Luis Garcia’s relationship with a certain Christine Saulnier, president of the Duchenne Parent Project France and managing director of SQY Therapeutics from January 2015 to February 2023. Apparently, in the legal notice on SQY Therapeutics’ website, she appears under the surname “Saulnier Garcia.”
In addition, Off Investigation also uncovered a real estate agency called Madame Christine Garcia also domiciled at the same address.
With less than three weeks to go until the 2023 Only Watch auction, Pettavino and his team are obliged to manage this public inquiry professionally and without delay.
Next, the AMM recently announced the appointment of a well-known Monaco auditor and partner of KPMG Monaco, Bettina Ragazzoni, as its official auditor. Ms Ragazzoni is also General Treasurer of the Monegasque Red Cross and plays a similar role for the Yacht Club de Monaco. Both institutions are chaired by Prince Albert of Monaco and managed by members of his family.
The article included as well a detailed commentary of how Luc Pettavino’s family is connected to French politicians such as former president François Mitterand and current present Emmanuel Macron.
The Off Investigation article can be accessed here.
This remains a developing story and Revolution understands that Only Watch has no plans to postpone the auction. Revolution has reached out to Luc Pettavino for comment.
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