The global tour for Only Watch touched down in London last week, giving press and public the opportunity to see the 52 exceptional one-off timepieces for themselves.
WatchPro was in Christie’s in London for the final European leg of the tour designed to raise interest in the charity auction that takes place in Geneva on November 9.
We had the opportunity to see the watches and engage in an inspiring conversation between Luc Pettavino, the man behind Only Watch and Christie’s global managing director, luxury, Aline Sylla-Walbaum (pictured above).
It is easy to be cynical about the watch industry making special editions for charity, and each of the 52 brands that have made unique models for the Only Watch auction, have not been shy about publicizing their philanthropy.
But 30 minutes in the company of Mr Pettavino will convince even the hard-heartest hack that Only Watch is an event with the purest of motives, and supported without ulterior motives by the industry.
The Swiss are simply backing the founder’s effort to raise money for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy research, a condition that claimed his son’s life three years ago, after being first diagnosed in 2010.
Mr Pettavino is a remarkable individual. Based in Monaco, where he founded and runs one of the world’s most prestigious boat shows, he used friendships with executives at Blancpain, which sponsors the Monaco Yacht Show, to meet other Swatch Group luxury watch brands and pitch them the Only Watch concept. With the first handful of brands on board, the idea took on a life of its own.
He is disarmingly unaffected by the power plays and egos that might have prevented 50 of the world’s most powerful and prestigious watchmakers coming together to put on a single charity event. He does not even wear a watch; preferring a tangle of friendship bracelets of the type backpackers come home from trips to Thailand wearing.
He has breezed through the politics of brands that normally want to adhere to strict hierarchies that prevent Patek Philippe watches being sold alongside Chanel or Frederique Constant and has never cared whether brands submitted timepieces valued at $5000 or $5 million. They are all shown exactly the same gratitude for supporting his personal cause.
And Only Watch is personal, not only because of the importance of raising money for Muscular Dystrophy research to Mr Pettravino, but because he personally manages almost every aspect of the charity’s work in order to keep costs down.
“Only 1% of revenue goes on costs,” he says because nobody gets paid. Christie’s handles all the logistics of displaying and auctioning the watches. They are given freely by the manufacturers, and projects like the world tour require Mr Pettravino only to carry a suitcases of watches from country to country.
There are not even any contracts between Only Watch and the brands. They simply design the unique pieces and hand them over to Mr Pettravino. “It is very simple. Its fragility is its strength,” he explains in characteristically Zen-like prose.
So far Only Watch has raised €35 million from the seven auctions it has held, a figure that will grow by many millions more this year thanks to the generosity and creativity of the 52 participating brands, which are:
Akrivia Genève, Andersen Genève, Armin Strom, Arnold & Son, Artya, Ateliers De Monaco, Audemars Piguet, Bell & Ross, Blancpain, Boucheron, Bovet, Breguet, Carl F. Bucherer, Chanel, Christophe Claret, Cyrus, Czapek, De Bethune, Dewitt, Fabergé, Ferdinand Berthoud, F.P. Journe, Frederique Constant, Girard-Perregaux, Grönefeld, H. Moser & Cie, Hermès, Hublot, Jacob & Co, Jaeger-Lecoultre, Jaquet Droz, Konstantin Chaykin, L’epée, Louis Moinet, Louis Vuitton, Maurice Lacroix, Mb&F, Montblanc, Moritz Grossmann, Patek Philippe, Piaget, Rebellion, Richard Mille, Rj, Singer, Speake-Marin, Trilobe, Tudor, Ulysse Nardin, Urwerk, Voutilainen, Zenith
There are also two watches made in collaboration between pairs of watchmakers, one from De Bethune + Urwerk, another from L’epée + MB&F.
Many of the watches are also sold with “experience days” such as factory visits, lunches with the owners and activities like Formula 1 track days.
One of the most valuable watches in the sale is from Patek Philippe, which is making a Grandmaster Chime in stainless steel for the first time (pictured above).
It has an estimate of $2-2.5 million, but that does also include a visit to the watchmaker’s workshops and museum plus a private lunch with the company’s president Thierry Stern.