Luc Pettavino and OnlyWatch – “Let’s do good”

OnlyWatch is a biennial world-renowned charity auction of luxury timepieces with mesmerizing one-of-a-kind watches specially made by the finest manufacturers, such as Patek Philippe, Richard Mille, Audemars Piguet, F.P. Journe… After 8 editions and countless record-breaking auctions, OnlyWatch has become one of the top-notch events in the watch industry auction calendar for private collectors, donors and aficionados of unique and rare timekeepers.

A remarkable success by any measure, OnlyWatch has raised more than € 70 million for the Monegasque Association Against Muscular Dystrophy since its first edition in 2005. With 99% of the proceeds going directly to research projects, it is on a mission to find a cure to the Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a variation of the degenerative muscular disease that affects one in 3,000 boys worldwide. The 2019 edition of the biennial OnlyWatch auction marked yet another record with proceeds amounting to € 35 million. It also saw the work of OnlyWatch’s founder Luc Pettavino being honoured with the “Prix Spécial du Jury du Grand Prix de l’Horlogerie de Genève 2019”, an unequivocal recognition from the luxury watch industry.

As the founder of OnlyWatch and the president of the Monegasque Association Against Muscular Dystrophy, Luc Pettavino started the charity auction in 2005, to fund and help find therapeutic solutions for this rare and severe type of muscular dystrophy disease, which afflicted his son Paul, who unfortunately lost his fight against the disease in 2016 short of his 21st birthday.

Over the years, Luc has remained positive and grateful for the generous contributions that help develop important advances to mitigate, and soon cure this rare disease. 

We caught up with Luc at the opulent Quai des Artistes restaurant in Monaco to discuss philanthropy in Monaco and how the Principality has been the bedrock of the OnlyWatch biennial auction.

As a close partner to Prince Albert II of Monaco and as the person behind OnlyWatch, can you tell us about philanthropy in Monaco?

I come from a family where all chosen and common interests were, as soon as I was born, part of the discussion. It was part of the behavior and all the actions of my parents: it was really part of the family DNA. So, for me, the concept of philanthropy was always there and it’s really part of, I would say, the survival of our species. One day we will take into consideration that you are me and I am you, somehow our stories are not that different. 

As far as I am concerned, I wouldn’t say that there is business on one end or charity on the other. There is just life and you need to find your own place in society through that. It was very important that I could feel the spirit of the soul, whatever my age, I found out that it goes through the pleasure of sharing and of progressing altogether: I’m happy if you are happy, if you lose, then I’m not happy. So all the projects that I have created, whether it is the Monaco Yacht Show, OnlyWatch or other events, were always marked by a common success, shared by all those who were involved in them. 

And Monaco, this magical, small and strong country, which is kind of a United Nations compendium where everybody feels at home, is a perfect place to organize these kinds of projects. Think that 139 nationalities are represented on this 2 square kilometers territory! Having lived in this country all my life, I have also enjoyed the opportunity to learn about so many cultures, to fight against prejudice and racism and to share a common goal. 

Last but not least, the Princely Family is extremely oriented towards charity, and that gives an example to follow.

What drives your passion towards giving back to society?

Quite simply, it is what makes me joyful. And I don’t believe in sacrifice: I believe in what drives you when you wake up in the morning. Plus, it is true that my family DNA is one where generosity is always present so, for me, this is kind of natural. 

It is not even a question about giving back, it is about participating in our community and we are realising nowadays that, in the end, the world is a small community. This is why, when we created the Monaco Yacht Show and OnlyWatch, while we started locally, it ended up becoming a project of worldwide impact and we were very lucky to be able to achieve that. 

I say ‘we’ because it is never about ‘me’, you never succeed in anything alone but rather you succeed by collaborating with other people who contribute their skills to the project. The fact that I got to be the conductor was a privilege for me.

It was always on my mind to improve the world, to protect, to give and to support. We have a great example in Monaco with the Princely Family and it has been formidable for me to be able to witness firsthand the Prince’s passion about protecting the world or about contributing in a very friendly and respectable way. It has been a great privilege to work on that front together, for so many years, and it’s carrying on and it feels fantastic.  

Tell us more about the OnlyWatch event, where else have you exported it to? 

The OnlyWatch is indeed an incredible event. The idea was to gather the most important watchmakers in the world, from important groups, but also from independent houses, and to ask them to create one unique watch, which we would then auction to contribute to research on muscular dystrophy and in particular Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. When you pitch a project, if after 10 or 15 seconds the person does not understand what propels it and what you mean to accomplish, then you have lost the opportunity. So when I shared my project, I was really happy to see all these sponsors joining in. 

Today we have more than 50 brands creating a one-off every 2 years for our charity. The auction takes place in Geneva but before that, we begin a world tour in 10 places around the world (in Europe, Asia, Middle East, the Americas), to showcase this unique collection. Noblesse oblige, we start it in Monaco, the birthplace of this project supported by Prince Albert II of Monaco. 

This tour is a teaser to enable potential collectors and donors to discover the incredible craftsmanship behind these unique watches. We have around 100 to 150 companies contributing to maximize the audience for this project. Today, there are more than 400 million readers, in digital and in print, who look forward to the OnlyWatch event every other year.

It is such a beautiful and concrete example that nowadays, one can organize a worldwide project with no contracts, almost no costs (because we have never more than 1% costs): Everything is offered by the parties involved, the watches of course but also the advertising space, the flights, the paper to print the catalogues, the network of potential clients… 

So it is possible in our 21st century to just connect with people who will say “okay, we’ll be there, we’ll support and we don’t sign anything”. It is the same goodwill that makes people accept to feel at ease with a certain degree of variance and to give their trust. But invariably, they see that the results bring a lot of joy.

As, let me stress it again, it’s not a personal achievement but a group achievement, Monaco helped us find the way to that: where else do you get to know personally so many amazing people from all over the world? In that respect too, Monaco is much more than its image of luxury and privileges… It is a great place on Earth where you have fantastic people at different levels of society, where the sense of community, the sense of giving back and sharing exist deeply, and it is very inspiring.

Find out more about the OnlyWatch event here.