The Only Watch charity auction is more than just a gathering of over-the-top timepieces made by watchmaking’s elite and the wealthy buyers who bid for them. This Antiquorum auction is the story of one man’s heroic dedication to fighting a disease that has afflicted his son and his connection to a man that, in watchmaking circles, is considered equally heroic.
Luc Pettavino, president of the Monegasque Association against Muscular Dystrophies (AMM), conceived the biennial Only Watch Auction in 2005 to help find a cure for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a debilitating neuromuscular disease that affects one in every 3,500 men.
“When I started Only Watch, I had a few contacts in the watch industry,” Pettavino said. “Nicolas Hayek Sr. was one of them. He told me, ‘I like your idea; and you will have the support of my group- Swatch, Omega, Blancpain, Breguet, Glashütte – but what would be more fun is if you manage to gather our competitors as well, so that Only Watch can become a reference.’” Inspired by Hayek’s words, Pettavino quit his job of 20 years and started AMM.
“I was the managing director and shareholder of the Monaco Yacht Show, the number one yachting event worldwide,” he said. “I sold my shares last year, and since then I work almost full-time for finding therapeutical solutions for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. I’ve been very active in the field for the past 10 years now. I do it for free, of course.”
The auction was this month at the Hotel Hermitage in Monaco, under the High Patronage of His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco. High Patronage is a formal term expressing the endorsement of the member of a royal family; Prince Albert launches the event and discreetly buys some watches to support the cause. There are 40 watches on the block this year, each one of a kind. Previous to the auction, the watches are displayed at the Monaco Yacht Show and before that, on a world tour at points in Asia, Europe and the United States, at Antiquorum in New York and Westime in Los Angeles. One hundred percent of the proceeds go toward muscular dystrophy research. The first three auctions raised 2.5 million Euros for the cause.
Paul Pettavino, 16, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, “is doing okay,” says his father Luc. “He is kind and easy to live with. For the third time he collaborated with one of the watch brands [this year, Louis Vuitton] a unique piece and box for Only Watch.” In thanking the watchmakers for their participation, Pettavino shared heartfelt words.
“Your presence is heartening because it shows that you were wisely able to turn professional competitiveness into a beneficial ambition and enthusiasm for a noble cause,” he said.
Here are a few highlights from this year’s auction, followed by their estimates, or wish price, as they are expressed in the catalog.
RM027 Rafael Nadal Tourbillon
Part of what makes the RM027 unique is that it has been road-tested by Rafael Nadal. The tennis star wore the tourbillon when he won the 2011 Monte Carlo championship for the seventh year running. Following the match, Nadal handed the watch over to charity head Luc Pettavino’s son, a 16-year-old afflicted with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Wish price: 400,000-600,000 EUR.
The Gstaad Classic is a cross-genre piece if there ever was one. Described by its maker Audemars Piguet as a 1920s-inspired, chic-yet-sporty, classic-yet-contemporary chronograph, the watch is a sleekly successful balance of all of the above. The beautifully rounded case, long graceful lugs and cross-stitched leather strap make it truly a gentleman’s sport watch, and one of the most accessible pieces in the auction. Wish price: 35,000-45,000 EUR.
Crazy Hours Masterpiece: Totally Switzerland
The brand’s ingenious Crazy Hours goes raging red in this version in order to symbolize the Swiss flag, in tribute to the large community of Swiss nationals living in Monaco. The numerals are situated randomly on the dial, and the hour hand jumps to the number that tells the current time – as crazy as it gets in Switzerland. Wish price: 20,000-40,000 EUR.
Ref. 3939 Only
Patek Philippe is the only brand that doesn’t find it necessary to flaunt its tourbillon carriage on the dial. The dial is for functions only, says the brand, and it has not made an exception for the Only Watch. Based on the Ref. 3939, the black enamel dial touts its tourbillon status, while an open caseback reveals the escapement. The watch is also a minute repeater, with the gongs visible on the caseback. Wish price: 450,000-650,000 EUR.
Piaget Altiplano Skeleton
The brand’s famously ultra-thin 838P movement is given a Darth Vader edge, with black PVD coating over skeletonized components. The dial plate and bridges are decorated with sunburst guilloché with circular graining, strikingly contrasted by gold screws, hands and logo. The subdial at 10 o’clock is a seconds counter. Wish price: 25,000-35,000 EUR.
Bell & Ross
BR01 Casino Pink Gold
The Casino watch in traditional roulette-wheel colors couldn’t be more comme il faut for the Only Auction, which is held in Monaco. The BR01 Casino is a tribute to the principality’s famous gambling palace. Three markers on disks indicate the time: a numeral zero (0) on the outside disk displays hours; a small roulette ball on the middle disk indicates the minutes; and the entire roulette wheel turns to indicate seconds. Wish price: 20,000-40,000 EUR.
The UR-103, already one of the world’s most unusual watches, is made even more unique by the addition of a phoenix motif carved into the dial by Swiss master engraver Jean-Vincent Huguenin. The phoenix is a bird of Greek mythology that heroically rises from the ashes, and was chosen for its symbol of hope for a cure for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Wish price: 70,000-90,000 EUR.
Freak Diavolo Only Watch
This flying tourbillon, named after its devilish horn-shaped arrows attached to the carrousel and bridge, is an evolution of the groundbreaking 2001 Freak, the first movement to function with escapement wheels constructed of silicum. The Freak Diavolo Only Watch also uses silicum in the hairspring. The tourbillon carousel rotates around the dial every 60 seconds. Wish price: 75,000-100,000.