TIME FOR CHANGE
Sarah Maisey speaks to Luc Pettavino, the dynamic founder of Only Watch, a unique auction that he founded to raise funds for a cause close to his heart
The Only Watch auction offers timepieces by the world’s leading brands, all sold for a good cause
It’s not every day that you come across a story that combines high-end excess and raw, human emotion – but Only Watch does precisely that.
Even though most people won’t have heard of Only Watch, it has evolved into one of the biggest watch sales in the world, and the work it is funding has the potential to benefit us all. The sale, led by auctioneers Christie’s, will take place on November 11 in Geneva, and will feature incredible one-of-a-kind timepieces that have all been made and donated by the world’s major watchmakers.
The biannual sale, now in its seventh edition, is the brainchild of Luc Pettavino – the dynamic and personable founder of the Monaco Yacht Show. He set up Only Watch to raise funds for research into Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), a severe and progressive degenerative disease caused by a deficiency in the protein dystrophin, which helps keep muscle cells intact. Dystrophin is essential for maintaining muscle function and, without it, the body cannot renew itself. The result is a relentless decline in muscle mass, for which there is no cure.
Although women are carriers of the defective gene that causes DMD, sufferers are almost exclusively male, and it affects one in 3,500. Following a diagnosis at birth, the average age for survival is just 26 years. Unfortunately, it is not only newborns who are at risk, as the gene mutation that halts the production of dystrophin can develop at any age.
In 2000, Pettavino and his family received the devastating news that their 5-year-old son, Paul, was suffering from this disease. “Imagine having muscles that work less and less, until finally they don’t work at all,” Pettavino says when I meet him in Dubai. “This is muscular dystrophy. It is a change in DNA, and it is an extremely severe condition. Thanks to medical care, we have extended the lives of patients, but there still is no cure.”
Confronted with the reality of this life-changing diagnosis, the Pettavino family was faced with a decision: to collapse under the hand of fate, or to stand and fight – and they chose the latter. “As always, when you tell a story, you reduce it to its best, but life is much more difficult than that,” Pettavino says. “Daily life is made of ups and downs, but we are a joyful family. Our DNA was to say: ‘OK, we, not only Paul, have received this challenging data. Do we have the capacity to not be victims? Can we override that and try to transform it into possibilities?’
“A er the first wave of shock, I thought: ‘What are my skills? What are my abilities? What can I do?’” he continues. “So I went to see researchers [specialising in DMD] and asked if there was anything we could do that did not already exist.