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

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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.

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