26 October 2023


By In General, Hype Market

Auction season had just started and it has now been shaken by big news as the 10th edition of Only Watch charity auction has been postponed to 2024 (no date has been unveiled yet). This was communicated through a press release on its website on Monday 23rd of October, less than two weeks before the original auction date which was scheduled on Sunday 5th of November in Geneva. We will dig into the reasons that brought this decision in a bit. Before that, let’s recap what Only Watch is about.

Only Watch auction during its execution
Only Watch auction – photo courtesy of Only Watch
The project behind Only Watch

Only Watch is a biennial charity auction of luxury timepieces founded in Monaco in 2005 by Luc Pettavino and run under the patronage of Prince Albert II of Monaco. The aim of this project is raising funds in order to help the research on Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). DMD is a genetic severe type of muscular dystrophy that primarily affects boys and results in a progressive weakening of all muscles, starting from the thighs and pelvis which are soon followed by the arms. Later, breathing muscles and heart are involved as well. All this clearly affects the ability to walk and carry out any other everyday action. Luc Pettavino saw through his own eyes the effects of such disease, as his son Paul was diagnosed with DMD in 2000 when he was 4 years old (he then died before his 21st birthday). Since the beginning of this project, the Association Monégasque contre les Myopathies (AMM), the charity organisation founded by patients’ families which lies behind Only Watch, was able to raise about CHF/EUR 100 million (about 70% being raised in the last two auctions only, 2019 and 2021). This was possible thanks to major watch brands, who have been supporting this important initiative by donating unique timepieces every two years, and collectors around the world, who have never missed the opportunity to place their bids and making it possible for big sums of money to be fetched on each edition. The watches on sale are exclusively one-off pieces created specifically for this occasion and will not ever come up again in future (that is where the name of the auction comes from). Of course, Only Watch has always been very proud of its auctions’ successes and has been posting results along with its unique pieces on its Instagram account. Ironically, it is exactly on Instagram where suspicious rumors have started lately.

Looking for transparency

In recent months, there has been a lot of comments and questions on social media around the Only Watch project. To give them full credit, Jose Pereztroika and Santa Laura (@perezcope and @santa_laura on IG) has “led” the voice of the people and called for more transparency on the allocation of funds, proceeds, and about the governance structure of the AMM. To put it simply, they have questioned how it all works and whether Only Watch is as charitable as it should be or not. They were not alone and have been soon followed by many others, as you might imagine. The AMM together with Only Watch did try to reply to these continuous questions that were overflowing day after day. However, according to the “prosecution”, the provided answers were not only unsatisfactory (you can find them here), but have also led to many more questions and serious allegations. In fact, it came out that AMM has distributed only half of the money raised so far. This of course has caused even more pressure on the charity auction, which was accused of mishandling the funds raised over the years.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Openworked 41 mm with blue calibre designed for Only Watch 2023
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Openworked 41 mm – Photo courtesy of Audemars Piguet

In addition to this, Audemars Piguet withdrew its participation last week by surprisingly deciding to remove its unique watch from the sale. Despite F.P. Journe subsequently supported the auction reiterating his commitment to the cause and no other brand made comments about it (yet, I would say), the AMM announced the postponement of the upcoming auction because “the time for certification, changes in governance and the imminent auction do not coincide”.

F.P. Journe post on Instagram that clarifies its confidence in Only Watch
F.P. Journe post on Instagram that clarifies its confidence in Only Watch

We should now wait and see how the current situation will evolve during the next weeks and months. Whatever the outcome will be, we believe that transparency is of the utmost importance in every context and even more when charity is involved. Watch community bid on those watches, allowing them to fetch extraordinary results, because they were also happy to give money to such an extremely good cause. Without it, the amount of money would have probably been lower. Thus, it is fair to ask questions and be sure these donations go to the people who need it the most.

Written by Renato Spada

Super curious since 1990. One of his first questions was "And why?" He is now a localization project manager 8 hours per day and watch enthusiast for much more. Before being attracted by watches, he is charmed by their stories and what they mean for their owners.