Luc Pettavino, Founder Only Watch: “It is our responsibility, each one of us, to maintain what we like during this moment of parenthesis in life.”
MISTERWATCH talks to Luc Pettavino, who’s project managed to raise until now 74 million dollars for saving the lives of children suffering from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Every two years, Luc Pettavino is gathering the world‘s most beautiful watches for Only Watch charity auction and teaches the world a lesson about Hope. He does it with a big Smile. And with Love.
I met Luc Pettavino while attending Dubai Watch Fair and I immediately felt he is a different person. He smiles all the time and his relaxation is something of a therapy we all should try from time to time. His fame in the watch industry is one of a kind. Every two years he convinces the most important brands to offer a unique piece for Only Watch auction founded in 2005. The money raised have the mission to correct a nature’s injustice called Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. The severe neuromuscular disease primary affects boys that eventually lose the battle with life around their teenage. One of them was Paul, the son of Luc Pettavino. Actually this is the point from where the whole project started. Him and his wife tried to think of a way to raise money to support the research of a way to save their son as well as all the children suffering from the same disease.
In 2016, just when a new edition of Only Watch was in progress, Paul lost the battle at 21 years old. But Luc Pettavino decided to go on for the world, for Love, for Hope. Today, drawing a line after the 2019 edition, the charity auction managed to raise a total of 74 million dollars after 14 years. A Patek Philippe auctioned at the latest edition convinced a passionate to pay the record sum of 31 million Swiss francs and for sure and as we speak the race to cure Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy is in the test phase.
During the Covid confinement, Luc Pettavino is at his house in Monaco. Between his work designing the future of Only Watch and his long walks in the forest close to his house, there is our fascinating conversation.
What is Only Watch doing now?
“Now is a moment of just being connected with the people who would need to feel there is someone around. There is no rush, there is no priority of Only Watch to come on stage. Now it is the moment we use every two years to just remain silent and just “let the soil rest”. But what I have done before the confinement, I went twice to Geneva and I used the opportunity to connect with some of the friends of the industry. The ones I met just said that they will come to Only Watch, they will continue the project. I know that now may be things that are different because of Covid, but, before that, everyone was really happy to think about the restart of the project for 2021. We will see what comes. We are not stressed at all. I think there are so many other priorities. On the contrary I hope all these will be managed one way or another, I hope people will have recovered and the industry will have found its way to carry on. And then I think that the moment of Only Watch, if it comes, if everything is ok, it will be a great moment for people to gather and to feel united again.”
Where should people search for hope?
“It is a moment for me when there is one thing on my agenda. To make the researchers confident that there is all the money so they can design the access and to begin the clinical trials for us. There is already something fantastic the support to move ahead and then think Hope. Because this is really what it is all about. It is creativity, financing hope and something very concrete. Because sometimes people think it’s going to be sooner or later but with Only Watch we have some concrete progress. And now we are designing the clinical trials. I am on the mission somehow. I design myself and life allowed me to proceed to bring Hope around health and to bring concrete testimonials that people can gather when the intention is clear.”
What is the role of watches for you?
,,Actually in all the projects I have been designing, whenever I start designing one, I try to make it something really strong and worldwide. I have designed two big projects, one was the Monaco Yacht Show and then Only Watch. In both cases I was not interested in yachts and I am not interested in watches. This is probably why the success was so big. I am somebody about whom people understood that somehow my skills and my interest were completing their interest. I was appreciating quality, the research of excellence but my main goal, arriving in yachting or watches, was just to gather people. It was a people’s project. The rest for me is really exceptional but I don’t understand anything in yachts or watches. I think it is a way to just say it’s really not the topic that matters on this project. Of course the topic matters because if there is no extremely high quality there is no project. But on this project, what is very special is people accepting to lower their barriers since day 1. They feel confident enough to just say ok, let’s try to do something quite unique whether is really creative from scratch or mild adjustments to make it special and unique. Let’s just give and follow by the book the different very light rules of Only Watch, meaning no cost, no special request. Now it seems noble because the success became worldwide and everybody would want to be on board. But if you think about it, starting with a project like that and for those brands, incredible brands, to accept this role without counterparts is just a very nice sign. It is a sign that whenever the energy is felt as honest and the intention is really clear and then you do what you say and you say what you do on the long term not only on one shot but in a consistent way and if you are lucky because you then have to be grateful and modest, because you never know why things work and why they don’t sometime, but then it can work, it may eventually work. And 74 million dollars later we have Only Watch and a great hope for research and patients. I am really happy and humble and let’s hope life allows us to just gather again. Because this vibe is really something good for all of us. It’s a moment of peace, it’s a moment of unity and we really need that. We feel it today, especially during these moments of Covid. If we are together and we respect each other the feeling is great.”
The key for the success of Only Watch?
One of the keys for success is never to ask too much to people and in the same time let them understand that your project is not a personal project of pride or ego. That is really something where we are all at the same level. Only Watch is very horizontal. And whenever you ask a contribution it’s something that is doable. For some of the small brands, it may take them more means and more time to do a special watch and if they can’t they are always free to leave. It is never about taking someone’s feelings hostage. We talk about the disease, we talk about life and death and now today, with this Covid, we really understand what it means to be scared sometimes, to lose life or to lose parents and so on. When you deal with that, the more subtle, the more relaxed, the more soft you can be, the better. Because people already have their own stress, their own issues you don’t know about. Each of us may be very discreet about our fears, about our losses. So if you arrive with a project you should be orienting what you do on the hope, on the creativity, on the feeling of doing something good together. But never take them “hostage” with the harshness of the disease or the challenge. It is never about helping Only Watch because the children are dying. They will say yes once, but the second time, when they see you, they will cross the road to escape. Because our level of stress is already so high and the other one doesn’t know we have our own issues. Try to make the contribution a happy moment for people, not something heavy. And when people don’t want to contribute, never judge! Never draw any conclusion. Just take the info, move on and tell to the person that is highly welcomed whenever he or she feels like it. Be the lightest and the most consistent you can be. And then work behind and try to be creative but in a nice way. Not too much creative because otherwise you lose people and the baseline of a great project it should be very simple to understand. A 5 years old should understand immediately what you do. Imagine a 5 years old son looking at his dad and asking: “What do you do, Dad? I ask people to create watches, unique, so that we can sell them to give the money after to the people who are trying to save children.” Otherwise we are so heavy on so many things we have to do, to contribute and we have a full agenda. And we all have our issues. Whenever they should see you, they should see a smile, an accelerator of energy, somebody honest, a very clear and simple rule. And then they would say it is a good moment. We’re going to see Luc. It’s nice. We are going to be together. And we know these people are going to work a lot and everybody is going to give their contribution and the project is not for Luc but for all of us. Luc is just a guy binding the sauce so that the salad is nice. And he respects all the ingredients. This project is just fantastic. It is a privilege.
The idea for me is never to be self-satisfied for my ego. Of course the recognition is nice, but you understood that at Only Watch this is not the main thing. I think it is the message. People sometimes have a vision of life where everything is high jacked by the people who have money, there is no space for anyone and I just want to bring a small contribution. I want to tell them that I wasn’t born with a lot of money, my family isn’t rich. The question is sometimes you can be lucky, to educate in what you do. I want to share with them just the journey so that they can identify themselves – whatever the level – to the fact that they can contribute. It is a question of getting up of your bed, of having a dream, share it and start walking! As for any project. It takes a lot of dedication and time but all the successful projects are the living proof that it can happen.
Life after Covid?
You know what is going to happen after this moment of Covid? There will be business as usual, even if people wonder now how the life after is going to be. We, humans, are very complex entities. We can say blue the first day and as soon as we are free we say red. We have to accept our complexity. But probably there is going to be a middle way between business as usual as before and a kind of new approach on things. And it is our responsibility, each of us, to maintain what we like during this moment of parenthesis in life. There are good things. We have a lot of our thoughts and hearts with the people suffering, with the ones battling every day in hospitals or just being available for us when we go to supermarket or pharmacy. We should be highly grateful for them to do that. But there are good things happening. There is less confusion. There is an energy that is more intense. That is more fully minded. Something more intense and calmer. You do things you don’t do usually. Like, for example, I cook my bread. So I think we should not forget the things we like in this moment when all this Covid situation is finished. We should translate them into our life. It can be really small things.
How long it takes for projects to become reality?
For example, in 2004, I was the first big show organiser to transform the Monaco Yacht Show into a climate neutral event compensating carbon offsetting. So back then when I did that, I had to explain to people by drawing on paper what it meant. Nobody was understanding. And it was only 16 years ago. But it seems an eternity. Last year, for the first time, Only Watch was climate neutral. We compensated with several certificates. What I mean is that it takes time to transform your ideas into reality. It takes as well the financial possibility. You are probably fighting for yourself at the moment and wondering how are you going to survive after this period. Asking who is going to pay for your projects. We have to be very tolerant and in the same time we have to think what could be free and what could be a good opening for the world, whatever we do. In this Covid situation, I was the first to register in my building as available to go and buy the food for the elders and the ones in need. Small things but this is the message as well today. There is no more a question of country. It is about being human, about possibly being scared. And in the same time we all feel connected. Because we all endure the same thing, wherever we are. It’s good. We will remember we are not different. We will remember unity. And when it works it feels great. Only Watch is a very small testimony of this moment when there is unity. And it feels good.
Thank you, Luc, for the nice discussion.