Only Watch 2023 Returns in 2024 – Here’s What You Need to Know!

by Mario C

After being postponed in 2023, the Only Watch charity auction is slated to kick off in just a few days. Here’s everything you need to know about what went down last year, and what you can expect for this Friday.

What is Only Watch?

The watch world can often be self-serious, pretentious, snobby, and rude. Unfortunately, it isn’t rare to run into someone in the watch community with a nasty opinion about what you or others should and shouldn’t be wearing. However, there is always a time and a place where watch lovers, enthusiasts, and brands can unite to share their love for horology. And sometimes, we can use our passion for expensive things for good.

Only Watch is one of those events, founded by Luc Pettavino in 2005 with the patronage of H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco. Every two years they band together with the world’s foremost horologists and task them to create a piece unique – a one-of-a-kind timepiece. These watches, never to be replicated, are stunning displays of both design and mechanical perfection, pushing every participating brand to its absolute limit.

Only Watch Founder Luc Pettavino (right) with H.S.H Prince Albert II of Monaco (left)

Once completed, these watches are then auctioned off. Though we are aware that some brands participate merely for the commercial benefit, their intentions do not muddy the overall cause: Funding the research of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD).

Affecting one in every 3,500 boys, including Pettavino’s son Paul, DMD is a degenerative disease that leads to progressive muscle deterioration, loss of autonomy, and premature death. For more than 20 years, Only Watch’s parent company Association Monégasque contre les Myopathies (AMM) has been pursuing a cure, but without significant backing that task could prove to be nothing more than a pipe dream. However, through Only Watch, AMM has raised nearly CHF100,000,000 to fast-track all scientific and medical research related to DMD and other genetic diseases. If you’re interested, you can learn more about the Only Watch project here.

RELATED READING: Only Watch 2023 Postponed

So What Happened Last Year?

While Only Watch is usually slated to occur biennially since its conception in 2005, in 2023 the event – and the AMM as a whole – was under fire. Allegations from prolific collector Santa Laura began to surface regarding the organisation’s transparency, particularly in their financials. Only Watch is an organisation based in Monaco, where public disclosure laws are different than in other countries, so transparency regarding the costs, overheads, and funds disbursement of the aforementioned CHF100 million has been scant.

The aftermath of Laura’s questioning was, perhaps, more telling. Francois-Paul Journe, the founder of F.P. Journe, wrote a letter in solidarity with Pettavino and the Only Watch organisation, which can be seen on the F.P. Journe Instagram page here and for quick reference, below.

Even bigger still was that, not long afterward, Audemars Piguet withdrew their participation in Only Watch just weeks before the event’s commencement. Though Pettavino and Only Watch have sought to alleviate concerns, issuing a press release regarding the postponement, and post this, a transparency update, and the openness for an independent auditor, it’s hard to not be concerned regarding its transparency issues – especially if it was enough to rattle one of the ‘Big Three’ brands in Audemars Piguet. Unfortunately, Audemars Piguet is just one of fifteen brands that have not returned for the rescheduled Only Watch auction.

The withdrawn Audemars Piguet Only Watch Piece – A flying tourbillon with an open-worked dial

To date, fourteen other brands, including Tudor and Ulysse Nardin, have also elected not to return for this Friday’s auction. We at Watch Advice aren’t looking to speculate or cast judgment in light of these allegations, but of course, we will keep you updated with any new details that unfold. If you would like to read more on the subject as it happened, you can find more details of it on our site here.

What Should You Look Forward To?

Regardless of what has transpired behind the scenes, there are still plenty of horological wonders on display to ponder over. In the Palexpo Convention Center in Geneva – the same venue as Watches and Wonders 2024 – May 10’s auction will be run by British auction house Christie’s in association with AMM.

A whopping 47 Lots will be available for the auction, featuring outstanding piece unique timepieces from the world’s finest brands. We covered some of our favourites between two articles – see our Top Picks for Only Watch Part 1 and Part 2. However, there’s plenty of options available to choose from.

Into innovations? I recommend you look into the Frederique Constant/Christiaan Van der Klaauw Tourbillon Planetarium.

Frederique Constant/Christiaan Van der Klaauw Tourbillon Planetarium

Are you digging design? This H. Moser/MB&F Streamliner Pandamonium is bound to put a smile on your face.

H. Moser & Cie / MB&F Steamliner Pandamonium

Marvelling at materials? This Bulgari Octo Finissimo is the first and only watch (no pun intended) to feature a marble case.

BVLGARI Octo Finissimo Marble

Seeking to make a statement? As always, Richard Mille has you covered with this Talisman Origine – a functional timepiece converted into a wearable necklace.

If you want to find out about all of the available lots, the full list is available here.

So, if you’ve got the Francs to blow and are looking to add an incredibly special watch to your collection – or perhaps you’re like me and opt to wistfully participate in spirit – then get ready for the commencement of the Only Watch auction at 10 PM AEST this Friday!

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