I didn’t want to be angry or to feel like a victim when my wife and I discovered our son Paul had Duchenne muscular dystrophy. I immediately said to myself, ‘OK, what are my skills, what can I do to help?’
I needed an idea through which we could raise a lot of money. I founded Only Watch in 2005. I wanted to have what I hoped would be a consistent amount of money to plough into research.
I went to see a number of important watchmakers, and I asked, ‘Could you create a one-off?’ A one-off could be as simple as a change of colour, or as elaborate as the addition of a new complication, a movement, or a change of case. For Only Watch the pitch was very straightforward: ‘We would like you to create a unique watch. It will be auctioned without any fees. Everyone taking part in the project does it for free. There are no signed contracts. I have no financial interest in the results. All the proceeds will go to fund research into Duchenne muscular dystrophy.’
There are no strangers in this world, only people you haven’t met yet, meaning you can connect in depth and truth with almost any human being anywhere in the world and feel a sense of brotherhood. It’s all about intention and often your energy introduces you before you do. You feel something, whether it’s conscious or not.
The first person I talked to about my idea was the late Nicolas Hayek. He said, ‘You have the support of the Swatch group.’
My emotional or intuitive intelligence is perhaps my greatest skill. I am able to perceive immediately whether to speak or listen, if I should be brief or detailed, if I should be seated or standing — I immediately get it.
Don’t ask more from people than what they are able to give. I wouldn’t ask someone to build a mansion, but to give a beautiful brick. That is his or her contribution. It is up to me to have the design of the mansion in my mind. When you gather all those bricks and you step back, you say, ‘This is huge!’
At least 99 per cent of funds raised by Only Watch goes to research. Watchmakers design the watches. Christie’s will do the auctioneering. Air France will offer tickets. A paper company delivers tonnes of paper. Ferrari Group knows how to transport the watches all over the world and graciously provides this service…
Some of the watch companies collaborate with each other. Some of them work with artists. Together, they discover things
When you connect all the dots together, the results can seem like magic. But if you take it detail by detail, it’s nothing complicated. Whether you are a small independent brand just starting out, or you are one of the biggest watch companies in the world, you get the same treatment at Only Watch — the same space in the catalogue, the same size of logo. The framework is clear. It is not about power. There is no room for ego. It’s just about the project.
Only Watch is an opportunity to let go — a space of applied creativity. It’s an opportunity for contributors to do something they wouldn’t do if they were responding purely to the market. Some of the watch companies collaborate with each other. Some of them work with artists. Together, they discover things. I’m deeply touched when, on the occasion of a meeting in Baselworld or SIHH, one of the top brands in the world comes to me and delivers its project in a few minutes, handing over a piece of paper with a sketch on it or a photo as casually as you might hand over a croissant. Then you realise that the watch that has been sketched out before you may be worth thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions in a few months’ time.
You enter Only Watch because you want to do good. You want to help raise funds for muscular dystrophy, and you want to be part of the cure one day. And you are also participating in an event that can become a market maker for your brand. That can be a very nice surprise.
We have raised more than €35 million to date. This year is going to be crazy. I know that at as of 2pm on 9 November, in the presence of HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco, things will happen. There’s no doubt that this edition is going to break records and that it could be a defining moment in the watch industry.
You can achieve big things with simple ideas. Only Watch is just a small example of the capacity we have, when we want to, to create beauty to do good.
Paul passed away three years ago, before his 21st birthday. He was a resilient person, generous, extremely optimistic. He enjoyed life. Through him I have met great men and women who have shown amazing altruism and cooperation to help find a cure for muscular dystrophy. Only Watch funds have made a tangible difference.
The Only Watch charity auction of one-off luxury timepieces will be held at Hotel des Bergues, Geneva, on 9 November 2019