Only Watch founder Luc Pettavino speaking at the last Only Watch.

It’s just been announced that this year’s Only Watch auction will be postponed to an unspecified date in 2024. In recent weeks, there’s been plenty of chatter and even some saber rattling about the finances of Only Watch. A few weeks ago, Association Monégasque contre les Myopathies (AMM), the association behind the auction that was created to benefit Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, released select financials. Unfortunately, the release raised more questions, for some, than it answered, as it remained unclear how around half of the $110 million Only Watch has raised since 2005 was being managed and whether or not the Only Watch auction is really as charitable as it purports to be. Shortly after these potential issues came to light, Audemars Piguet pulled its model from the auction (though no official reason was given), delivering the first major and official blow that would shake Only Watch. Patek Philippe, a brand that was yet to debut the specifics of its Only Watch 2023 piece, was rumored to be a brand that, if it were to pull out of Only Watch, could severely damage the reputation of the auction. Before that was to happen (or more specifically to happen in public), the organizers announced that the Only Watch 2023 auction is postponed to 2024.

Since that initial release, the heat has been turned up on Only Watch to offer more transparency, an opportunity upon which the auction has at least somewhat seized (see below). It’s important to note that the lack of transparency together with what little has been offered neither clearly indicates any wrongdoing nor clearly demonstrates efficacious management and appropriate use of the funds raised by Only Watch. We discussed the issue two weeks ago on the aBlogtoWatch Weekly Podcast, and it’s exactly this type of thing that keeps aBlogtoWatch from systematically covering auctions and their results. While we’re happy to report on select watches from Only Watch in appreciation of their horological value, auctions themselves are often financially murky or misleading to spend our (or your) time on.

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In the release announcing the postponement, Only Watch discussed the founding, mission, and impact of AMM and Only Watch, none of which are directly in question here. It then mentions the questions “raised about the allocation of funds and the governance of the AMM,” but does not answer the questions or the associated concerns, which admittedly is beyond the scope of a such a press release. But it does link to a document that further links to a number of other documents outlining how part of the roughly $100 million raised thus far has been spent.

“To date, approximately half of that amount has been spent, a large majority of it on efforts to find a drug to treat Duchenne muscular dystrophy patients, the heart of our mission,” WatchPro quotes a statement signed by Mr. Pettavino. It is difficult to find any clarification on the reason that only half of the funds have been distributed, which will continue to be most observers’ biggest concern. The initial rationale given by Only Watch founder Luc Pettavino was only that the money was being “rigorously managed to ensure that we are ready for the next steps.” Certainly, there are numerous legitimate reasons for it being retained, not least of which being that the process to identify and vet promising research funding opportunities is slow and that the narrow DMD focus of the charity makes those opportunities fewer than were it to have a broader goal.

Ultimately, Only Watch and AMM say that they do not want to sully the auction with any speculation of malfeasance: “We cannot bring ourselves to cast doubt on the sincerity of the commitment of all the parties involved in this project, nor can we allow this wonderful story to be rewritten.” It is yet to be seen how Only Watch will utilize the breathing room it has given itself, or when the auction may take place. The release does indicate some plans to restructure and establish a new auditing practice (the first report will be released to the public in the first third of 2024). The full release announcing the postponement is available at the Only Watch website.

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