Wristwatches are becoming something of an anachronism, like phone booths and VHS tapes. Almost everyone carries a phone with them at all times, and phones keep very accurate time by checking in (indirectly) with an atomic clock [source: USAToday]. There's no need to wear a separate time-keeping device when something that's already ubiquitous does an excellent job of it. As a result, electronic wristwatch sales have been relatively flat for the last decade, while mechanical watch sales have recovered nicely from a sharp blow dealt by the economic downturn of 2008 [source: Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry FH].
The funny thing about the watch industry, though – sales numbers as a whole (in dollars) have steadily gone up, with 2011 sales representing a five-year high. How is that possible? Since watches no longer serve a practical purpose for most people, watches have taken impracticality to absurd levels, becoming intricate works of mechanical art for people with an appreciation for fine craftsmanship (or artifacts of conspicuous consumption for people with more money than sense, if you're feeling especially cynical).
Why do we care about the recent history of watch-making? Because the subject of this article is one of the most intricate (and conspicuous) wrist watches available. The C1 QuantumGravity by Swiss watchmaker Concord is a bulky device filled with complicated mechanisms, glowing tubes and elaborate connections. The retail price is $480,000, and it keeps time just as well as your $50 cell phone.
If you want to know what could possibly make a watch cost almost half a million dollars, read on.