The 18-karat white-gold Rolex Cosmograph Daytona sells for $41,300 whereas the same model in stainless steel sells for $13,150. At the current price of $40 dollars per gram, the amount of white-gold required to manufacture the watch would set you back approximately $8,000 (versus the $28,150 difference). At $2.65 per kilogram, the amount of stainless steel in the same watch would be worth less than one dollar.
If not the materials then what makes a luxury wrist watch so expensive? An article in the WSJ cited the following:
Labor: Swatch sells a particular complication that is very similar to a Rolex watch and retails for $245 because it is machine made. Making the watch by hand requires an incredible amount of skill and patience. The article cited an employee at Vacheron Constantin “who specialized in making minuscule screws that go inside a watch. The worker finished 1.5 screws by hand a day.” The salary for such an employee was estimated at approximately $100,000 a year.
Research: Luxury watch companies might spend years developing a complication. On a per watch basis, there was no data to estimate how this contributed to price.
Marketing and Prestige: The dollars required to convince someone to make the purchase so that they can communicate the capacity to do so.