In the beginning, when the world was young and before a chap named Perrelet started work on self-winding movements in 1777, people had to wind their own watches. Imagine! No bumpers or oscillating weights. Batteries, solar power or kinetic would probably have gotten you burned at the stake for watchmaking witchery. Instead, there was just good old-fashioned finger-power. No wonder people were fitter in the old days.
It sometimes feels as though hand-winders have rather dropped out of fashion. But there are plenty of reasons to love a watch that you wind yourself. Thinner movements, fewer parts to go wrong, and no spinning weight to obscure the interesting bits. There’s also the thoughtful interaction of winding your watch each morning, reminding you of the time to come and the time you’ve spent.
The ETA/Peseux 7001 is just such a movement. Simple without being crude, it pops up under case backs from Baume & Mercier to Tissot. Junghans has their own version, the J815, a modified ETA/Peseux 7001. Montblanc calls their 7001 the “MB 23.01.” It even sneaks in with an Omega logo as the cal. 651 in a series of De Villes.
Peseux —the movement maker—took its name from its hometown in the Swiss canton of Neuchâtel. Founded in 1923 as an ébauche maker by local Charles Berner, the company was best known for producing our heroes—manual winders—until the launch of the cal. 310 and cal. 315 automatics. There are several patents on file for other Peseux automatics, but the 310 and its brother seem to be the only ones to have seen the commercial light of day.
Eleven years later, in 1933, Berner was turning out more than 215,000 movements a year. The model range revolved around a core of 15 hand winders, from the tiny 4 1/4 ligne baguette cal. 90 (baguettes were long, thin rectangular movements that usually went in small, women’s dress watches) to the larger tonneau cal. 110. But despite this initial success as an ébauche maker, by 1985 Peseux had gone the way of most and been absorbed into ETA’s ancestor, the Ebauches SA conglomerate.
The 7001 first made the leap, fully-formed, from the bench back in the early 1970s and quickly gained a reputation for being reliable (as long as you didn’t ham-fistedly over-wind it), tunable, and adaptable. It’s a slim 10.5 ligne movement (there are about two-and-a-bit millimeters to a ligne), with 17 jewels, an Incabloc shock system, and 42 hours of power reserve.
When Ebauches SA absorbed Peseux, they kept the “7001” nomenclature, so you’ll sometimes see the movement referred to as the “ETA/Peseux 7001.”
Pop the case off a watch running a 7001 and you’re struck by how simple the movement looks—particularly as almost everyone nowadays is crowing about their double-tourbillon, equation of time “bling-ographs.” Simple is, often, best. There are just three bridges—one for the escapement, another for the going train and the third for the mainspring and winding mechanism. The movement ticks at a thoroughly respectable 21,600 bph.
In its base form, the 7001 is not exactly pretty—sharp edges to those bridges, no anglage or plating, no stripes. It’s a Ford Pinto of a movement—ugly but effective. In fact, any simpler and you’d be looking to see where to put the coal. That said, the movement takes to decoration quite well, as the many brands that use it can readily prove.
The 7001 was designed when people thought a watch larger than 38mm was a bit vulgar and probably the mark of a cad. It’s not only a thin movement; it also has a tiny diameter of just 23.3mm. This was splendid for the smaller watches popular back when the 7001 was introduced, but now it’s a little like lifting the bonnet on a V8 Mercedes 500E to find a Morris Minor engine and a lot of empty air. The movement’s diameter enables makers to produce a thin watch, but taking the case size any larger than around 38mm means the subsidiary seconds dial hovers in the middle of the dial.
This hasn’t stopped makers getting the best use from the movement though. The solidity and simplicity of the 7001 make it a thoroughly modifiable engine—Eberhard used it (heavily tweaked) in their 1997 8 Jours watch. Eberhard’s watchmakers clamped the 7001 to the tuning bench and managed to coax eight days of power reserve from the little engine and even added a power reserve indicator.
Nomos are probably the best-known of the 7001 tuners, though, basing their Alpha movement on it. When Roland Schwertner revived the old Nomos name in 1991, he needed to keep development costs down. One of the most effective ways to do this was to use an established movement.
It wasn’t until 1997 that Nomos could think about developing their own movements, so the initial range of Tetra, Orion, Ludwig and Tangente were powered by a modified 7001. Nomos iterated on the base caliber over the years, eventually ditching the three-plate arrangement, preferring an admittedly smarter Saxon double plate, decorated barrel wheels as well as blued screws and Glashütte’s very own version of Côtes de Genève—Glashütter Streifenschliff—on the plates.
From 2005, however, Nomos was, for all intents and purposes, making its own movements, starting appropriately with the Alpha. There’s little need for a paternity test, but the 7001 DNA is less obvious than the movement’s appearance suggests. Sure, there’s a commonality of design, but very few parts are interchangeable with Dad. The Alpha even hacks—something the 7001 wasn’t designed to do.
In fact, until the advent of the Alpha, you could have had a Stowa Antea KS and a Nomos Tangente, both with impeccable Bauhaus design credentials and almost functionally identical 7001 movements under the case back.
If Nomos went Bauhaus, Blancpain went bling. The Paudex maker gave it a serious makeover as their Cal. 64. Not only did it get day and date wheels, but also a moon-phase instead of the sub-seconds. As the Cal. 64-1, you get the whole watchmaking nine yards with anglage, a Triovis fine regulator, striping, and sunburst finishing on the barrel.
As the 7001 hits middle age—it’s 45 this year—what’s next? Its plain canvas still allows makers a whole range of options. This little movement will take everything from plain and functional to full-on bling. And Watchworld has a habit of turning full circle every few years. So, just as those dinner plate tourbillons and complications are in vogue today, the sort of simplicity and elegance the 7001 brings may be on the verge of a return. Here’s hoping.