Easy Rider

Ultimate Guide to the Heuer Easy Rider

Very little is truly new in the world of Swiss watches. Take the Calibre S movement introduced in 2007, which combined the reliability of a quartz movement with a mechanical chronograph module of an automatic Calibre. Innovative? Sure, but we’ve been here before, as TH itself had a similar movement in the Calibre 185 used in the 1980s. The titanium case of today’s watches? Again, a technology first used almost 30 years ago.

I was reminded of this recently when I was looking at the first Formula 1 series from 1986. Here was an entry-price TH watch made of low-cost materials (Fibreglass case, rubber strap) and launched with innovative packaging (a cardboard and plastic sleeve replacing the traditional watch box) to offer a watch at a lower price than traditional TAG Heuer and Heuer watches.

The Formula 1 series has been a huge hit (more than 3 million were made between 1986 and 2000), but the company had used the same basic recipe before with the Easy-Rider in 1971.

Unlike the Formula 1, the Easy-Rider was not a great success- yes, the watch was far less expensive than other Heuer models of the day, but sometimes small cost = big problems. And the Easy-Rider did create big problems, not only for owners, but ultimately also for Heuer-Leonidas.

The Easy-Rider Series

The Easy-Rider was launched in 1971 and stayed in the Heuer range until 1974/5. The watch was developed as a low-cost model to fight off the growing wave of Japanese quartz watches. To give you some idea of the relative prices, the watch sold for around $50 in 1973, while a Monaco would set you back $190.

So how did they sell a watch for this price? Mainly through the use of low-cost materials. The case was a Fibreglass resin (Chromium plated on some models), while the movement was a manual-wind Pin-Pallet movement from Ebauches Bettlach.

There were two distinct models in the series- the Leonidas Easy-Rider and the Jacky Ickx Easy-Rider, which was the top of the range.

The Ickx model had a Chromium-plated case and featured Jacky’s name at 9 ‘clock and his signature at 3 o’clock, with the “Easy-Rider” name sitting at 6 o’clock. There is no Heuer logo or name on the watch.

The standard watch was available in four bright case colours, with the option of Tropic Rubber strap or a metal bracelet. Again, there is no Heuer logo or name on the watch, instead using the Leonidas brand.

These models are not Chromium plated and have the Leonidas name as 9 o’clock and “Easy-Rider” at 3 o’clock.

There was a second variant of the Leonidas Easy-Rider line- the Yacht-themed Skipper model, which you see above in bright blue. As well as having the Yacht timing sub-dial, the Leonidas logo moves to the right-hand side of the dial on the Skipper.

So, who is Leonidas? Leonidas was a well-known Swiss watch company that was bought by Heuer in the 1960s to create Heuer-Leonidas S.A. I guess that Heuer recognised that offering an entry-level watch was a risk to the Heuer brand, and so decided to Leonidas instead.


As you can see on the photo above (one of Paul Gavin’s beautiful photos), the Easy-Rider had a one-piece Fibreglass case that could only be opened from the front of the watch (you had to remove the crystal and dial to get to the movement).

Heuer would later use the same principle on the Temporada model, which had the same basic case construction.

The case design itself could only come from the 1970s, with its unusual ovoid shape that was very similar to the Omega Dynamic of 1969.

The Leonidas version of the watch was sold in a plastic sleeve that wore the Heuer logo- the only sign to the uninitiated that Heuer was involved- while the Jacky Ickx version was sold with a replica Ickx helmet.

Overall, I think the design is great- if you like the 1970s. It looks perfectly “of the era” and there are enough design links with other watches in the Heuer range (e.g. the hands and dial design) to make this feel like a proper Heuer. No, the problem with the Easy-Rider wasn’t the look, it was what was inside.


What was inside the Easy-Rider was the manual- wind EB8420 pin lever Chronograph movement made by Ebauches Bettlach, a company that was part of ETA.

A Pin-Lever, or Pin-Pallet, movement is more typically found in alarm clocks or kitchen timers. Instead of using a lever escapement, as most Chronographs do today, the system uses the vertical metal pins that you see above. This type of movement is much simpler- and cheaper- to make, but  the metal pins have much higher friction and wear out faster.

The result of this was that the watch suffered from poor reliability, especially from customers who were more accustomed to the reliability of the Chronomatic Heuer movements.

The problem was partly down to expectations. You’ll read many quotes on the internet from watchmakers who “won’t touch” these movements and complain that they’re too difficult to repair. This may be true, but the reality is that these movements were never designed to be repaired, and Bettlach didn’t make spare parts. The idea was that the movement was simply thrown out if it broke or needed to be serviced and a new one put in.

Whether that was a good idea is another matter, because Quartz watches may not have had the romance of mechanical movements, but they were reasonably reliable. The reality is that in 1971 the Swiss watch making industry was still getting its head around what to do about Quartz, and so a cheap mechanical movement was seen as a way of fighting back. Giving customers throw-away movements that only lasted a couple of years wasn’t a great long-term decision.

Jacky Ickx

So, who was Jacky Ickx, the man who lends his name to the Chrome Easy Rider? Ickx entered Formula 1 in 1967 and finished second in the World Championship in both 1969 and 1970. By 1971 he was the number 1 Ferrari driver- which was also the first year that Heuer started to sponsor the Ferrari team.

Despite starting the 1971 season as favourite, it was ultimately a frustrating season for Ickx, as was 1972. Jacky left Ferrari in 1973 for a procession of other teams, and never quite got back to the top of Formula 1. But today, Jacky Ickx is best known for his results in a category other than Formula 1: Jacky Ickx was the King of Le Mans.

Ickx won the Le Mans 24 hour race 6 times (a record which was only broken by Tom Kristensen in 2008), the last of which was in the famous Rothmans Porsche 956 in 1982.

Heuer was not the only watch-brand to have a partnership with Ickx. At the same time as Heuer launched its Easy Rider, another Swiss watch company- Sorna- launched its Jacky Ickx Easy Rider, both companies having licenced the right to Jacky’s name.

I’m not sure how both watches ended up with the same name, or the link between the two watches- both use the same movement.

Leonidas Hobie Cat

There are at least three other versions of the Easy-Rider that were made, including this version, which was sold by Hobie Cat, the company that makes the small sailing Catamaran of the same name.

The Hobie Cat version is essentially the same as the Leonidas-badged watch, but with Hobie Cat’s name and logo on the dial

Mathey Prevot

This next version is more of a mystery. The script on the dial says “Mathey Prevot” (although it does look more like “Mathey Brevot”). I’ve searched for other Mathey Prevot watches, but turned up nothing. I wonder if the watch is linked to “Mathey-Tissot”, which to add to the confusion has nothing to do with Tissot of Swatch. Any information welcome!

Sears Chronograph

Finally, Heuer also made this version for the US Department store Sears- essentially a Jacky Ickx watch with a slightly different dial.

 Looking Back on the Easy-Rider

It’s hard to talk about the Easy-Rider and not focus on the quality problems. Yes, the Chrome plating can wear off quite quickly, but most complaints focus on the movement.

You’ll read in some places that the watch wasn’t “a true Heuer”, which is wishful thinking! It was a Heuer, but one made down to a cost, and the implications of meeting that cost was that the quality was poorer than customers expected.

It’s quite common to see NOS versions of the watch for sale, and if you buy one with the expectation that this is a cool slice of 1970s nostalgia to be enjoyed for a couple of years, then you’ll have something quirky and interesting. Those expecting to use the watch regularly and pass it down to your Children, are likely to be disappointed.

So, while TAG Heuer may have picked up on the basic idea of the watch when it introduced the Formula 1 in 1986, the execution was far better, and you see plenty of 25-year old Formula 1 watches today, still ticking along. So, think of the Easy-Rider as a good idea, but one that shows that if you’re going to make a low-cost watch,  you’re better off with a quartz movement.



– Leonidas Easy Rider- Paul Gavin: http://www.heuerworld.com/

– Sorna Bullhead: http://www.theretroworld.com/jacky-ickx-bullhead-watch-by-sorna/

– Ickx Ferrari: http://70swatchesgallery.wordpress.com/2011/06/06/sorna-chrono-5-crowns-siderule/

– Bettlach movement: http://70swatchesgallery.wordpress.com/2011/06/06/sorna-chrono-5-crowns-siderule/

– Mathey Prevot: Bikemaster: http://uhrforum.de/heuer-chrono-handaufzug-t57566

– Sears Chronopgraph: Mika Ruottinen-http://sometimeagofinland.com/watches/MR%20Sears%20chrono/index.html

– Omega Dynamic: AJ Brown- http://forums.watchuseek.com/f74/what-ugliest-watch-you-like-287428.html

– Heuer Catalogs- onthedash.com

– Leonidas Hobie Cat: Mark/ 1mustang1967



  • Cowboy Bebop

    Great article, David, these are rare finds today.


  • DC

    Thanks George,

    Yes, although there are some great NOS examples that come up from time to time…I suspect that some stores put them away a few years ago and have now realised that there is a market for them..


  • Alex

    As always, a very interesting read. Australians will be familiar with Jacky Ickx as Allan Moffat's co-driver in Ford's famous 1-2 finish at Bathurst 1977.

    • DC

      Hi Alex- great photo (although I'm a Holden fan…)

      Speaking of legends at Bathurst, how about this for a combination in 1976? Jack Brabham and Stirling Moss:

      <img src="http://www.motorfocus.com.au/images/P/Untitled-3.jpg&quot; alt="" />

      The car was hit from behind at the start and the whole race was ruined…shame, a great combo on paper!

  • Salvador


    Hermoso reloj muy bonito para su época

    yo tengo un Omega de esos


    Celaya Mexico


    Very nice beautiful clock for your time

    I have an Omega of these


    Mexico Celaya

  • 1000km

    My experience with calligraphy makes me think it's definitely Prevot rather than Brevot.

  • DC

    Thanks Salvador.

    1000km, Prevot does seem to be the logical choice…but what/ who was Mathey Prevot? Was it a watch brand? Seems unlikely as there are no other models I can see with this name on the dial.


  • Enrico

    as always, the nicest collection of reading material about new and antique Heuer watches. Thanks Calibre 11 !

  • DC

    Thanks Enrico

  • Guy David

    Just one word comes to mind…..Woowww!!! How cool is this! I'm falling in love 🙂

  • Steve Price


    Can one of these be repaired at all these days? What would you say?



  • DC

    Not sure Steve, but I'd guess so.

    It might be that there was no point fixing these back in the day, because they were priced quite low, and so not worth repairing.

    Now, you can pay several hundered dollars for these, so the amount people will pay to keep them going increases as well.


  • seang


    I have been trying to find watches made by Mathey prevot for a while now and this is the first success i have had. Can't beleive i've seen a picture of my watch on the net.

    I have the Mathey Prevot watch and i've just recently started to wear it. I really like it now cause it is unusual looking.

    Could you please tell me who the name is and more or less the value of the watch now.

    This is great.



  • DC

    Hi Sean,

    As mentioned in the article, I know nothing about Mathey Prevot…I couldn't find a single reference to them other than this watch. What do you know about them? You say that you'd been looking for one of their watches for a while?

    Value of these watches is entirely dependent on condition…quite a few perfect NOS examples around, so anything less than very good condition may struggle. Take a look at eBay- there are usually a few Easy Riders on sale at any one time.


  • Cowboy Bebop

    How were these things opened in order to get to the movement… I would think access is via the face of the watch? How did they pop the hood on these bad boys…?

  • Cowboy Bebop

    Actually how they removed the crystal without actually causing any damage…;-)

  • DC

    Good question! Not sure how to open these ones? Has anyone tried?


  • Kevin

    Excellent article. Thank you

    I just came across an identical version of this watch. Chrome case with a Black dial with green hour markers and a tri-color (blue, white, turquoise) chrono dial at 10/11. The watch I have is a "ROSSINI 17 Jewels".

    The movement is accessed through the crystal using a crystal vise. The movement is an EB8420 and carries the name "LANCO". I bought the watch not running but after a cleaning & oiling it is running like a top.

  • Kevin

    After more investigation – My ROSSINI watch has a name on the inside of the case that was ground off. I looked under a loupe and could make out the following letters L__NI_AS. LEONIDAS. That solves the mystery. Rossini must have bought out inventory of unsold Sears or Heuer units and repainted the dials with their own name to resell… It's a really unique watch

  • DC

    Great detective work Kevin. Here are Kevin's photos, including a shot of the tool used to open the crystal and get to the movement.

    Thanks for sharing Kevin.

    <img src="http://www.calibre11.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Rossini.jpg&quot; alt="" />

    <img src="http://www.calibre11.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/DSCN2134-530-x-398-500-x-375.jpg&quot; alt="" />

    <img src="http://www.calibre11.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/DSCN2156-530-x-398-500-x-375.jpg&quot; alt="" />


  • 70swatchesgallery

    Great blog and Loved the article.

    will try to put my 2 cents when i get to the "H" of Heuer

  • Martin Dawson

    What a brillent story,excellent, I enjoyed reading this and just had to add a little. I was sold a Mathey-Prevot in 1976 – I was doing my apprenticeship at Vickers Instruments (ex-T. Cooke & Sons and Cooke, Troughton and Simms) I did a spell in the labs (coatinging lenses) and a chap who dealt in watches sold me a Mathey-Prevot for £20. I only wore it for a few years and forgot about it. I dug it up when I found a entry in a Bonhmas auction catalogue for 19 November 2002 (page 26-7) theres a Jacky Ickc Easy Rider by Heuer listed at £800-£1200. Would like to post some pictures but not sure how. Any ideas? Best wishes all…

    <img src="http://www.calibre11.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/P1262195_LR.jpg&quot; alt="Mathey Prevot" />

    Martin Dawson

  • Thanks Martin…great to hear from someone who owns the MP version.

    Do you know anything about the Mathey Prevot brand? Still a mystery to me.

    Would love to see some photos- perhaps send them to me (info@calibre11.com) and I will add to your message.



  • Tom Groeniger

    Just purchased an Ickx (blue/white) dial. Not running. My watch repair professional is looking at it. Is it worth fixing? Shall I purchase another movement for parts? Do the movements typically have the same malfunctions?

  • Martin Dawson

    Hi Tom…

    I think I would leave it, pickle it away and forget it… I had mine looked at by a 'professional' and they made a mess of it. Should have been about £125 but I refused and got them down to £80. Look at my picture (just above) look closely where the edge of the crystal meets the bezel, its a mess… When funds allow I may visit my local TAG Heuer boutique and see what they say.

    I wish I had left it know and perhaps speant the money on something like a ex-MOD CWC watch, now they are good but I guess a bit off-topic on this site ;o)

    Take care and best wishes from Yorkshire…