Series Overview: 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.