For years I had only ever seen one photo of this watch – on Handheld Museum – and really believed it must have been a Photoshop job since there was nothing (and I mean NOTHING) about it that I could find anywhere.
The first watch I saw in person that had this game was the Nelsonic Grand Prix – which by all accounts would have been the original brand name for this, particularly since they marketed the watch with the game actually named Grand Prix. The Nelsonics must have been made in good numbers, since a lot of people remember them, but were either poor in terms of build quality or, more likely, played to death in the schoolyards of the 1980s by privileged owners and their friends.
The next variety of the watch I found in the flesh was the Sanyo V – which looked to be a rip off of the Nelsonic since it was more cheaply made including a wiring hack that required only a single battery to be used. I’ve seen a few of these over the years, not many, but more than the Nelsonic.
I had all but given up hope of ever finding the Advance version until it appeared on eBay in a lot with two other calculator watches, the Armitron Wrist Comp 101 and a Casio CA-53W. The Casio was the only one pictured working and the Advance had the description “this is more of a throw-in”. I’m glad the owner threw it in, instead of throwing it out, since it was easily the pick of the bunch given its rarity. The watches didn’t sell for peanuts (considering two of them weren’t working) but there are auctions you are determined to win and, for me, this was one of them.
When they arrived I opened the two non-working models to find either the original batteries, or seriously leaking replacements. The Advance in particular had a hazy-looking module from all the battery acid vapour that had wafted around the case over the years.
I gave it a superficial clean to get rid of the worst of the damage and put a couple of 389 batteries in it and hoped for the best. It didn’t want to start to begin with, but eventually I looked at the screen and saw all segments lit up (and this is a well-packed LCD so it looked pretty cool) – hit the Mode button and we were in business. Now I know it works, a more thorough clean is on the list so I can get a photo of the three car race watches together.
Just one thing let it down…the case. Part of the reason I’ve been looking for the Advance version for so long is because of how cool the game looks in a metal case. The Nelsonic and Sanyo both have plastic cases. And so, it turns out, does the Advance. While it looks like metal, it’s just a reasonably light paint over plastic.
UPDATE: Here’s a picture you won’t see every day. The three amigos…