The Nelsonic Grand Prix is one of my favourite calculator watches ever.
It would never have been a high-priced item – plastic case, ‘budget’ brand, made in Hong Kong – and yet still manages to cram more into it’s miniscule memory space than equivalent Seikos and some Casios.
This watch compares favourably to the Armitron Piano Game watch, which likewise takes an innovative approach to form and function by including a game within the limitations of its tiny LCD.
Where some manufacturers would have take the opportunity to make a dual-LCD (which would certainly have made design easier) the creators of the Nelsonic Grand Prix opted for a more creative approach, possibly due to budget constraints on what would have surely been a reasonably cheap watch – you won’t find any metal versions of this one unless they’ve been franken-watched by someone with steady hands and small screwdrivers.
There are loads of the generic time/date/alarm/calculator watches around which already make pretty good use of the limited amount of memory and chip capacity these watches would have held, but to add a game is just about the coolest thing ever. Particularly when you consider it’s a proper game, not a number-type game like those made by Casio in the MG-880/MG-885/MG-777 around the same time.
This is a side-scroller where you have to get your car from right to left, avoiding cascading enemies which rain down on you from left to right. You skip lanes (moving up and down) in your quest to make it to the end.
And it’s a good finger-masher game too. The top two rows of buttons (other than the vital C/MODE button) move your car up, the bottom two rows move it down.
And it has sound! No melody – that would have been expecting too much – but ‘realistic’ car racing sounds, and appropriate beeps for crashes/wins.
It’s actually a fun game to play, and challenging too. You may be able to get through one screen, but can you do it twice? Or three times?
As awesome as it is rare; finding a Nelsonic Grand Prix in good condition and working too is not going to happen every day (or week, month or year). If you find one, though, it will have been well worth the wait.
If you really want a challenge, though, try and find the Sanyo variant of this watch!
UPDATE: Here’s a picture you won’t see every day – the three Amigos!