Advance Car Race calculator game watch

Advance Car Race calculator game watch

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.

ngp-manualI 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…


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11 Responses to Advance Car Race calculator game watch

  1. I have an advance calculator watch that is like new. I purchased it new about 35 years ago. I put a battery in it the other day to show my daughter and it works great. I just can’t remember how to get to the Grand Prix game. Can you help? I have looked all over the web for instructions and haven’t had any luck.

    • Hi Jeff, to get to the game press the mode button until you see a little chequered flag in the top corner. The display may have a zero on it (like the calculator) if you haven’t played it since the batteries were last changed so it’s easy to miss. Once you see the flag, you are in game mode and can press (from memory) the bottom right button to start.

    • Hi, these aren’t currently for sale sorry. Unless you’re a millionaire who makes ridiculously extravagant offers for vintage digital watches of course!

  2. Had the Advance when I was in grade school, way back in the early 80s, all my friends loved it trying to get the high score. It was an epic little watch! Had it all, even the light. Remember seeing it at Sears and asked my dad to buy it for me. Much to my surprise he said yes, then the sales lady tells me the watch also had a secret racing game. Being a car guy it was like whaaa…jackpot! Played it till the rubber buttons fell off. Ultimately threw it away when the plastic broke at the bracelet pin holes. Huge regrets, and seeing if I can find another one. Not holding my breath though. Glad I found this article though, I couldn’t remember the brand and thought it was an Armitron. So cool seeing and hearing it in action again on YouTube! Super nostalgic!!! ☺️

    • Took 4 months but I found a Nelsonic in a lot of calculator watches. A lot of corrosion, yikes! But not surprising considering the age. Also there is some bleeding and the case is broken at the pin holes. Luckily after a heavy cleaning it fired up perfectly! Also swapped the case with another solid one, Sanyo 5, from the bunch. Not perfect but not bad!!! Next is a nice nato so I can wear it and that high score😜😁

  3. Hi
    I’m a 46yo nostalgia hunter. I had this racing game calculator watch!!! But I swear it was Casio. I remember it even said “grand Prix” printed on the inside bezel. It was ALL black with soft touch keys. I musta been 8 or 9 around 1983-1984 if that sounds right. I distinctly remember “V” being on TV and still buying ROTJ Star Wars toys. We were poor growing up but we used to go to these weird flea markets and car shows notorious for knockoff items so maybe that’s where mine came from. I loved that watch! Besides the game, it was invaluable when my family would go to the mall. “Meet us at the movie theater at 9:00”, so I’d set my alarm. As I was shopping I’d calculate our state’s sales tax so I knew if I had enough money. So many childhood memories with this watch!

  4. I couldn’t leave it alone in a black case, just wasn’t the same as my old friend, so I Franken-watched it! Found a NOS normal advance in metal, came in it’s original display box and had the instructions (even tested it and it worked), pulled everything apart and swapped out what was needed. Ended up with a very close lookalike, but had to use the Nelsonic window because of the days being written on it and aligning properly with the car. What I discovered is that the writing was actually clear so when I put it on the silver case it became more subtle and in some ways arguably cleaner than the original. The keyboard face is also part of the case in silver instead of the yellowish tone, keeping the aesthetic more consistent. Turned out quite nicely and wish I could upload a pic. Still kept all the old parts though, they kind of tell part of the story now. Still working on that high score😋

  5. Hi Liquid, as I’ve kept my OCD search for the elusive Advance, I ended up finding a new amigo! It’s a clone of the metal Advance, same case and internals, but branded as an Artron. I spotted it in a lot from Croatia of all places, wasn’t sure at first but in one of the pics I could make out the segments and could confirm what it was. Unfortunately when I got it it has a cracked LCD and bled out. The module though appears to be corrosion free and the light works, one of these days I might try and swap out the module with my other one but still a bit reluctant to not damage it. Or I will wait and see if another pops up online…at this rate it will likely take another year or two ☺️. I enjoy all your new posts, and reference your site often. Let me know if you want a pic of the Artron, cheers!

    Artron Grand Prix

  6. Hi Liquid, I managed to find a working Artron to add to my collection. This one is in pretty good shape and fired right up with some fresh batteries. Everything is working but the sound is very faint and it has a little screen bleed in one corner which does not affect anything thankfully. I was wondering if you know if the two springs inside the watch for the sound should be touching the piazza disc or if it should only be one? I suspect that could be the issue. Let me know if you would like me to send you an update pic, cheers!

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