Crónicas Estilográficas

30 March 2020

Curidas. 2. Contenders

As I said on my previous Chronicle, the obvious competition for the newly arrived Platinum Curidas is the basic Pilot Capless model with steel nib. The reasons are easy to see:


The two contenders: Platinum Curidas on top, Pilot Capless with steel nib on bottom.

– Affordable price in the order of JPY 10,000, albeit the Curidas is significantly cheaper.

– Steel nibs on both of them.


The construction structure of both pens is quite similar, but the materials involved on them are different. The Curidas is made mostly of plastic whereas the Capless is fundamentally a metallic pen. The Pilot Capless has a metal-to-metal thread—a lot sturdier solution that the metal-to-plastic of the Curidas. The plastic material of the later does not seem particularly resistant and it might compromise its durability.


Basic disassembly of the Curidas. The metal-to-plastic thread is clearly visible on the body.


Sturdier construction of the Pilot Capless. A metal-to-metal thread on the body. It also costs JPY 3000 more than the Curidas.

This detail connects the Curidas with the previous Capless model of 1984 (FCN-500R and FCN-800R). This Capless has been highly praised by many because of its unobtrusive clip and light weight. And like the Curidas, it is made of plastic and closes through a metal to plastic thread that makes it a bit fragile.


Platinum Curidas on top, 1984 Pilot Capless (FCN-500R) on bottom. Both implement metal-to-plastic threads on the body.

Mechanism-wise, that of the Pilot model is much smoother than the Platinum's. Both of them, in any case, feel and sound reliable, although that of the Platinum has not yet passed the test of time.

About the dimensions, all that is actually relevant is summarized on the following table. And whether is pen is for you is for each of us to decide... by trying it.

.Platinum Curidas 2020.

.Pilot FCN-1MR 1998.
Length closed (mm) 153 141
Length open (mm) 140 138
Barrel diameter (mm) 13.5 13.3
Weight, dry (g) 25.5 30.9
Ink deposit (*) (ml) 1.1/0.6 0.9/0.5
Nib points (**) EF/F/M F/M
Price (***)(JPY) 7000 10000

*: Capacities of proprietary cartridges and converters. In the case of Pilot, the converter is the CON-40.
**: Steel nibs. Pilot offers six nib points on gold nibs.
***: MSRP prices without taxes.



Capless or Curidas?

Cosmetic-wise, both pens offer five different body colors, Platinum's being transparent or semitransparent. On its side, Pilot's nibs are gold plated and are mismatched with the silver body trim of this inexpensive version. The Curidas does not show much trimming save for the removable clip and the central ring. And both match the silver color of the steel nib.


Platinum Curidas, F nib - Diamine Teal

Bruno Taut
Nakano, March 23rd, 2020
etiquetas: Pilot, Platinum, capless

23 March 2020

Curidas. 1. Context

Finally the Platinum Curidas arrived in general retail shops in Japan; the wait is finally over and we can buy it at regular shops –instead of only at a couple of them--, and even at discount shops. Then, how is it?


The Platinum Curidas. At last!

A lot has been said already (::1::, ::2::, ::3::) after all the hype Platinum wisely generated to release its second capless pen after the Platinum Knock in 1965. The Knock was the first attempt of Platinum to compete with Pilot on its own grounds. But the Knock was short lived –a couple of years in the market-, and now it is more of a well sought-after anecdote than a real landmark in the history of pens.

Then, 55 years later Platinum tries again. This time, the strategy is totally different. In 1965, the Knock rivaled with the Pilot Capless in similar terms—both were in the same price range between JPY 2000 and JPY 3000, and both with gold nibs (model C-300SW and variations). Pilot, however, also marketed the cheaper C-100RW model for JPY 1000 with a steel nib in that same year of 1965.


Three capless in 1965. Only two Capless: C-100RW (top), and C-200SW (middle). And the Platinum Knock (bottom).

The situation now is different—Platinum's bet is on an inexpensive pen –JPY 7000—to challenge the Pilot's supremacy in the capless market.

The obvious competitor for the new Curidas is the cheapest version of the Pilot Capless—the regular model (FCN-1MR, 1998) with gold-plated steel nib sold at JPY 10000 (plus tax). But I can also think of a second competitor on the side of Pilot—the previous model of 1984 (FCN-500R and FCN-800R of 1984); also named as the faceted Capless.


Three current capless, only one Capless. The FCN-1MR (top) and two Curidas.

Although this model was discontinued in 1998 and there is an active second hand market on it, it is also possible to find old remains of unsold units at the original price. At least in Japan.

On the following table we can see the basic characteristics of these three points:


.Platinum Curidas 2020.

.Pilot FCN-1MR 1998. .Pilot FCN-800R 1984.
Length closed (mm) 153 141 137
Length open (mm) 140 138 135
Barrel diameter (mm) 13.5 13.3 11.7
Weight, dry (g) 25.5 30.9 17.5
Ink deposit (*) (ml) 1.1/0.6 0.9/0.5 0.9/0.5
Nib points (**) EF/F/M F/M F/M
Price (***)(JPY) 7000 10000 8000/market

*: Capacities of proprietary cartridges and converters. In the case of Pilot, the converter is the CON-40.
**: Steel nibs. Pilot offers six nib points on gold nibs.
***: MSRP prices without taxes. The FCN-800R commands high prices on the free market.



The old faceted Capless FCN-800R (also labeled as FCN-500R) of 1984, on top on the picture, is also a valid rival to the Platinum Curidas, particularly if found at reasonable prices.

The Curidas has just arrived and it is still difficult to gauge the impact it might have in the market beyond the initial waves wisely managed by Platinum. Its future might strongly depend on the interest of the company in making more variations, more luxurious based on this canvas.

This new pen poses some interesting questions—is the latest battle in the fountain pen market focused on the low to middle end segment of pens? Can Platinum compete with the Chinese production of fountain pens? And finally, is the Curidas going to change Pilot's policy regarding its Capless family of pens?


Platinum Curidas, F nib - Diamine Teal

Bruno Taut
Nakano, March 22nd, 2020
etiquetas: Pilot, Platinum, capless, mercado

11 March 2020

S System

Early Pilot pens, in those first 10 or 15 years of the brand, employed a number of filling systems. On these pages we have seen a number of them—the very early inner tube system (naikan shiki), safety pens, star system (hoshiawase), lateral lever (teko shiki), plunger, Japanese eyedropper (inki-dome shiki)... Some of those, of course, were more successful than others, and survived beyond those early days.

However, the usual literature does not mention the very simple eyedropper system, an eyedropper without any shut-off valve, just like Waterman and Parker (and others) used at the turn of the twentieth century. And that is why the following pen is so interesting.


A mid 1920s Pilot.

The pen is in immaculate condition. It even sports the original sticker showing the price –JPY 4.50-- and the nib point –細, F. It seems like it had never seen any ink, although a letter from the technical service of Pilot suggests that there had been some issue with the pen.


JPY 4.50, F nib point (細).

The instruction sheet calls its filling system S or standard type. And the instructions also warn the user that ink drops on the nib (or on the paper!) are indicative of having little ink in the deposit—a typical problem of eyedropper pens even nowadays.


A Western eyedropper, or the S System.


Signed by Pilot Technical Service, without date. The owner had sent the pen because of some ink leak. The response suggests that the only problem was a small amount of ink in the deposit. The letter assured, finally, the pen had been thoroughly checked for optimal performance. Somehow ironic...

The color of the ebonite is also very interesting. Its very uniform brown color, inside and outside, suggests an original non-black ebonite. In fact, we know of some Pilot (or Dunhill Namiki) pens of the time with a similar color.


Early 1930s Dunhill Namiki. Photo courtesy of Mr. A. Mur.

This is a small pen. It implements a size 1 nib made of 14 k gold . These are its dimensions:

Length closed: 122 mm
Length open: 113 mm
Length posted: 155 mm
Diameter: 9.5 mm
Weight: 7.3 g (dry)
Ink deposit: ~ 0.6 ml


On the barrel: '"PILOT / NAMIKI MFG. CO. / MADE IN JAPAN'. And the lifebuoy encircling an N.


Size 1 Pilot nib: "14Kt GOLD / "PILOT" / 1 / MADE IN / JAPAN". Mid 1920s.

All in all, an interesting pen that shows a number of uncommon features in a Pilot from mid 1920s—a regular Western eyedropper (S system in Pilot terms) and an unusual ebonite color.

And on another text we will revisit the filling systems Pilot used in those early years of the company.


My thanks to Antolin2.0, A. Mur, Poplicola-san and TinJapan.


Sailor FL Black Luster – Sailor Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, March 11th, 2020
etiquetas: Pilot, soluciones técnicas

26 February 2020

Cancellation and Virus

The planned Japan Premium Pen Show (JPPS) has been canceled by the organizers.

This was a project initiated by the organizers of the Tokyo International Pen Show (TIPS). It was planned for the first weekend of May (in coincidence with the Chicago Pen Show), and aimed at the “discerning collector” avid to find “high-end fountain pen brands”.

The nominal excuse for the cancellation is the spread of the Wuhan Coronavirus (COVID-19). This has become a common argument these days—a deus ex machina under which to hide likely failures and disappointments. And that regardless the actual danger of the situation, or how premature the call might be.


Extract of the message sent by the organizers announcing the cancellation of JPPS 2020 and promising the organization of a similar event in 2021.

The rumor goes that the organizers of the JPPS were having a hard time finding traders to fill the 40 tables allocated at the luxurious hotel Chinzanso. In fact, there was a healthy doses of skepticism among aficionados  about the interest if a pen show based on new pens and on well-known retailers. Who would pay JPY 3000 (about EUR 25) to check on pens otherwise available at shops with no entry fee? Who would come to Tokyo instead of to Chicago given the option?

In any event, those potential problems are no more. However, the organizers are promising to try again in 2021. Hopefully with much better sense and knowledge about the pen world.


Iwase Seisakusho N-model prototype – Noodler's Beaver

Bruno Taut
Nakano, February 25th 2020
etiquetas: eventos, Tokyo, Japón

13 February 2020

Curidas Marketing

I finished the year 2019 saying that Japanese brands had a hard time dealing with social media and advertising their products in the Internet. And then, 2020 came and we see Platinum skillfully promoting the soon-to-be-released platinum Curidas on the Internet.

It is hard to pinpoint where and when the first rumors originated, but by the end of December they had reached many of us. Then, actual docs generated by Platinum reached Facebook and the rumor became news. Since then –if not from before-- Platinum has managed the tempo to raise a great anxiety in many of us. Short videos, pics, early sale events, controversies on the price (in the US), plain information... All that repeated, re-broadcasted, and relayed by many of us on social media, blogs, and videos. And now we are waiting for that day in which the pen will be finally and openly for sale.


Part of the teasing campaign--a Curidas at a shop in Tokyo, but just to test!


One of the docs created by Platinum that found its way to the Internet.

Well done, Platinum!

This strategy contrasts with what Pilot has done with the latest version of the Capless—the Capless LS.

It might only be that there is not that much new on this later iteration of the well-known model, but pilot failed at making it exciting.


The Capless LS as it appeared on the Pilot website.
Source: Pilot press release at https://www.pilot.co.jp/press_release/2019/12/06/post_60.html (retrieved on 4/Jan/2020).

Some might appreciate this absence of induced anxiety about the new release, but I doubt it was a wise move to increase the sales of the new pen.

And so, we are mostly speaking of the Curidas and not of the Capless LS.


Sailor FL Black Luster – Sailor Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, February 3rd 2020
etiquetas: Pilot, Platinum, capless, redes sociales

09 February 2020

Retro

On several recent Chronicles I have praised Pilot (::1::, ::2::) for its policy on ink prices. They have been remarkably constant for a long time despite the inflationary movements in the competitors. I also vindicated the basic line of Pilot inks –30 ml inkwells in red, blue, blue-black and black—as the radical option: reliable, inexpensive, well behaved ink. Their only problem was the lack of poetry—plain names, functional or even boring bottles and boxes...


The two packaging currently in the market.

And then, Pilot surprised us all with a new retro packaging inspired on the presentation of the 1950s. Not only that, but Pilot is not changing the price at all. The drawback is that, so far, this is a limited release with limited distribution.


On the left, the original inkwell and box of a Pilot ink around 1960. On the right, the new retro packaging. Note how Pilot revives the old logo.

So, is Pilot fighting back? Pilot might just need fancier (or plain ridiculous) names for these old inks to entice the inkunuma (ink swamp) community...


Sailor FL Black Luster – Sailor Black

Bruno Taut
Taito, February 7th 2020
etiquetas: tinta, Pilot, mercado

07 February 2020

Iroshizuku 2020

The only purpose of this text is to summarize the color gamut of Iroshizuku inks. Part of the information that I am including here had already been published in 2017, but there have been some changes since that time.

The chronology of these inks is as follows:

December 2007. First 5 inks: Asa-gao, Aji-sai, Tsuyu-kusa, Kon-peki, and Tsuki-yo. 50 ml inkwells for JPY 1500 (plus taxes).

July 2008. Another 5 inks: Ku-jaku, Sho-ro (Syo-ro), Shin-ryoku, Kiri-same, Fuyu-Shogun (Fuyu-syogun). 50 ml bottles.

November 2008. 4 inks: Yu-yake, Momiji, Yama-budo, Tsutsuji. 50 ml inkwells.

January 2009: The Tokyo Limited Edition was first released. These are three inks for sale in a small number of shops in Tokyo: Shimbashi-iro, Edo-murasaki, Fukagawa-nezu. 50 ml inkwells, JPY 1500 (plus taxes).

These inks were reissued in November of 2016 and in January of 2020 with the same limited distribution as in 2009. These reissues were available in both 50 ml inkwells and in three 15 ml inkwell set.


The Tokyo Limited Edition set of the "mini" Iroshizuku inkwells (edition of 2020).

May 2009. Tsukushi, Fuyu-gaki, Yama-guri. 50 ml inkwells.

October 2009. A new presentation became available for a short time: 3 inkwell set, 20 ml each, for JPY 3000 (plus taxes). There were four different sets, and it was not possible to change their content.


The set of three 20 ml inkwells from 2009.

August 2011. 4 more inks: Ina-ho, Kosumosu, Murasaki-shikibu, Chiku-rin.


The regular line of the series became complete in November of 2012.
The last three inks were Take-sumi, Shin-kai and Ama-iro.

November 2012. The final 3 inks to complete the 24 color range: Take-sumi, Shin-kai, Ama-iro.

January 2015. New presentation called Iroshizuku Mini: three 15 ml inkwell box for JPY 2100. On this occasion it is possible –at some shops- to choose the contents of the package.

March 2019. On the occasion of the centenary of Pilot, the company released 7 new Iroshizuku inks: Ebisu, Daikoku-ten, Bishamon-ten, Benzai-ten, Fuku-roku-ju, Juro-jin, Hotei-son. The presentations are individual 50 ml inkwells for JPY 1600, and boxed set of seven (all seven inks) 15 ml inkwells for JPY 8000.


The inks for the centenary of Pilot. These are the most expensive Iroshizuku inks at JPY 1600 per 50 ml.

All in all, the whole Iroshizuku line is composed of 34 inks: 24 of the standard series, 3 of the Tokyo Limited Edition, and 7 of the Centennial edition, also limited.

A remarkable detail of these (and other!) Pilot inks is the stability in the price: JPY 15000/50 ml has been the price since they were first released in 2007. The only exception are the 7 Centennial whose price in JPY 1600/50 ml, which is not an outrageous increase. And even the recent releases of the Tokyo Limited Edition preserved the price of 2009, when first marketed.

As a consequence, the originally overpriced inks (in 2007!) are now very reasonably priced, if not plainly inexpensive, when compared to other inks available in Japan.


Jinhao 51A – Unknown purplish ink

Bruno Taut
Nakano, February 5th 202017
labels: Pilot, tinta, mercado