Crónicas Estilográficas

03 July 2020

Plaid

Once a pen brand has a successful model, changing colors or external materials are easy and inexpensive strategies to update and revamp it. Platinum, for instance, has consistently done that with the 3776 Century model for about ten years. And Pilot has also done that with a number of models.

Among them, the Capless has seen a large number of cosmetic variations, particularly on the regular Capless model marketed initially in 1998. This model has come with rhodium, gold and black trims; with plastic, urushi, metal, wood finishes; in plain color or with some patterns...


Gold trim, black trim, rhodium trim; plastic, urushi; plain colors, lines, raden... but all of them are, in essence, the same pen.

In 2000, Pilot marketed a mini series of Capless with plaid decoration. The basic reference for this series was FC-17SR, which indicates that the price in Japan was JPY 17000 (plus tax, 5% at that time). There were four different colors: grey, blue, green, and red. The available nibs points were F, FM, M, and B. Nibs were made of 18 K gold.


The four plaid Capless (FC-17SR) from 2000.

These pens were in the Pilot catalog for several years, until around 2007, but I cannot pinpoint the exact date of the production end. Any information on the matter will be greatly appreciated.


Platinum Curidas – Private Reserve Dakota Red

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 3rd, 2020
etiquetas: capless, Pilot

30 June 2020

French Platinum

Platinum pens in disguise are not uncommon (::1::, ::2::, ::3::), but they always come as a surprise. The latest example is the following pen labeled as Mallat.


A Platinum or a Mallat? Picture by Pomperopero.

Mallat was a French company that produced writing instruments since the 1890s, and fountain pens since the late 1910s. However, this company stopped manufacturing fountain pen in the 1960s, but stayed in the market of inexpensive writing tools, including some fountain pens presumably made by others. The brand disappeared in the 1990s.


The cap ring reads "MALLAT", and on its back side it says "JAPON". And the nib is engraved with the logo of the Japan Industrial Standards (JIS). Picture by Pomperopero.

Under this name Mallat we find the Windsor model that in actual terms is a platinum 3776 from the days when their feeds were made of ebonite. The nib, on this French pen, is made of steel. Its date shows that it was made in 1984.


Nib and feed scream Platinum out loud. The nib is dated on the back side--459 meaning April of Showa year 59, 1984. Picture by Pomperopero.

A similar model existed in Japan as Platinum. This pen was, in essence, a simplification of the original corrugated model marketed initially in 1978 and that still survives in the Platinum catalog. This Platinum from the mid 1980s still implements ebonite feeds. The example here shows sports a 14 K gold nib.


The equivalent Platinum 3776, albeit with a gold nib.

This French Platinum is obviously related to the better known Diplomat pen “Tiffany and Co.” This Diplomat was, once again, a 3776 with ebonite feed, 18 K gold nib, and a body made of briar wood marketed in the 1980s.



My thanks to Pomperopero (IG: inakidema), whose pictures are greatly appreciated.


Pilot Capless LS – Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-budo

Bruno Taut
Sumida, June 27th, 2020
etiquetas: Platinum, Mallat, Francia

24 June 2020

Reliable Information.

Some years ago I wrote about a nominally Spanish pen brand by the name of Presidente. Then, a fellow stylophile in Greece contacted me apropos of a similar pen sold in the Greek market under the name Joker.

A fruitful conversation ensued, and we reached to a couple of tentative conclusions:
– Joker was presumably a Greek company, or based in Greece, as opposed to being Italian, as its advertisement in Greece had suggested.
Hifra, another brand marketing similar pens, was likely to be South African.


From top to bottom, a Joker, a Hifra, and a Presidente. But all of them are, actually, Platinum.

Now, how sure can we be of those conclusions? We can safely say that Presidente was Spanish because there are records fo such a brand registered in Madrid, Spain, in 1959; but we do not know of similar registries in Greece or in South Africa.

However, we have other information—Joker as a brand seems unknown outside Greece and, interestingly enough, in Italy, while there was some Joker ink in Greece as well. Hifra, on its side, seemed like a domestic name in some South African texts. Therefore, in absence of contradicting information I feel that those conclusions were reasonable.


Joker ink, in Greece. Photo by Kostas K.

The problem here is to decide which sources are reliable. And that in a field where most of us are aficionados with no pay, with other obligations, and with not many resources to do any research.

So, who is reliable and who is not?

We are not living in an academic environment and we do not have peer-reviewed journals to publish our findings. Consequently we must rely on the good or bad name each of us created along the years through our contributions to the community. And the rest is up to the receiver.

Some weeks ago, my friend Inky.Rocks published a video on the ink Pilot Blue-black, about which I had spoken on these pages. Inky.Rocks pointed out that this ink is water resistant by reacting with the cellulose in the paper. This claim was challenged on Reddit, and that was good. The problem was that the challenger did not offer any alternative to the behavior of the Pilot ink, nor any reason why Noodler's should be the only maker with cellulose-reacting inks.


What vintage do you prefer for your Blue-black?


Pilot Blue-black ink is water resistant. That I can prove. The sample was one full minute under running water. Some dyes were removed from the iron-gall inks. The modern formulation, cellulose reacting, is remarkably resistant to water.

At the end of the day, the facts are that Pilot Blue-black is a water resistant ink without being iron-gall or pigmented. And that a former Pilot worker, well respected in the Japanese pen community, explained the change in the formulation of the Pilot Blue-black ink in the 1990s to whoever wanted to listen.

Are those arguments conclusive? Certainly not. But they are better than nothing.

And that is why critical sense is so important.


Pilot Capless LS – Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-budo

Bruno Taut
Nakano, June 23rd, 2020
etiquetas: tinta, Presidente, Pilot, Joker, Hifra, Pilot, metabitácora, Platinum

17 June 2020

Strange Times

The following picture displays two different inks by two different makers—Pilot and Tono & Lims.


Are these two inks so different?

Both inks are remarkably similar in color but their prices are a factor of 2 apart. The Pilot Iroshizuku costs JPY 30/ml (50 ml inkwell) or JPY 47/ml (3-15 ml inkwells), whereas the Tono & Lims costs JPY 60/ml (30 ml inkswell).

Are they so different? Is there any reason for this disparity?


Needless to say, companies have all the right to market whatever the color they consider fit for whatever the price they decide; and that regardless of what the fellow competitors might make. That is certainly not the problem.

The problem, as I see it, it is on the side of the user and how we spend our resources, always limited. Inflation on inks (::1::, ::2::) –some of them redundant-- and on their price (::3::, ::4::) is hardly beneficial to the customer.


Ink and price inflation on one single picture.

The paradox nowadays is that the ferocious competition on the ink market is not translated into a competition on lowering the prices. Much the opposite, actually, as inkwells become smaller and smaller and prices are on the hike.

Strange times.


Ohashido – Sailor Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, June 16th, 2020
etiquetas: tinta, Tono & Lims, mercado, Pilot

05 June 2020

Luxury and Silent. II. Analysis

So, how does this new Capless perform?

In summary, we can describe the Capless LS as a new box for an old pen. The new box is bigger and heavier. And comes with a new release system.


The raison d'être is this new Capless is the silent mechanism to release and retract the nib. The first operation is done by pressing the end button. And to retract the nib you must rotate a conical knob below the push button. An internal spring –like in the Fermo-- helps to retract the nib once the know is rotated a small angle. Fermo and LS (and Hermes Nautilus) share this feature with the sole difference of how fast or slow the return spring acts.


The LS, as I said, is bigger and heavier than any other Capless. On the table we can see the dimensions and prices of all four current models.

.Capless.

.Décimo. .Fermo. .Capless LS.
Length closed (mm) 141 140 141 146
Length open (mm) 138 137 149 139
Barrel diameter (mm) 13.3 12.0 12.3 13.5
Weight, dry (g) 30.9 20.4 33.9 40.6
Center of mass to nib point (mm) 69 65 80 80
Price in Japan (JPY) 10000 - 15000 15000 20000 35000

Prices before taxes in Japan for the basic models. The JPY 10000 Capless implements steel nibs, whereas the JPY 15000 version uses 18 K gold nibs. There are more expensive models of some of these pens.


Despite the bigger dimensions of the LS, the pushing knob is thinner than those on the Capless and on the Décimo, and it looks a bit out of proportion and even weak. The nose is now conical and, contrary to that on the Capless, is totally detached from the clip. On this detail, the LS is closer to the Fermo. But whether the clip is intrusive or not is up to each user.


The nose and the clip. And the nib too.

The rotating knob used to retract the nib is not perfectly conical. It sticks out on one side to allow for operating the pen with just one hand. In fact, both pushing the knob and retracting the nib can be done with the thumb. This is the selling point of the LS over the also silent Fermo.


The push button, and the rotating knob.

The extra weight and the new mechanism affect the writing comfort—the pen is not only heavier than the Fermo, but also pushes up the center of mass to a similar point as in that model, which is higher than in the two other Capless models. But again, it is up to the user to decide whether this detail is cumbersome or not.

Aesthetically, the LS does not depart much from the regular Capless. However, there are some minor details that might displease some—the shiny central ring (on three of the colors), the thicker aspect ratio, the additional knob below the push button...


Written sample. Capless LS (M nib) with Iroshizuku's Yama-budo.

In conclusion, the Capless LS –Luxury and Silent-- is an expensive version of the Capless family. It is bigger than any other model. The mechanism works well and delivers the silent performance the name of the pen suggests. Whether this pen is luxurious is a different matter.


Pilot Capless LS - Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-budo

Bruno Taut
Nakano, June 4th, 2020
etiquetas: Pilot, capless

04 June 2020

Luxury and Silent. I. Context

The year 2019 ended with the release of a new version of the Pilot Capless and the rumor of a new capless pen by Platinum. Platinum soon confirmed the new model while starting a careful campaign on the Internet. On the other hand, Pilot's strategy was almost non-existant, and six months later little has been written about that new model.


Pilot Capless LS.

The new Capless LS –Capless Luxury and Silent-- is a new variation of the well-known Capless family of pens. The selling point is the new mechanism to release and retract the nib. On this pen there is still a push button to release the nib, but the retraction is done through a rotating knob located just below the push button. In actual terms, this mechanism is a combination of the knock system of the regular Capless and Décimo, and of the rotating known of the Fermo. The result is a silent acting pen –even more silent than the Fermo— with a hefty price tag: JPY 35000 (plus tax).

This price puts the LS as the most expensive –and more luxurious?-- model of the Capless line by a large margin. The Fermo costs JPY 20000; the Décimo, JPY 15000; and the Capless, JPY 15000 with gold nib, and JPY 10000 with steel nib (see link ::1::).


Current lineup --save changes on color and trims-- of the Capless family of pens.

LS stands for “luxury and silent”, and the luxury part seems associated solely to the price decided by Pilot. It indeed changed the field on which this pen plays in the market, and makes the LS compete with more upscale pens –I am thinking mostly of the Lamy Dialog 3--, although in essence this pen is little else than a regular Capless or Fermo.


Capless on top, LS on bottom. Two different models, a factor 2 on price differences. Same nib units. Newer nib units, though, have a lower content of gold by making the nib neck narrower, as can be seen on this photo.

And that might be the actual hurdle for the LS to overcome—same nib unit as the Fermo or Capless but JPY 15000 or JPY 20000 more expensive for a silent mechanism that can be operated with just one hand. This sounds a tad too expensive.


The Capless LS on Pilot's website. These are the four colors currently available.

The Capless LS comes in four colors. In Japan only two nib points are available: F and M.


Pilot Custom 74, Yamada Seisakusho nib – Sailor Blue-black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, June 3rd, 2020
etiquetas: capless, mercado, Pilot

31 May 2020

Platinum in China

In recent years Platinum has dedicated a lot of energy to the low end of the market of fountain pens. I have already expressed my skepticism about the long term success of this strategy, but in the meantime we see Platinum releasing a number of inexpensive models—Curidas (::1::, ::2::, ::3::), Prefounte, Procyon...


The Platinum "Little Shooting Star".

And last year --2019-- Platinum marketed a variation of the well-known model Preppy called “Little Shooting Star”, but only for the Chinese market. This detail makes this pen poorly known in Japan –or anywhere else--, leaving Fudefan and Inky Rocks as the primary sources of information.


Preppy and Little Shooting Star side by side. The nib units and the sections are the same for both models.

On my side I can only formulate a couple of questions I cannot answer:

-- Is it worth to release this variation of the long-produced Preppy instead of marketing the Preppy itself in the Chinese market?

-- Is this sector of the market that profitable? Or, in other words, can Platinum really compete with the myriad of inexpensive pens made in China that are launched into the market almost every week?

This seems a difficult challenge for Platinum.


Platinum Curidas – Private Reserve Dakota Red

Bruno Taut
Nakano, May 31st, 2020
etiquetas: Platinum, China, mercado