Thursday, September 30, 2010

Phileas Fogg’s Namesake

Starting to reach bottom in the collection of fountain pens entrusted to me for cleaning and evaluation by a friend. Today I looked at pen number eight, a Waterman Phileas in red marble, a design from the 1990s. The pen is named for the character Phileas Fogg in Jules Verne’s 1873 book, Around the World in Eighty Days, and from that name Waterman has managed to spin a tale connecting pen and book. (Neither Waterman nor fountain pens existed in the 1870s, of course.)

Waterman, along with several of their vendors like to say that the Phileas reflects the art deco look of the 1930s, but that claim is something of a stretch. This pen has what anyone would call a handsome design, a traditional design, but it does not really evoke anything of the art deco era. The barrel and cap are plastic resin with a brass liner. The ebony black crown on the cap looks especially good with the gold band and pocket clip. The Phileas comes in several colors. There is the solid black model, and then the designs in faux marble finish, either blue, green or red. The nib, in either fine or medium is a wide two-toned, partially gold-plated steel nib, with a gold fan motif just over the usual Waterman hexagon with ‘W’ in the center. This gold fan motif is repeated on the pen’s barrel band. The Phileas uses either cartridge or a Waterman piston-fill converter.

I have heard the pen described as a good starter pen for the beginning fountain pen user. You can never be sure how cheaply a certain pen will sell for on ebay, but buying the Phileas brand new is a little more expensive that what most beginners want to pay. Not too long ago I mentioned to a non-enthusiast that a certain pen cost only $60, and the reaction was closer to shock than pleasant surprise. My opinion is that the Waterman Phileas is too expensive to be called a ‘starter pen.’

To be brief, the Phileas fine point nib I have here writes well, rather closer to medium than fine. It’s very smooth and wet enough, though not too wet. The feeling is unlike other steel-nibbed fountain pens, or at least that was the case in the one page I wrote using Iroshizuku Ajisai (hydrangea) ink. Good behavior on the 90g Clairefontaine paper with this ink. I have to give high marks to Waterman for this good looking, smooth writing and moderately priced fountain pen.

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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America