Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Another Sailor Package

Late in December of 2009, while browsing in a Tokyo pen shop I came upon a Sailor pen I hadn’t seen before. Had never even heard of a fountain pen with the name ‘Realo’ and couldn’t figure how anything made by Sailor had gotten past me—for two years. As I came to learn, commemorating its ninety-fifth year of making fountain pens, Sailor released a new design in 2007, one they called the Realo. I had trouble with the numbers, adding ninety-five to the founding year of 1911 and coming up with 2006. Strange math aside, I bought the Realo, excited about it before even leaving the shop.

Some research brought a better understanding of the name, one that really turns out to be both bland and odd. Hard to think we are supposed to put two and two together and realize that the name stands for 'reliance and place,’ or something like that. Problem is, no one will figure that out without a bit of hard looking. Pursue the question long enough and you will find that the first two letters ‘RE’ stand for ‘reliance,’ the third letter ‘A’ is for ‘and’ and the final ‘LO’ is (of course!) ‘locus.’ And so Sailor named a fountain pen a ‘word’ all Japanese people have difficulty pronouncing, tripped up by that pesky ‘L’ and calling it ‘Rearo.’

Whatever you want to call it, the Realo is one more in a line of quality writing instruments from Sailor. The key to this particular pen’s distinction is the naginata nib crafted by Nobuyoshi Nagahara, Sailor’s longtime nibmeister. It is a long, 21 carat gold nib, measuring very near 2.5 centimeters and called naginata after the tenth century Japanese halberd, or long handled sword.

Two features stand out in the Realo, both a first in Sailor design. This is the first Sailor pen to have a piston filler, and the first to have an ink window. The ink window feature is nothing unusual, and common to many fountain pens, but on the Realo it is a clear, easy to see window that doesn’t mislead. Too often ink windows are cloudy or stained and hard to see into; not so with the Realo’s window, which is perfectly clear and washes clean with each ink change. Size-wise, the pen weighs 35 grams, is 14 centimeters (5.5 inches) long closed and 15.5 centimeters (6.1 inches) posted. At a glance, the Realo looks very much like the early Sailor 1911, classic in shape and trim. The body is black acrylic resin and the pocket clip and bands are all 24k gold plate—a beautiful fountain pen.

Initially, the nib had very little flex (rare in a Sailor, unusual in a naginata) and even has H-B stamped on the side of the nib, which I suspect means ‘hard-broad.’ After a year and half of regular use the nib is no longer hard, but has just the right amount of flex. I don’t credit that to anything particular about Sailor nibs, but believe the same will happen with any nib, any pen used regularly over time. As for the B or broad part of it, that classification too is short of being altogether true. I am more comfortable calling it a generous M or medium. Whatever the ink, the pen never gripes or halts its flow across the page, each line testimony to what makes us like and enjoy using fountain pens. Odd name, great pen.

For some good close-up photos of the Realo take a look at what’s offered at Classic Fountain Pens.


  1. This ignorant newly back to pen and ink person mostly knows Sailor as a character in the novels of Barry Gifford--although I did know Sailor was a brand of pen. Always nice to know when something of quality has been produced for the last century.

  2. Being one who has no real knowledge of pens, I can't comment about this Sailor "Realo", but can say, it is BEAUTIFUL.


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