Greetings! Welcome to this in-depth review on Sailor Fountain Pens. The Sailor brand is held in high esteem in the fountain pen world. Even those who have little to no knowledge of fountain pens know the brand and their products. But exactly what makes Sailor a good brand? Is it their history? Their wide range of products? Or maybe their prestige? In this article we’ll go into a deep dive into the world of Sailor Fountain Pens. Who knows, you might find THE pen amongst their ranks.
Sailor Pen Co: A Brief History
The mastermind of the famous brand is Kyugoro Sakata. He started the company in 1911 after receiving a fountain pen from a sailor friend from the UK - hence the name. The company was driven with the concept of being a “pioneer in supporting the handwriting culture, while still having a strict eye”. From within this drive came the anchor logo which represents the trust people have with Japanese craftsmanship and their technological strengths. It goes without saying that their logo is among one of their well-known signatures and is particularly found on the cap finial. Their popularity and size grew, and they now make inks, paper, and ballpoint pens apart from their signature fountain pens.
Speaking of their fountain pens, Sailor actually pioneered the first Japanese domestic fountain pen. They focus well on the fine details of their technology to bring out the true beauty in each pen they craft. Their wish is for anyone who holds a Sailor fountain pen to “see the beauty within its functionality and find joy in expressing themselves with the product”.
Sailor has been proudly mass-producing reliable fountain pens since 1917. They invented the plastic injection machine in 1949, the first ink cartridges in 1954 and improved on it until its introduction in 1958, and they introduced the first portable fountain pen in 1963 making it the most popular fashion item at the time. They also made the first 21K gold nib fountain pens in 1963 and over a million units were sold. To cater to younger generations, their ingenuity resulted in the “Candy” series in 1976, as well as the slimmest fountain pens ever sold. Their high quality and worldwide renown were reason enough for the Japanese Prime Minister to present a Koransha-made Arita-yaki Sailor Fountain Pen to the leaders of each country to commemorate the G8 Summit at Toya Lake, Japan in 2008.
Noteworthy Pen Series and Collections (as of January 2022)
The Koransha Arita-Yaki was not the only beautifully designed pen made by Sailor. In the following sections, I listed down multiple intricately-designed pen series that Sailor has graced our hands with, such as their Limited Editions, along with the monotone ones that are absolutely noteworthy such as the Professional Gear Series and the 1911, as well as the King of Pens (KOP) line.
Sailor Limited Edition Fountain Pens are some of the most exclusive pens ever created, some with only 28 pieces ever made. They were designed by top Japanese craftsmen who are at the top of their game. Some of these artists were Ikki Moroike, a famous Maki-e artist who has won lifetime achievement awards in Kaga, Japan. Another is Koushu Nishihara who comes from a long line of Maki-e artists in Hiroshima whose signature is his gold hand-painted designs.
A must-know for any fountain pen enthusiast is the Professional Gear Series. This series is well-known to provide technical perfection and writing quality. It has been dubbed as a “workhorse pen” because it works as hard as you do. The Professional Gear Series stands at 142mm long when it’s capped and 149mm long posted, and weighs at 19.8g. This series comes in a wide range of colors and designs. The Professional Gear Realo, for example, comes with a piston-filler, unlike its cartridge/converter brothers and sisters. The Realo also has a signature thin clear ink window and they were first released in 2006.
The Professional Gear Series has a slimmer counterpart called the “Sapporo”. These smaller pens stand at 124mm capped, 142mm posted, and only weigh 16.8g. There are also multitudes of colors under this series.
The Professional Gear Sapporo also comes in a Mini size which stands at 103mm capped, 132mm posted, and only weighs 15.8g.
Another notable style is the 1911 Series which have traditional Japanese minimalist designs. They were introduced to maintain the high quality craftsmanship and materials that were used during the founding of the brand. Like the Professional Gear, it is also dubbed as a “workhorse pen” which further shows its reliability on top of its beauty. The 1911 Series is torpedo/cigar shaped and is ringless, having the same size as the Standard Professional Pro Gear, but weighs a whopping 23.7g.
A less expensive 1911 line is the 1911 Jr. which sports a stainless steel nib and the body is made up of PMMA resin.
The King of Pens (KOP) is Sailor’s top of the range line with an oversized 21K solid gold nib, with bodies handcrafted from Ebonite, a manufactured material that requires special production processes. These pens are the biggest pens in the Sailor lineup as they stand at 154mm capped. Maki-E Shirei and Urushi (a type of lacquer) have KOP lines that are well sought-after in the fountain pen world.
What makes Sailor pens great? Why should you buy a Sailor fountain pen?
Sailor fountain pens are very comfortable to use, given their size and weight, and longer writing sessions are no issue. Their flow consistency is a no-brainer as ink flows seamlessly, compared to other Western or Japanese brands.
The nib of Sailor fountain pens is one of the best - if not THE best. They make them in-house, unlike other fountain pen makers. According to multiple Sailor fountain pen owners, no matter the nib, writing with a Sailor produces a more consistent line and they are known for their pencil-like feedback, especially with finer nibs, which helps you enjoy the feel of the paper. This is heaven for some but that can be a turn-off for others. 14K nibs, specifically, are hard and may not be a preference for some.
Sailor fountain pens have a cult following for a reason. There is even a saying that collections are not complete without a Sailor among them.
Some of the more enviable Sailor collections on Instagram include those of:
@micahfinds’ IG page isn’t just about pens, it’s also about inks and her very aesthetic, rather light-witchy, lifestyle. She features fountain-pen friendly notebooks where she tries out her pens, and her artwork is beautiful.
@phpc1000’s KOP collection is one to be envied. It continually grows, as fountain pen collections usually do. He features notebooks and pen boxes with a rustic aesthetic, truly beautiful indeed.
This collection features individual pens and their inspiration. She posts uncapped nibs and highlights their color and other lovely details. Her Sailor collection has mainly Professional Gears.
@macchiato.man’s Sailor collection is made up of colorful Professional Gears. His page shows his plethora of inks and to show them off, he swatches them to show their chromatography, as well as the various line widths which the pen is capable of.
@saara_goldy’s IG page looks clean and bright, much like her pen collection. Her dainty hues of pink, blue, and violet are highly appealing to the eyes. The page shows beautiful photos of still life and flowers, but the absolute gems are her pastel pens.
Pens and pen sleeves. These are the main focuses of this very floral IG page. It’s a beautifully curated collection of blue, red, and green pens of different hues. Her pen cases also fit the collection rather snuggly.
If you want to see the full range of widths pens have, not to mention beautiful calligraphy, this IG page is a must-follow. The author aptly inks pens according to the look of the body and writes on fountain pen-friendly notebooks that are also featured.
This IG page mainly features beautiful inks with wonderful chromatography, written mostly with glass dip pens. This doesn’t take away from the pens she has amassed though. Her collection features mostly dark-bodied pens, but it also has Demonstrators and a few pastel ones as well.
What makes Sailor pens not so great?
Sailor fountain pens are definitely not for writers who like broad lines. Japanese nibs are one width narrower than Western nibs. Medium Japanese nibs write as Fine Western nibs, Fine Japanese nibs write as Extra Fine Western, etc. Some may be off-put by far too many options in the market and the difficulty to acquire Exclusive or Limited Edition pens.
Body-wise, it has been observed that the seams on some pens can be felt and that glue points in transparent pens are uneven. Another pet peeve for some is that the finial cap does not always line up with the clip.
Sailor Fountain Pens In a nutshell…
It is factual that Sailor Fountain pens have been one of the top makers of fountain pens in the world. Their technological advances in creating fountain pens and their strong sense of tradition allow them to continue to create wonderfully designed pieces that make their customers happy.
The aesthetic range of Sailor ranges from simple (like the 110th Anniversary Kurogane and the Professional Gear Imperial Black), to cute (Professional Gear Slim Mini Ayur Blue, 1911 Jr. Light Gray and Lilac), to intricate (Arita 400 years Anniversary GT “Arabesque on Green”). Although they do look pleasing to the eye, what makes them one of the best is their attention to their craftsmanship and masterful grasp of the art of writing.
The price tag on some of these beauties may break the bank, but taking into consideration the dedication and the detail that goes into each pen, I think it’s worth it.
Expand your collection, expand your horizons, and take part in the hundred-year-old craft that Sailor continues to celebrate.
By Some Folks at EndlessPens