Waterman pens

Waterman pens

The Waterman pen company is a major manufacturer of fountain pens. Established in 1884 in New York City by Lewis Edson Waterman, it is one of the few first-generation fountain pen companies that survives to this day, under the guise of Waterman S.A. (originally Waterman's French subsidiary).


The earliest records of reservoir pens date back to the 10th century, with the earliest surviving examples dating back to the 18th century. However, Waterman's improvements on basic pen design and aggressive marketing played a vital role in making the fountain pen a mass-market object.The first years of Waterman's involvement in pens are still rather obscure, though sources are available and research is under way. It is virtually certain that the widely-circulated story that Waterman was inspired to invent a better fountain pen by losing an insurance sale thanks to an ink blot left by a malfunctioning pen is a posthumous fabrication. The essential novelty of Waterman's first fountain pens was the feed, for which his first pen-related patent was granted in 1884. From the beginning, the competition was brutal -- both in the marketplace, and in the courtroom. Despite later company literature that depicts Lewis E. Waterman as a golden-hearted innocent, all evidence indicates that he was a tough, savvy, and innovative businessman.

Nonetheless, it was after L. E. Waterman's death in 1901 that the company took off. Under the leadership of Waterman's nephew, Frank D. Waterman, the Waterman Pen Company expanded aggressively worldwide. Although Waterman introduced its share of innovations, the company's main selling point was always quality and reliability.

As the 20th century wore on, however, Waterman's conservatism allowed its younger and more innovative competitors to win more and more market share -- Parker, Sheaffer, and Wahl-Eversharp, in particular. By the later 1920s, Waterman was playing catch-up; it continued to struggle through and beyond World War II, before finally shutting down in 1954.

All was not lost, though. Waterman's French subsidiary, Waterman Jif (later Waterman S.A.) continued to prosper, even through the parent company's hard times, and eventually absorbed what remained of the American company and its British arm. Successfully weathering the ballpoint pen, disastrous for the majority of fountain pen manufacturers, it was finally acquired by Sanford, a division of Newell Rubbermaid, in 2001. Sanford also owns The Parker Pen Company.


Early Waterman pens were made of hard rubber and were equipped with 14K gold nibs. From early on, fancy precious metal trim and overlays were offered. Although these more elaborate pens are more sought after by collectors, their plainer siblings write just as well. Many are still in use today, and their nibs are prized for their smoothness and flexibility.

Waterman's high production volume from c. 1900 on means that vintage examples are comparatively easy to find today. The most common models from the hard rubber era are the #12 slip-cap eyedropper, the #52 screw-cap lever-filler, and the #42 retracting-nib safety pen. Waterman adopted celluloid comparatively late, with the advent of the Patrician and Lady Patricia in 1929. Though largely ignored by present-day collectors, the Waterman C/F of 1953 introduced the modern plastic ink cartridge.

A few pens of Waterman S.A. are: the Edson, the Philéas, the Hémisphère, the Expert, the Harmonie, the Charleston, the Ici et Là, the Audace, the Sérénité, the Liaison and the Carène. The Man 100 was released in 1983 for the 100th anniversary of the company; François Mitterrand was known for carrying two wherever he went.Fact|date=September 2008

External links

* [http://www.waterman.com/en Official site in English]
* [http://www.glennspens.com/waterman.html Tour/visit with Factory]

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