Waterman 12 1/2 VS (c. 1910)

The second half of my first vintage purchase, this is the oldest pen I own; the latest date I was given for this pen was 1910! This means the pen managed to survive two world wars and the fall of the Soviet Union. It came to me in a cardboard Waterman box with papers in Hungarian, on which someone had tested out a bunch of inks and also ripped off a corner. There were some notes and dates written on it as well. The box itself has Sole European Representatives (in English) on it under the Waterman logo, so I can only assume that the pen had remained in Europe for over a hundred years, eventually making its way to me.

And here it is, in all its ebonite glory:

Such a beautiful chased pattern. The pen is almost warm to the touch…

From left to right we see the cap (with a clip; clipless models exist), and then the pen body, which is quite short, and a little knob at the end. That knob rotates, and I’ll explain later.

For now, we can see that the earliest date is 1903, since that actually appears on the pen body.

PAT’D.1884 | MAY 23, 1899
PEN N.Y. USA | & AUG.4.1903

Pretty amazing I’d say. I’m aware fountain pens can write beautifully 130 years after their production if well taken care of, but to actually hold one that’s easily 110 years old is an incredible thought. So much technology went into the construction of these pens.

The safety mechanism is one of them: a safety pen was an eyedropper pen that could be filled as usual, with one major difference – the nib sat in the ink when the pen was capped. And that was achieved by using the knob and an ingenious helix-screw system to retract the nib into the pen body:

View when uncapped: that little white dot in the hole is the tip of the nib catching the light.

The nib rears its beautiful head with just over a complete turn of the screw. The variation in colour you see are due to a few things: the silver tip is from a retipping and the purple blob is from reddish inks (I’ve put Yama-budo and Tsutsuji inside, among others).

Very ideal for a flex fiend!

This Waterman tends to write a little on the wet side, of course, which is expected for a feed that can keep up with flex as wide as 2.5mm. When unflexed, it lays down a medium to fine line depending on paper softness and how little pressure is being used. Again, this writing sample is done on Fabriano A5 dotpad.

Whoa. Proper flex, that is.

Only that swirly figure below VINTAGE FLEX comes anywhere close to pushing the nib hard. The rest of it was written easily, with very little pressure. Look especially at how fine the hairlines are! This is a pen that works for Spencerian and various Copperplate scripts, flexing almost like a dip nib. (In fact, it is softer than any of the G nibs I have used.) And yet, when used with a light hand, the ink flow is dry enough for small writing.

Anyway, after all that, here is a video of the nib doing its quite magical thing. So addictive…!


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