If you collect pens, you’re probably familiar with the Waterman brand. After all, its founder actually invented the first functional fountain pen, and it was so popular in the 1900s that about 7 out of 10 writing tools were Watermans.
But the fountain pen market is fierce, and there are now hundreds of brands that may not have the same historical pedigree, but can certainly match (or maybe even surpass) its quality. Is the Waterman still a good brand, or is it just riding on its tradition?
The short answer: yes. Over the last 120+ years, Waterman has refined its technology and launched a wide range of writing instruments to suit different preferences and needs. Each pen is beautifully crafted with quality materials—and because of its durability and timeless style, a Waterman pen can be used and loved for decades.
The History of Waterman
Lewis Waterman was an insurance salesman from New York. One day, while preparing a large policy for an important client, his pen leaked all over the documents. He had to cancel the meeting to prepare a new set of papers, but when he returned the client had already signed with somebody else.
This experience inspired Waterman to get into the pen business. He joined a new pen company founded by Frank Holland, initially as a salesman. But when Holland quit the company just six months later—bringing the start-up to the brink of closing—Waterman stepped in to save it.
When Waterman took over, he started improving the pen design. He invented the three-fissure feed, then the spoon-feed system. These innovations prevented ink from overflowing, solving the common problem of leaks and inkblots—and earning the Waterman brand the reputation of having high-quality, reliable pens.
Through the years, the Waterman brand continued to introduce new features such as the pen clip, retractable nib, and the plastic ink cartridge. However, competitors like Parker and Sheaffer cut into Waterman’s market share because of aggressive marketing and trendy designs.
Eventually, Waterman was acquired by Bic, and then sold to The Gilette Company. In 2000, Newell Rubbermaid (now called Newell Brands) acquired all of Gilette’s portfolio of writing products: Waterman, Parker, Paper Mate, and Liquid Paper.
Being part of a big conglomerate allowed for bigger manufacturing, wider distribution, and marketing campaigns. This revived the Waterman brand, and today, it is considered one of the biggest and most reputable pen manufacturers in the world.
Benefits of a Waterman Pen
Waterman isn’t just banking on its legacy and brand recall. On its own, it’s a really high-quality pen. In fact, most pen collectors will own a Waterman, because it meets their criteria (and if you know pen collectors, we can be very hard to please).
Watermans are made of high-quality materials that won’t tarnish or become brittle over time. One of the oldest pens I own is a Waterman Expert ballpoint from the 1990s, and it still looks as good as the day I first took it out of the box.
Good weight and balance
After making pens for over 120 years, Waterman knows exactly how to engineer the pen so it feels comfortable when you write with it.
The slender, tapered shape is easy to hold and control—this is why I actually prefer using Waterman over the heavier MontBlancs whenever I need to do a lot of writing.
Even the heavier Watermans don’t cause wrist fatigue, because of the good balance point. When a pen is too long or heavy, it will have a tendency to hang lower when you hold it. That affects the weight on the nib and the amount of pressure you need to use when you write. It can also force you into using an unnatural and uncomfortable grip.
Since the Watermans have good balance, even the heavier pens are still easy to use. If you have carpal tunnel or other nerve issues, I would definitely recommend this brand—particularly, the Waterman Expert range. It’s a moderate size, relatively light, and exceptionally well-balanced. (That’s also why this line is one of the most popular pens in the workplace.)
Smooth and reliable ink delivery
I’ve never had any problems blotting or skipping with a Waterman pen. The brand has perfected the ink delivery system and coupled with the high-quality nibs, you’re pretty much guaranteed that the pen will work perfectly each time.
Even the Waterman Graduate Allure Fountain Pen—one of its entry-level pens, priced affordably at less than $20—glides on cheap, rough paper. Even when you hold the nib at a vertical angle, the ink still flows reliably. You get a really clear, fine line. That’s pretty amazing for a steel nib and gives you an idea of how their more premium metal nibs will perform.
Very good inks
Waterman only has 8 ink colors: Intense Black, Tender Purple, Harmonious Green, Mysterious Blue, Serenity Blue, Inspired Blue, Havana Brown, and Audacious Red.
However, these are classic colors that are highly pigmented and have a beautiful sheen. The Waterman Harmonious Green is one of my favorite inks: it has a touch of teal or aqua in it, which makes it different from the usual forest greens. The Waterman Audacious Red is an affordable “dupe” for the limited edition Franklin-Christoph ’19, which is expensive and hard to find.
- Bottled ink for all WATERMAN Fountain Pens
- Liquid ink produces an intense line in brilliant colors
- Boldly surging from the color spectrum, Audacious Red whispers power and passion with primal sensuality
- The ritual of filling ink from a bottle enhances the noble experience of using classic fountain pens
- Skilfully made in France, every WATERMAN pen echoes the genius of founder Lewis Edson WATERMAN, inventor of the first...
You can buy both Waterman Ink bottles or ink cartridges. I personally love the bottle’s hexagon shape, because you can tip it to the side. Thus, it’s a lot easier to get the last drops of ink when the ink levels start to drop. I wish all ink bottles were shaped this way!
Waterman Inks are also reasonably priced and safe to use on vintage pens. For this reason, I think everyone should have a Waterman Black—aside from being very vivid, you know it won’t clog your pens.
I was often disappointed by poorly constructed pens that would skip, blot, or bleed. They were cheaper, but in the end, they were a total waste of money. I ended up throwing them away and wishing I had spent a little bit more on a reliable pen.
So even if Waterman is slightly more expensive, I gladly invest in it because it works so well and works for a long time. You can see the quality of materials, and the close attention to detail during manufacturing.
Plus, Waterman offers a three-year warranty, so if you have any problems with a pen because of factory defects, you can have it replaced.
If you’re gifting someone with a pen, you really can’t go wrong with a Waterman. The pens have a very sophisticated, modern look that never goes out of style. Even if they’ve introduced some “trendy” colors like pastels in their Waterman Allure range, the pens still look very elegant and chic.
The Waterman’s minimalist aesthetic is perfect for the professional and executive that needs an impressive pen that looks expensive but isn’t too ostentatious. Besides, anyone who knows their pens will recognize a Waterman—it has that pedigree. Just being a Waterman gives the pen a prestige that the newer brands still don’t have.
So when I’m buying a special gift, I generally pick this brand. It’s a safe, tried-and-tested choice that is guaranteed to please.
Best Waterman Pens
There’s no question about it: Waterman is a good brand. But which of their pens should you buy? It’s a tough question, with so many choices. (And just so you know, Waterman has never had a failed pen. While some of its products are better or even exceptional, you won’t find a Waterman that is really, really bad.)
So while this is not a complete list of the best Waterman pens, here are some of the crowd favorites.
- Waterman Hemisphere Ballpoint Pen. This is one of the best “every day” pens. It writes really smoothly (some people even say it glides like a rollerball pen) and never skips. The thin shape suits even small hands, and the mix of brushed and polished finishes look really beautiful.
- Waterman Expert Rollerball Pen. One of the best rollerballs I own. Writes smoothly and effortlessly. Even if it is a bit hefty, it has the perfect weight and balance—my hand never gets tired, and my handwriting actually looks better because of my relaxed grip.
- Waterman Expert Fountain Pen. The Expert line is tried and tested. The pens have a perfect weight and balance, and the fine nib doesn’t feel scratchy at all. And this beauty is durable. The matte finish won’t show scratches or fingerprints, and the ruthenium clip and trim will never tarnish. With the right care, it will last for decades.
If I were to choose just one among the three, I would say, unless you prefer fountain pens, go with the Rollerball!
- Expert Black with golden trim, Fine tip, Black ink, Gift box
- Generous silhouette for premium, executive styling and supreme comfort when writing
- Sophisticated gloss black lacquered body, gleaming 23-karat golden trim and clip, and broad ring embellished with the...
- Skilfully constructed rollerball nib unites the tradition of liquid ink with ultimate comfort and convenience
- Meticulously crafted in France to enhance your signature style
After all, Waterman built its reputation on fountain pens, and it is still the star of its lineup. While you could argue that Parker or Cross can make good ballpoint pens or rollerballs at a slightly lower price than Waterman, their fountain pens are hit or miss. As a whole, Waterman simply does fountain pens really well.
However, it’s really your choice. Pens are a personal preference—some people love rollerballs because of the smooth writing experience, while others are hardcore fountain pen users because they like different inks and the “feel” of the nib.
The good news is that Waterman makes all kinds of pens, so you can always find a good Waterman for you.