Choosing a fountain pen isn’t always an easy task and a surplus of information can be almost as bad as a total lack of it. With that in mind, this guide is designed to help you choose the best Sailor fountain pen for you.
Sailor isn’t is common as Pilot and a few other competitors in the US, but they make some exceptional pens. This guide will help you decide the right Sailor fountain pen for you in 2021. It will focus on the most popular Sailor lines, with the assumption that if you are looking for something expensive or rare, you probably don’t need a buying guide!
Sailor Fountain Pen Lines
Sailor is best known for two lines of 14K gold nib fountain pens: 1911 and Professional Gear (aka Pro Gear). And, not surprisingly, people looking for a “workhorse pen” or an everyday fountain pen, will want a 1911 or a Pro Gear. These two lines will have pens starting at about $150 (MSRP) and going up to well over $500, before even getting into “special editions.”
That $150-$500 range will cover the vast majority of buyers and is all we will go over. Keep in mind that a $150 MSRP might translate into a street price of as little as 2/3 that amount. Sailor 1911 pens that sell for about $180 from an official distributor often sell for a little over $100 on Amazon. The official distributors cost much more, buy you’ll get a warranty, support, and quality control that will be missing from unofficial retailers and “grey market” sellers.
Sailor 1911 Fountain Pen
Sailor’s 1911 is a torpedo-shaped pen (rounded at both sides) that is named after the year the company was founded. 1911 pens come in all sizes and use either 14K or 21K gold nibs. The size will be the larger decider of the price, with the standard ones selling for closer to $100 and the ones like the “1911L” and the “King of Pens” selling for closer to $300.
Keep in mind that the 1911 is a cartridge/converter fountain pen with the exception of the Realo part of the line which is a piston filler. So the prices might rival something like the Pilot Custom 823 but the pens aren’t necessarily interchangeable or even direct competitors.
Sailor Pro Gear Fountain Pen
The Professional Gear line has 14K and 21K nibs and has flat ends. Like the 1911 line it has a full price and size range.
This line is further split into the standard Professional Gear — the classic pens — and the Pro Gear II, which has an updated styling, with a drastically changed, anchor-inspired clip and a two-color gold nib.
The Pro Gear is a cartridge/converter fountain pen.
Sailor Pen Sizes
Sailor’s pens tend to be sold in a few different sizes: Standard, Regular, Slim, Large, and King of Pens. These will vary based on the line in question. The differences are substantive, but not tremendous:
- Sailor 1911 Standard (1911S) length: 135 mm
- Sailor 1911 Large (1911L) length: 142 mm
- Sailor 1911 King of Pens length: 154 mm
Sailor’s Slim (aka Sapporo) pens are smaller, lighter, more affordable fountain pens while the Large and King of Pens are bigger and more expensive. The latter two will always have 21K gold nibs while the Slims and Regulars will generally have 14K ones (some special editions and limited models will have 21K). The King of Pens line is a large size pen that is often compared to the size of the Pelikan M1000.
Sailor Pen Styles
Some of Sailor’s more popular lines explained in as few words as possible:
- 1911 Standard (1911S): Mid-size torpedo-shaped, 14K nibs, starts around $150 MRSP
- 1911 Large (1911L): Full-size torpedo shaped, 21K nibs, starts around $250
- 1911 King of Pen: Largest size torpedo shaped, 21K nib, starts around $750
- 1911 Realo: Full-size, torpedo shape, 21K nib, piston-filler
- 1911 Promenade: A Japanese variant of the 1911S. 14K nib. Different clip design
- Professional Gear: Flat ends, 14K nib, starts around $250
- Professional Gear Slim: Small body, 14K nib, starts around $150
- Professional Gear Earth: The standard Pro Gear in earth tone colors and a 21K nib
- Professional Gear Earth: The standard Pro Gear in an ocean green color
- Professional Gear II: Flat ends, 14K or 21K nib, anchor-style clip, two-tone nib, starts around $325
- Professional Gear Realo: Flat ends, 21K nib, piston filler, starts around $325
Sailor Fountain Pen Nibs
14K or 21K
Choosing between these two can be difficult, but the consensus is simple: if you aren’t a dedicated gold pen user who is very discerning about their nibs and paper, you probably won’t be able to tell the difference between the 14K and 21K gold nibs. Does a difference exist? Yes. Can some people tell the difference? Sure. But for typical buyer the 21K isn’t worth the extra money.
Keep in mind that some nibs will be gold-colored while others will be gold but rhodium-coated, which is to say silver. Still others will be two-tone gold which combines the two.
Sailor Nib Styles and Sizes
Sailor nibs are sold in a wide range for some pens and less of a range for others. Some will be stocked at any Sailor dealer some some body/nib combinations will need to be special ordered. Here are the primary nibs, with some notes when appropriate:
- Extra-Fine – This is very fine, too fine to even have a European equivalent
- Medium-Fine – The most common choice
- Broad – Similar to a European medium
- Zoom – Very wet, like a double broad when written at an acute angle but thinner as the pen moves upright
- Music – A dual-tine nib (not three-tine). Wide horizontal stroke and thin down strokes.
- Saibi-Togi – Super-extra-fine, previously Bespoke pens only, but now more widely available
Sailor Terms Worth Knowing
- Realo: These pens have a piston-filler and a clear ink window in body of the pen. This style was first released in 2006
- Profit 21: Another name for the Large size pens, particularly the 1911L
- Profit: Sailor’s cigar/torpedo shaped pens
- Barcarolle: A less popular line of Sailor pens with flat ends and a brass body
- Bespoke: These are custom pens from each line. Some of the Bespoke pens are also limited edition, which is an added distinction and level of rarity. An example being the Bespoke 1911 King of Pen, while a Bespoke Limited Edition is the Bespoke King of Pen Urushi Limited Edition Youkou which will sell for up to three times more.
- Urushi: Laquer-coated pens. These are handcrafted and lovingly made with up to 12 coats of lacquer. An example would be the Bespoke 1911 King of Pen Urushi, which will sell for close to $2000
- King of Pen: The largest size Sailor pens sold. Example: 1911 King of Pen
- Sapporo: Another name for the Pro Gear Slim line of pens
Sailor’s Affordable Pens
If you want a Sailor but don’t want to spend over $100 on a gold nib fountain pen, then we highly recommend you check out the Profit Professor. It sells for about $30 and has many of the features of the standard 1911 fountain pens. The Profit Professor is a steel nib pen sold in medium-fine, but it has a metal clip and cap band, and all the metal — including the nib — is gold-colored so it looks like a much more expensive pen.
Sailor also makes the sub-$10 HighAce Neo, but this is not a pen we’d recommend. This is essentially a $3 fountain pen that not only isn’t as good as something like the Platinum Preppy, but that sells for about $10. It has an OK nib, but writes inconsistently and tends to dry out after a day.
That should about cover it! With this information you should know enough to pick your pen, pick your style, pick your color, choose your nib, check the price, and order away!