Friday, February 8, 2013

With Apologies to Mr. Nishimura

Today’s story circles back around to what has been nicknamed the "transitional Patrician" or "proto-Patrician" I wrote about here back on August 24, 2012:


Shortly after the article was first published, David Nishimura sent me an email to let me know he’d written an article on the matching pen over at his website, www.vintagepens.com,
and that he disagreed with me on one point: I’d written that this pencil was a transition from earlier flattop Waterman pencils to the Patrician, while David believes that these were end-of-the-line Patricians made from whatever leftover parts were on hand.

David’s reasoning was very logical: he’d found a pen with provenance (from the son of the original owner), the nib and feed matched later Watermans as opposed to earlier ones, and, he reasoned based on his knowledge of Waterman business practices, Waterman simply wouldn’t have introduced such a pen as a transitional model. I read his article, thanked him and made some modifications to my own article, specifically referencing his work and adopting his term "proto-Patrician."

But when it came to his conclusions, I didn’t believe him at the time and I left my article unchanged.

My thought process was twofold. First, nibs and feeds can be and often are changed out. That’s why Duofold pens turn up all the time with Parker arrow nibs similar to what you'd find on a Vacumatic, and a Skyline nib will turn up in a Doric. Back in the day, when a ten-year-old pen was brought in for repairs, the repairman’s instructions were to make it work, not necessarily to restore it exactly to its original condition as it left the factory. If a repairman didn’t have the exact part on hand, another part would be substituted.

Second, although I respect David’s knowledge of the Waterman Company, I thought any speculation concerning whether Waterman employees would or would not have introduced a pen or pencil like this in 1929 was just that . . . speculation.

What I wanted to see before I changed my thinking – and my article – was some harder evidence. Between the three unusual Patrician pencils I’ve picked up lately, I think I now have that hard evidence, and it proves that David was absolutely correct and the "proto-Patrician" is more aptly called, as David calls it, a "closeout Patrician."

Let’s start by comparing the "proto-Patrician" to the turquoise examples featured in yesterday’s article:


Note that the solid bands on the turquoise and jade examples are exactly the same width, and the two pencils overall are virtually the same size. The cap on the jade example appears to be glued on, but on closer examination I don’t think this is anything more than a standard Patrician cap that hasn’t had the top edge machined to the same profile:


Another concern I had with the "closeout" theory was whether Waterman would have reverted all the way back to the round ball riveted clip typical of earlier Waterman flattops of the 1920s. My two turquoise examples are fitted with the same clips found on the later Waterman Number7 and Ink Vue Deluxe, and I had assumed that if Patrician clips were no longer available, Waterman would universally have used these clips since they would have been readily available.

However, as I learned when I acquired the moss agate bandless version I got from Rick Krantz in Philly:


Waterman wasn’t that picky. If they’d throw a Waterman 92 clip on a Patrician, there’s no reason to believe they wouldn’t throw anything else on there if they happened to have a few on hand.

But the clincher is something pencil-specific!  Note the tip section, and remember that Waterman pencil tips are very temperamental and model-specific. Unlike nibs and feeds, you can’t swap a Waterman tip from one pencil to another and expect it to work. That means these haven’t been changed out, and the tip on the "proto-Patrician" is identical to the one on the turquoise example.

While jade and turquoise were both part of the original color lineup when the Patrician was introduced in 1929, these tips don’t match anything Waterman made prior to the introduction of the Patrician. They do, however, match a couple other Watermans in my collection:


Here are my Patricians shown alongside the larger Waterman Number 3 and a shorter Waterman Number 92V, also called a "Ladies’ Thorobred." While the Patricians have gold filled rather than chrome plated tips, mechanically and sizewise these are the only exact Waterman matches I’ve found.

And both the Number 3 and the 92V were introduced well after the Patrician was launched. So there you have it:


By the time the "closeout Patrician" (as I am now prepared to accept it) was produced, Waterman was piecing them together from whatever was left on hand. The company had by this point run out of tips, clips, center bands and top cap/eraser and lead magazine assemblies. The only true Patrician part left here is the barrel.

No wonder they are so rare!

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