Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Waterman 96?

At the Raleigh (Triangle) Pen Show this year, I was flagged down almost immediately upon arrival by George Rimakis, a very young and energetic collector who I’ve seen at shows but with whom I’ve not had much chance to interact. He had some "weird Watermans" to show me, and Joe Nemecek (the earlier bird to whom he’d shown these particularly juicy worms) had advised George that between the two of us, I was the weird Waterman department.

I looked, I admired, and ultimately I decided to try to live up to my reputation as "Weird Waterman Man" and brought home three of the Watermans, two of which I’ll share today. While I don’t think I’m an expert on these, now that I’ve studied these more closely I think I’ve learned a couple things.

The first is what George called an "unfinished" Patrician in onyx, shown here at bottom next to a fully trimmed coutnerpart:

This one is clipless – not one missing a clip, but one which never had one. I’ve seen other clipless Patricians, but always in black, like this example from Joe Nemecek’s collection:

But what made George characterize this one as "unfinished" rather than merely clipless was the fact that a recess has been milled into the barrel to accommodate a center band:

Initially, I was skeptical. Although George says this came from a former Waterman employee, that alone is some shaky provenance and I feared that perhaps someone removed a center band to put on another Patrician pencil in a less common color. But now that I’ve examined this closely with a loupe, I’m inclined to agree that this pencil was supposed to receive a band, but never did.

The other Patrician George had to show me will be familiar from a couple articles I’ve posted here over the past few months ("A New Discovery Thanks to an Old Book" on August 24, 2012, and "With Apologies to Mr. Nishimura" on February 8, 2013). It’s the lower example, shown next to the example featured in those earlier articles:

This is another example of what David Nishimura calls a "closeout Patrician," pencil made from leftover Patrician parts, mixed in with earlier riveted Waterman globe clips. This one may be slightly earlier, when there were a few more Patrician parts left over in the bins  -- it has the longer nose found on the regular Patrician line, and rather than a glued-on top cap, this one has a cap which unscrews to reveal a typical Patrician lead magazine and eraser assembly (although note that as with the other example, the top has not been shaped like a Patrician cap:

Notice that the clip on this new example is a little bit larger:

But what had George’s curiousity piqued the most, and mine as well, was a number imprinted on the side of the barrel, between the clip and the usual Waterman’s imprint:

The number 996. Could it be a shop number? Possibly, but now that I've poked around a bit I have another theory.

Another pencil I bought from George was a Waterman 94, in steel quartz with gold filled rather than chrome plated trim – an unusual combination that I’ll circle back around to later.  Since I wasn’t too familiar with the Waterman 94, I did a little bit of research on the model, and I ran across an essay written by Rob Astyk and posted at the internet forum Lion & Pen (the essay can be found at http://kamakurapens.invisionzone.com/index.php?showtopic=1614).
Rob made an interesting statement that may solve the mystery behind the meaning of "996." Rob wrote:

"HOW MANY 9s IN 94?

"Let’s digress briefly on the model designation itself. Most of the pens and matching pencils we find bear the model designation 94. However, we occasionally find both hard rubber pens and pencils stamped 994. To be honest, we don’t know whether the extra 9 in the hundreds place came early or late in production. We do know that it has nothing whatever to do with overlay as one would expect from the standard Waterman model numbering system.

"I had a working hypothesis which reasoned that the additional "9" functioned to separate hard rubber and plastic pens. Thus the hard rubber 994 pens and pencils would be late production. Unfortunately, Pentracer Alain D. posted a photo of a Mahogany 994 similar to my Blue with a riveted, nickel or chromed, clip and blank, solid anti-split band. That "9" in the hundreds place remains a bit of a mystery because it appears irregularly and seems utterly superfluous."

Could it be that Waterman actually designated these "closeout Patricians" as the Waterman 96, differentiated from the Patrician by their 94-style solid bands, 94-style riveted clips and tapered flat tops? I’ve checked the Waterman catalogs from the 1930s at the Pen Collectors of America’s site, and without exception, the Patrician is referred to simply as "Patrician" and not by any model number.

It would make perfect sense that these oddballs would have their own designation, because "closeout Patricians" are no ordinary Patricians.  If they were truly just cobbled together from leftover Patrician parts, there’s no reason why the bands would lack cutouts or the tops wouldn’t have already been milled to the Patrician profile.

I do think Waterman was using up some leftover parts. But I also think the company very briefly tried to market these as a separate model – the "96." Sounds better than "Waterman leftovers," doesn’t it?


Jim Carpenito said...

...or, the 3-digit designation meant that these were items that were offered to employees, at a discounted price, and not meant for sale to the public. That would give some meaning to the employee provenance that you mentioned earlier in your article. Just an additional thought.

Jon Veley said...

That might be, Jim. Rob's Lion and Pen article didn't mention that possibility, but he's not conclusive about what the extra "9" does mean.

And, note that the end caps and bands were specially made for this - suggests an actual model rather than something made just for employees.

Do you have anything concrete to indicate an extra 9 denoted an employee discounted item?

jim Carpenito said...

Wish I did.