Oddities: The Primo Pen

How often do you come across a true red ripple pen from the nineteen-twenties that wasn’t made by Waterman? Not often, I’d say, and I’ve never seen a British example before. There are some French overlay pens that emulate Waterman models quite closely and are sometimes made in red ripple hard rubber, but those are the only non-Waterman examples I’ve seen. Until now…

This is a British-made Primo. I have seen slight references to this company as a 1920s manufacturer but I’ve never seen one of their pens before. I suspect that they were one of those companies that didn’t survive for very long. It’s not an especially well made pen. The machining is no more than adequate. It’s hard to judge it in its entirety as some of the parts have been replaced. The plated, crimped-end nib is marked “No 12 London 14ct Gold Plated” and the lettering looks familiar though I can’t place it for the moment. It may or may not be original; the feed certainly isn’t as it’s marked “Swan” and looks like it came from an eyedropper.

The pattern isn’t completely consistent. On the side that carries the broken inserted clip, the cap is red ripple; on the other side it has a wood burl appearance.

Restoration of this pen won’t be easy. The lever is so rusted that I suspect that it will have to be replaced. The inserted clip is held by a very flimsy inner cap, and there’s much encrustation of rust there as well. Repair will be a delicate task, given the thin walls of the cap and barrel.

Not a high quality pen, but an interesting one. If anyone has information on the Primo pen manufacturing company, or on non-Waterman red ripples, I’d love to hear from you.


7 thoughts on “Oddities: The Primo Pen

  1. Your post about 1920’s British red ripples sparked a memory that I had seen another of this type of British red ripple mentioned on the web several times. The pen in question was made for the Ty-Phoo Tea company and all the references that I have seen point to mid-late 1920’s manufacture by ONOTO or CS.

    Here is an example:


    I don’t know how accurate the dating is though but any reference that I have seen points to 1920s manufacture..

    1. Hi Malcolm,

      Nice pen. I know about the Typhoo pens and indeed posted about them here some time ago. These aren’t true red ripple, though, despite the fact that some people call them that. They don’t have the ripple pattern, and are, in fact, a woodgrain pattern.

      The red and black hard rubber Typhoo pens were made over quite a long period, starting in the 1920s ( I would guess) and going on into the 1930s. As there are minor differences between examples that I have seen, I suspect that several manufacturers had the contract to make them at different times.


  2. The pattern on the Ty-Phoo is ‘Mottled’, just like the Conway Stewarts etc of the day. Wood grain is made up of uneven longitudinal stripes.

    I have an Indian pen with old (30s) Parker nib and clip which is brown ripple. Very nice in every respect.

  3. Hi,

    Did you find anything more on the British Primo Company?

    We have recently aquired a pink marbled effect ladies fountain pen. The writing on the side says Primo Dainty.

    We also have the original box which says Britsh made Primo and slogan ” Smooth as velvet. Lasting as Gold”.



    1. Hi Steve,
      Never another word has come my way about the Primo. If you enter “Primo Fountain Pen” into a search engine you’re immediately flooded with responses for Caran d’Ache and Pilot, both of which have models called Primo. This makes research difficult 😦

      I would be fascinated to see pictures of your Dainty and its box. That’s a real treasure. I assume it’s a small pen along the lines of the Conway Stewart Dinkie. Thank you very much for telling me about it.
      Best Regards,

      1. Hi Deb,

        I couldn’t work out how to upload pictures direct to your blog, so I have sent them to your email address.

        Let me know if you have them ok?

        Feel free to add them to this blog if you want.



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