I buy a lot of Watermans. Mostly, they’re English and made in the late forties and early fifties. In this lot, the current accumulation of Watermans in my “restored” box, there’s a thirties Canadian Junior and a twenties American 52. All the rest are English and post-war.
Unrestored English Watermans, especially the less expensive models, don’t fetch much of a price. That’s understandable in a way. They’re quite undistinguished pens at first glance and the plating, especially on the clips, is often poor. Many people are reluctant to tackle repairing them as they have a deserved reputation for being difficult to disassemble. The part of the section that meets the barrel is usually ridged to provide extra grip and if that’s not enough, they’re also not infrequently glued with some mighty substance known only to Waterman. On the upside, it’s worth saying that dry heat and patience will eventually loosen them all and once that’s done they’re an extremely straightforward repair and they smarten up pretty well – plating loss aside. Waterman’s spoon feed was a great, efficient and much copied invention, which delivered ink in all but the most extreme circumstances, so even the older ones write very well. In the forties, with perhaps a sideways look at Sheaffer’s multi-finned feeds, Waterman developed much more complex feeds that do an immaculate job of ink delivery. If you have a Waterman from this period, provided it hasn’t been stamped on repeatedly, it won’t be too hard to get it to lay ink on the page.
The other part intimately involved in laying the ink down is the nib, and the nibs are why I keep buying so many Watermans. Many have some degree of flexibility, quite a few are impressively flexible, and all write well, even the rock-hard ones. Even through the company’s worst times, Waterman always made superb nibs.
It’s certainly the case that the W5s and 515s have some pretensions to being prestige pens, but in truth these pens aren’t collector’s items, or not to any great degree. They’re pens for people who like to write, and as such they’re exactly the kind of pens I love to send back out into the world to be used again. Going on the number available today, they were hugely popular here in their time, and rightly so. They’re great pens.