I don’t usually buy pens from Conway Stewart’s later output so I must have been dozing off when I bought this 57. It happens.
I got around to assessing and restoring it today. Actually, it was in pretty good order and didn’t need a lot done. I had to put a new sac on, but removing the Pressac sac shield and refitting it was no trouble at all. Other than that, I flushed the nib/hood unit until the water ran clear, cleaned the pen up a bit and that was that.
This is by no means the last of Conway Stewart’s pens and while it shows a decline in standards from the high days of the fifties and earlier, it’s not at all a bad pen. There are the usual slight markings of use but that’s all. To my surprise, the gold plating has held up well despite clear indications that the pen has been well used.
So how does this pen of Conway Stewart’s declining years stack up just as a writing instrument? I think one might be entitled to knock off a point or two for the filling system. The Pressac bears a superficial resemblance to Parker’s Aeromentric filler but it isn’t as efficient as it lacks a breather tube. It’s just a squeeze filler. The nib’s a nail but that’s OK – plenty of people like nails. The clutch works well and the pen closes firmly. The ink flow’s good and the pen sits well in the hand. I could use this pen quite happily. It wouldn’t be my first choice but it wouldn’t give me any problems either. It’s on a par, I think, with the better Chinese pens that are being produced today, with its squeeze filler and nail nib, except that it harks back to a well-respected line of pens and it has a gold nib, which sets it a step or two above. Also, the chain motif on the cap band might lift it another half a step further.
One other thing about this pen is that it’s a bit of stylistic grab-bag. It’s a long, tapering pen like the 85L but it shows pretensions to something more modern. The nib is fully exposed. Why then does it have a long hood – which serves no practical purpose – rather than a normal section? I think it shows two things: that Conway Stewart’s designers knew that the public wanted something new, but also that they didn’t have the money to tool up for a completely new pen, so they made this cheerless compromise.
The 57’s diamond clip is a reminder of past glories but the purposeless hood is an omen of things to come.