English Parkers remain among the most underrated pens around. Not so much the the 51s and 61s, at least partly because our American cousins recognise them, but the whole English Duofold range remains a mystery to overseas buyers. Maximas and Seniors do somewhat better because they cater to the modern taste for large pens, but the more usual standard Duofolds, Demis, Slimfolds and Juniors sell poorly in comparison with other pens, many of them of considerably less quality. Though the market has picked up a little recently, I still see Slimfolds, Juniors and the similar Victory Mark V passing through ebay without a bid.
My own favourite is the Duofold AF. It has a lot going for it. The splendid Duofold nib – usually firm but not quite as rigid as the American counterpart – remains consistent throughout the Newhaven production. The aluminium filler looks a lot better than the traditional button. It’s finely machined and has a very modern look about it, as though it might be a part for a moon rocket or at the very least a snazzy sports car. It’s an easy fix when it needs a sac and it holds a decent quantity of ink. Externally, the Aerometric Duofold is the same pen with the same writing characteristics and many people like it but I think of it as Parker’s first step back from ingenious filling solutions. Having to take the barrel off to fill the pen is not an advance in convenience. Having done so, you’re faced with a bulb filler with a protective metal surround – nineteen thirties technology in a nineteen fifties pen. Thereafter came the descent to Parker pens being mere holders for cartridges, which ensured that the buyer handed the company large profits in perpetuity.
That doesn’t mean that the Aerometric was worse than other pens that were being produced at the time. The reverse is true. Despite the dated technology the quality was so high that the pen sold in huge numbers, even at a time when the ballpoint was beginning to dominate the industry. Though a little subject to cap lip cracks, Aerometrics otherwise just don’t fail. They’ve kept on going until today with no servicing and indications are that they’ll see all of us off. Though the plastic they’re made from is soft enough that barrel imprints can wear off, it’s thick and robust. The sac is so durable that today hardly one in fifty needs replacing. The sac protector may dull and discolour with age but it remains completely sound, unlike, for instance, many of Conway Stewart’s Pressac protectors. The nib has a good lump of tipping material, and the pens continue to write as they did when new.
That quality extends throughout the range. The Junior was cheaper only because it was smaller and had less gold in the nib, not because the quality was less. That’s shown by the vast numbers of Juniors and Slimfolds that continue to appear in ebay, just in need of a flush and a wipe with the polishing cloth to look as good as new.
Try one, from the first Newhaven Duofolds, through the New Style, Aluminium Filler and Aerometric. There’s plenty to choose from.