This Conway Stewart 68 differs from any of the previous ones I’ve had in one respect: it writes! The others never could be induced to write, no matter what I did. The 68 is the definition of flow problems.
This one is in remarkably good condition. The gold wash still adheres to the clip and the squeeze filler inside also has pretended gold on it. I’ve never seen that before. This pen just needed a new sac (easy to install on these squeeze-fillers) and a gentle polish and it was good as new.
That, of course, might not have been all that good. The late lamented Jonathan Donahaye said of the 68, “This is another copy-cat pen trying to emulate the Parker streamlined designs. In the rise and fall of Conway Stewarts, this definitely belongs to the fall.” That’s true. Though the overall impression of the pen is good, the devil is in the detail, to coin a cliché. The clip looks cheap and tinny. The squeeze-filler unit is a flimsy thing and it’s no wonder that these are often beyond recovery now. They’re very prone to rusting and as the metal is so thin it doesn’t take much to penetrate it.
As against that, though, the design is visually harmonious. The placement of the clip, cap band, clutch ring and nib looks balanced and just right. The little jewels at the end of the barrel and the top of the cap set it off very well. Yes, there’s a homage to Parker in the streamlined shape and the way the tiny traditional nib and the section that looks like a hood try to be an echo of the Parker 51, though with little success. Nonetheless, I like this pen. Though elements of its style were borrowed from elsewhere, that’s not such an egregious fault. The history of fountain pens is one of stealing the best ideas of competitors.
One thing I especially like about this 68 is the nib which has a rather strange-looking grind. It imparts a stubbish effect to the writing. Whatever else Conway Stewart was doing in this period, and most of it was bad, they got this right. The nib tip is a work of art.