There are two types of fountain pens with retracting nibs. The first type has a so-called safety nib - popular on early fountain pens and designed to reduce accidental leakage. These pens also had conventional caps. This design can still be seen on a few modern pens but is largely of curiosity value. The second type is the true retractable fountain pen - where the pen has no cap and a push-button or turnscrew extends the nib from the barrel. A shutter mechanism is employed to seal against leakage and to prevent the nib drying out. In this way a retractable fountain pen can be as simple and convenient to operate as a retractable ballpoint pen. The first, and still the best true retractable fountain pen is the Pilot Capless. Developed by Pilot engineers in 1964 to celebrate the Tokyo Olympics, the Capless has evolved substantially in the intervening 45 years whilst maintaining the same basic principles. Known in some markets as the Pilot Vanishing Point, and with Namiki Vanishing Point variants, the range now includes the standard Pilot Capless - a larger-size brass-bodied pen- and the Pilot Decimo - a slimmer and lighter aluminium-based version. These variants are operated by means of a push-button mechanism. The recently launched Pilot Fermo revives an older design that employs a twist-action knob to extend the nib. All Pilot retractable fountain pens can use both Pilot ink cartridges or bottled ink. Their high-quality 18kt gold nibs are highly-regarded amongst fountain pen connoisseurs. Ultimately a fountain pen must write beautifully, or the retractable mechanism is just a gimmick - the Pilot Capless range will exceed your expectations in this respect. Launched in 2009, the Lamy dialog 3 is the only other true retractable that we know of. An uncompromising piece of design, the dialog 3 is designed to assert Lamy's writing instrument expertise. The twist-action mechanism extends the nib whilst pulling down the clip to provide minimal interference to the user. A feature of retractable fountain pens is that the pocket clip is at the opposite end of the pen - to ensure that the nib stays the right way up and doesn't leak through the shutter when pocketed. With the Pilot Capless the clip position can be an issue for a minority of users, though the vast majority don't find it a problem. The dialog 3 attempts to address this by simultaneously retracting the clip when the nib extends. As the clip doesn't retract perfectly flush into the barrel and the barrel diameter is substantial this can be regarded as only partially successful! Again, Lamy nib expertise ensures that the dialog 3 writing experience matches the engineering.
We have the following retractable fountain pens available to purchase: