Zero. Zero gravity? Zero friction? Zero weight? All of these terms could be used to describe the amazing desk pens that this Japanese company produces. But the real reason they're named Zero (Zero Seiko Co Ltd, to give them their full name) is because they started from zero (or scratch, if you like). Based in Amagasaki, a city situated south west of Osaka, they were originally a precision parts manufacturer, but in July 2004 they were facing bankruptcy. However, in the words of Hitoshi Okamoto, the company's Chairman, 'three months later we took off again from zero, determined to be a success'. And they were.
Now specialising in the manufacture of precision components for aerospace and hydraulic equipment, Zero Seiko ventured into the world of stationery in 2012 with their spin-off company Zero Labo. A strange move, you may think, but the methods of producing their small range of desk pens are the same ones that are used in the production of components for industries that rely so heavily on precision. Hydraulic pistons that get stuck in their shafts, or allow fluid to leak, are of little use, particularly if they're part of the landing gear on an aircraft. And while a spinning desk pen that doesn't spin effortlessly is not exactly life-threatening, it's nice when things do what they're supposed to do. So if you want a desk pen that does spin smoothly, (or sinks, or simply fits seamlessly into its stand), you need to employ precision engineering.
And that is just what Zero has done. The Floating Ballpoint Pen doesn't actually float, and the Bone Float Propeller doesn't have any bones in it (at least, none that we know of), but they do spin speedily and properly on their pivots, thanks to meticulously-machined recesses in the bodies of the pens. What's more, they will sit perfectly level when not in motion, and - a fact that should please any engineer, or anybody else who gets upset by poorly-orchestrated products - Zero has naturally accounted for the extra weight of the refill.
The Tameiki Three-Second Sigh is something else. Zero used a precision lathing process developed in-house to create a mere 20 micron gap between the pen and the stand into which it fits. Once the pen is inserted into the top of the stand, gravity causes it to sink; but the aforementioned tiny, tiny gap means that the air trapped in the bottom of the stand can only escape very slowly - creating a cushioning effect for the pen's descent - and takes three seconds to 'sigh' out of the stand. Hence the 'Three-Second Sigh'.
And all these wonderfully sleek, precision-engineered metal desk pens come in manly, executive-type colours, like black and silver and burgundy. Er… except for the Bone Float Propeller. Although it's available in chrome, it also comes in a rather startling shade of orange.
Mr. Okamoto (center of the photo) receives a memento from seminar participants from Malaysia.
8 June 2015