One of the best-known brands in Japan, especially for their fountain pens, Sailor is far less well-known in the West, but their status here is growing, and they’re already well-loved among fountain pen geeks..
All Sailor pens are made in their own factory in Hiroshima, where they’ve been in business since 1911. It all started with a connection to England - the founder, Kyugoro Sakata, met a sailor from here, who had a very nice fountain pen. Being an engineer, he was sure he could make pens just as good, and set about working out how. They were the first company in Japan to make fountain pens.
He named the company Sailor for two reasons - it was inspired by a Sailor, and he had plans for it to expand around the world, to other countries.
Their main luxury fountain pen ranges are the 1911 and the Pro Gear. The 1911 has a classic ‘cigar’ shape, with rounded ends and smooth curves, while the Pro Gear, or Professional Gear, has flat endings, for a more contemporary style.
The nib is where the real magic of a fountain pen happens, and it’s here that Sailor have excelled, thanks to their specialist nib designers and makers, Nobuyoshi Nagahara, and his son Yukio Nagahara who still oversees all of their nib production. Because of this, many of their pens are available with two of their speciality nibs - the Music nib and the Zoom nib.
A few fountain pen makers still produce music nibs - they’re wide from side to side, usually a bit too wide for daily writing for most people, with a lot of ink flow, but those who like a bit of flair and have large handwriting do sometimes love them. The Zoom nib is more unusual. It writes a different width lines depending on the angle you hold the pen - the more upright it is, the finer the line. In the sort of writing position most people use, they’re really quite broad, so some still won’t find them practical, especially those who like fine lines, but they can be perfect for those who like a really broad line, or a very handy tool for artists or calligraphers, to get various line widths all from one pen.
For those who do prefer fine nibs, Sailor make great fine and extra fine nibs, as you’d expect from a Japanese fountain pen specialist.
The other thing Sailor has become especially renowned for is their huge range of special editions. As much as we’d love to sell them all to you, we wouldn’t recommend most people try to catch ‘em all - there are a lot! But it does mean that if a Sailor pen is what you want, even if you don’t want one of the standard colours, a special edition may be along at any moment that’s just what you wanted.
It’s not just high-end expensive fountain pens, either, though they do those very well. Sailor also produce a range of more everyday pens, including some fountain pens at much lower prices that follow the look and style of their higher-end pens, just using simpler materials - they’re still made with the same care, so you don’t have to spend a lot on a good Sailor pen. They even make some quite reasonably priced versions of their Fude de Mannen nibs - a steel nib that’s upturned at the end, to give brush-like strokes, for brush-like drawings and calligraphy, but with the simplicity of a fountain pen. So along with people who love beautifully made fountain pens, Sailor is very popular with artists too.