A look at the discontinued Waterman Phileas fountain pen.

Buying a new fountain pen is tempting and exciting. However, during the past few months of lockdown, I have also enjoyed looking back over my accumulation and, in a few cases, making some simple nib adjustments. So having an old fountain pen is nice too. Some benefits are (1) saving your money; (2) reducing waste; (3) avoiding additional clutter in the home from stored pen boxes; (4) using and appreciating what you have and (5) connecting with some memories and associations from the past.

Today I am looking at my old Waterman Phileas. I remember buying it, a long time ago in a department store in Shantou, China, chosing it from the selection in the glass display counter. I cannot now recall what year it was. It could have been late 1990’s or early 2000’s. It was not very expensive by UK standards, possibly around the same price as a Lamy Safari at home but, as my wife pointed out, quite expensive for the locals.

Waterman Phileas

Description.

This is a plastic pen, taking Waterman cartridges or a converter. It has a vintage look from its red marbled patterns on the cap and barrel and gold coloured furniture. The cap has a rounded black top, with a sprung metal clip bearing the Waterman logo. There are two gold coloured rings on the cap which add to the elegance. It is a snap cap. The black band next to the gold ring, is stamped with the name Waterman and (on the back), France.

The section is black plastic, tapering slightly towards the nib but with a combination of a smooth area near the nib and a ribbed grip area higher up, which has a comfortable girth of approximately 12mm. I noticed that although the Phileas is discontinued, this section appears to have resurfaced for the new Waterman Embleme fountain pens.

Showing black plastic section with ribbed grip area.

The barrel has two more gold coloured rings but the most elaborate part is an inlaid gold coloured badge with some decorative engraving. This seems to echo the golden area of the bi-colour nib.

Decorative badge on the barrel.

Unscrewing the barrel, on plastic threads, it can be seen that there is a metal liner inside the barrel, for about the rear two thirds of its length, presumably for added weight, strength and to help with balance. There is still room for a converter inside the barrel.

Disassembled.

The cap can be posted, both deeply and securely which I appreciate.

The nib.

The bicolour nib is stainless steel but with a large area of gold coloured plating. It bears the logo and name Waterman, Paris, M, for medium. The nib and the plastic feed are friction fit.

Bi-colour nib.

Size and weight (approximate).

This is a medium sized pen and relatively light weight which should be comfortable for most people. Closed, the pen measures about 136mm; open 126mm and posted 146mm. Weights are about 21g in all (not including a cartridge or converter) comprised as to 14g for the pen and 7g for the cap.

Conclusions.

My vague recollections of the pen when I bought it, are that it was a little disappointing, a bit plasticky and not the best of writers as the nib was smooth but on the dry side. Whatever the reason, I did not make much use of it.

I am glad that I kept it. Recently I got out an old Waterman Kultur, blue demonstrator, which is very similar to the Phileas but with a simpler, less ornamented cap and barrel and an all-silver coloured nib. I was able to tweak the nib of the Kultur to open up the tines and improve ink flow. The result was to rediscover a very enjoyable pen.

And so with the Phileas I performed the same trick, (once again with thanks for SBRE Brown for the old instruction video “How to make a nib wetter in seconds”) bending up the nib just a little to widen the tines and to introduce a glimpse of daylight between them at the tip, for an easier flow of ink without pressure for my lefty overwriting preferences.

Just a little tine-gap widening work.

Perhaps, around 20 years ago, I had looked down on this pen for trying to appear vintage and of better materials than it was made of. But with older eyes and a little more experience to perform some easy nib work, I now appreciate the pen for what it is. Waterman succeeded in producing a pen which had timeless, classic looks (even recalling the decoration of old Waterman Ideal pens) and some elements of feel-good luxury in the gold coloured fittings, but at a modest cost. The metal liner inside the barrel is a particularly nice touch and marks this pen out as a quality tool in its own right. And so whilst I still enjoy buying a new pen, it sometimes pays to keep the old ones too.

The adjusted nib in profile. The upward bend is barely noticeable.

15 thoughts on “A look at the discontinued Waterman Phileas fountain pen.

  1. Lockdown seems to have the same effect on many of us! I have also unearthed some old Waterman pens I seldom use (or had forgotten about). Your Phileas is a very attractive pen, reminding us what great pens that manufacturer produces. I sometime feel Waterman are not ambitious enough, and fail to compete with the brighter coloured, more exciting Visconti or Leonardo pens by continuing to produce very reliable but rather “officey” pens. That said, like you I have “rediscovered” a Burgundy-coloured Waterman Carene my wife bought me many years ago, and am currently playing with a Waterman “Ideal” which has a great 18c gold nib. And I still remain very fond of the Waterman Laureat pens, which appear to have become sought after by collectors.

    Thanks for a very entertaining review!

    Philip

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I have not seen a Carene in Burgundy…it sounds lovely. I have the amber and a dark pink version, both with super medium nibs.
      I see Waterman has some new offerings in the Embleme and the Allure. The Allures have appeared in our local WH Smiths.

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  2. I love Waterman pens and I wouldn’t call my Hemisphere Rose Cuivre officey in the least. I appreciate the reliability and construction quality of the pens from this brand. I keep an eye on the vintage side as well, maybe one day I’ll fall down that rabbit hole.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I noticed the cap located below the decorative badge is removable, which suggests the possible use of an eye dropper fill. Is this possible?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The black end cap can be unscrewed. However I do not think eye-droppering this pen would be advisable. It does not look as though designed for that. There would be a risk of leakage from both ends of the barrel and a risk of ink coming into contact with metal fittings and causing corrosion.

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  4. I have an older Phileas in green. I love the look and feel. But I too, have noticed that it writes quite dry,..so after watching the video you suggested,..I’m heading back to see if I can’t improve the flow ! Thank you for posting this ( I literally stumbled over it today )
    Best regards,
    Randy

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    1. Thankyou! Sometimes a few minutes spent on widening the gap between the tines can transform a dry nib. Recently I did this with an Aurora, using brass shims and even a craft knife to wriggle the tines apart very slightly. This was successful but remember to proceed carefully and check the results frequently. Good luck!

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  5. I just finished playing around this, and had some decent success. But I think that I can work on it some more..maybe with a craft knife as you did. I also do watchmaking, so I have small tools and some skill with small objects. Wish me luck !!!

    Liked by 1 person

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