Founded in 1911, Sailor are a Japanese brand known for being one of the first brands to start releasing fountain pens with gold nibs. Like the majority of Japanese fountain pen brands, Sailor have built up a reputation for producing well built, aesthetically pleasing, elite fountain pens. Sailor's Professional Gear aims to be an improvement upon the Sailor 1911, their most popular fountain pen to date.
Body material: Plastic Resin
Nib material: 21 Karat gold
Filling system: Proprietary cartridge/converter
Length (capped): 12.9 cm
Length (uncapped): 11.6cm
Length (posted): 15cm
Weight: 25.5 g
Weight (cap): 8.5 g
Sailor have released various editions of the Sailor Pro Gear, featuring different designs, colour schemes and limited edition aesthetic additions. It's largely going to come down to personal preference for which one you choose. However, their extremely popular imperial black edition looks a touch more premium than the rest. The matte black acrylic is contrasted by a Ruthenium trim to give the pen a stylish and classy aesthetic.
There are a few subtle decorations along the pen to further give the impression to its user that it's an elite pen. For example, the cap sports a very small and narrow silver band which has "Sailor Japan Founded 1911" deeply engraved upon it. Similar to how there are lots of differently designed editions for the Pro Gear, there are a range of nibs that you can choose from; there are two-tone nibs, bi-colour nibs, standard 21 Karat gold nibs, 14 karat gold nibs and black plated nibs. As you would expect, the Imperial black edition sports a black plated nib to go with the overall theme of the pen. This was a great inclusion, to keep the pen looking as stylish as possible.
(Photo taken by M Dreibelbis from Cleveland Ohio, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)
A lot of premium fountain pen's are let down by cheap and tacky packaging, Sailor have made sure that this is not the case with the Pro Gear. Their Pro Gear comes in a fancy, solid blue box with a singular Sailor Logo stamped upon it. The actual pen lies on a velvet bed covered in ribbons. This makes for a great unboxing experience, deserving of such a great fountain pen.
If there's one area in which Japanese fountain pens tend to stand out in, it's their extremely high-level of manufacturing. The Sailor Pro Gear is no different, it's very well-built with very few drawbacks. Firstly, the matte black, acrylic-made barrel feels sturdy and robust; it's going to have to take some extreme action to do any significant damage to it. The clip does an exceptional job at staying clipped to even the most awkward of materials. The clip rarely feels like it's going to fall off and feels very securely attached to the body. As for the cap, Sailor have made sure to include an inner cap sleeve to prevent the nib from drying out. An excellent addition to improve the pen's longevity.
The only drawback to the Pro Gear's construction quality is it's barrel tends to pick up prominent scratches. As previously mentioned, the body does well to feel sturdy and rarely picks up any significant damage to it; however extremely small, light scratches tend to look prominent on the Acrylic material. This problem can be mitigated through being cautious when using and storing the Sailor Pro Gear.
As you can see from the measurements in the Specs section of this review, the Sailor Pro Gear is on the shorter and lighter side of the majority of premium fountain pens. Because of how light it is, writing for longer periods of time is a joy with the Pro Gear. You don't get that tiring, heavy feeling that you do with most heavier fountain pens when writing for extended periods; instead the Pro Gear is as joyful to write with at the end as it is at the start.
Sailor have done an exceptional job at distributing the weight of the pen, especially when posted. Due to how short the Pro Gear is, many consumers are going to look to keep this pen posted to give it an average length. Sailor have recognised this and have done a phenomenal job at making the Pro Gear as comfortable as possible when posted.
Lastly, the Pro Gear wears a well-tapered, resin grip. It balances being smooth with having just the right amount of texture to ensure that it doesn't become overly slippery when the user's hand starts to get sweaty. All in all, the Sailor Pro Gear is delightful to hold.
Sailor were the very first brand to include 21 karat gold nibs in their fountain pens. Sticking to tradition, many of the variants of the Pro Gear sport this 21 karat gold nib. 21 karat gold nibs have a reputation for being extremely stiff and rigid, it can almost be like writing with a nail. However, this is not the case with the Pro Gear, the 21 karat gold nibs on the Pro Gear are on the softer side and have a nice bounce to them.
Despite them being on the softer side, the nib shows no signs of flexibility. No matter how much pressure you apply, you're only going to get a very minimal amount of line variation. On the flip side, these nibs have a great and consistent flow to them; rarely will you encounter any hard-starting or skipping from this pen. It's not a buttery-smooth writing experience as there is still an average amount of feedback when writing but overall the writing performance is far above average.
A drawback to purchasing the Sailor Pro Gear is it only utilises Sailor's proprietary ink cartridge's and converters. Fortunately, the packaging does include both a cartridge and converter. However, finding another cartridge or converter can be a serious headache due to them having to be shipped from Japan in most cases.
On the up side, fountain pens that use a cartridge/converter system are much easier to clean than those that use a piston-flling system. Therefore, the whole cleaning process for this pen will only take a few minutes or so due to it's simplistic dissembling and assembling process.
To conclude, despite being priced at over £200, it would be wise to give the Sailor Pro Gear a thorough look at if you're looking at purchasing a premium fountain pen; it provides great aesthetics, strong construction quality and good writing performance.