Most of my collection (I would hazard a guess at 80%) consists of modern pens. I have increased the number of vintage pens in my collection considerably recently; it was Mabie Todd that pushed me in the waters (those damn swans..!) that I initially only dipped my toes in. Despite my initial aversion to vintage pens (the sacs and the maintenance put me off), the Skyline was a pen that I really wanted in my collection, because the aesthetic just did something to me.
I have a soft spot for quirky designs. I also really enjoy traditional and conservative ones, however. So if a pen is able to retain some level of “traditional” aesthetic (whatever that may be) while pushing the boat out a bit, the more I’m gonna love it. This is why I like demonstrators, the Diplomat Aero and Pilot Capless (as a fountain pen) and amongst others: the Skyline is one of the others. The tapered body and the cap just looks amazing to me and is why I needed it in my collection.
Despite my initial ignorance (as I thought this pen was in reference to a city skyline), the design of this pen is a nod towards Henry Dreyfuss’ streamlined design of the New York locomotives. Which made me, in hindsight, even more excited to own this pen as I do have quite a soft spot for trains (mainly London Underground, though). I know next to nothing about engineering – I took A level physics but that’s not even touching upon the intricacies of the subject. But I love trains nevertheless, so when I discovered the real reason behind the inspiration of the design of this pen, I was even happier owning it.
The pen has a number of designs, and there could be a write up just on the various colour schemes etc. in itself, so I won’t be going that deep. The one I have is blue with gold furniture – being vintage it is a bit beaten up… Though some may prefer to refer to it as character.
The clip is also fascinating. While most clips are on the side of the cap, this one actually “wraps round the head”, which I think is a fairly decent description of it. I’m not sure if it looks futuristic or retro, so I quite like the juxtaposition really. I suppose that makes it “retro” – if you consider the same description could be used for the Parker 51.
The nib is a 14k vintage gold nib. People often go on about “gold vintage flex”, but they forgot there were nibs that were, relatively speaking, rather stiff. This is one of those nibs, for sure. I would like it to have a bit more give to it – but perhaps that’s for my next Skyline purchase (oh no).
A characteristic of the vintage era nibs is that they had the heart shaped breather hole – I have said before that I find this rather gimmicky and a bit silly. So what I love even more about this pen is that there’s no heart shaped breather hole! Instead, what is referred to as the “tear drop” nib. I think pictures do it more justice. Something about painting a thousand words, right?
The nib writes very fine. That’s because I ground it down myself. Initially it was a stub medium – I’m not sure if this is a factory standard or not, but the nib wrote well nevertheless. I just prefer finer nibs and because I started using this pen quite a lot, I thought it would suit a very very fine nib. It writes very well – even if I do say so myself. The nib was, and remains, very wet. But not a firehose – which I’m very content with. A short writing sample can be found below this paragraph, but a longer normal writing one at the very end of the review. I didn’t include reverse writing because I ground this myself and I also imagine it to be very unpleasant and didn’t want to try and potentially risk damage. Can never be too careful! Here’s an image of the flex, or lack thereof.
The vintage models work on a lever and sac mechanism. Very standard if you’re used to most vintage pens. Simply pull on the lever while the nib is submerged into a bottle of ink (must use bottled ink and not cartridges) which will compress the sac – push the lever back in so it’s flush with the barrel and the sac will decompress and draw up ink into the sac for you to use. Unfortunately you can’t see, or have much of an indication, to how much ink capacity you have left so if you’re planning on going out and having a long writing session then either have a second pen handy or a bottle of ink (and cloth!) packed with you.
A version of the Skyline was released recently (relatively speaking; it was at least in this century!) which uses a cartridge/converter mechanism to fill. It also comes in a bloody beautiful blue. So I think this is a pen in which I may endure customs charges and order from America because I quite like it – it’s called the “Tecknik”. If you don’t want to faff around with sacs and potential restorations, this is a good call. Though, you won’t get the old style nib which is a shame.
Because of the streamlined design, this pen sits incredibly comfortably in the hand. In fact, it’s quite similar to a desk pen – minus the sheer length. No need to cap the pen and it’s nicely weighted: I prefer heavier pens so it could perhaps do with a bit more in the back, but I don’t have any real complaints from a usability point of view. Vintage pens aren’t generally very heavy in the first place.
Would I buy it?
Yes – and I’ll probably buy another to add to my collection as well in the future. I’m particularly taken by the blue and gold (what a surprise) Technik model, but I’d be tempted to fit in a vintage (Eversharp or otherwise) nib into it.
If not this, then what?
This is difficult. Firstly you have to ask yourself why you’re looking at this pen: the price or because it’s vintage? The closest substitute to this is the Technik range.
If you’re looking for vintage pens, then anything is a good shout so long as either it’s restored or you’re willing to do restoration yourself (which is fun!). I thoroughly recommend Mabie Todd nibs though. If you’re looking for vintage but are on a budget then you may wish to consider the Esterbrook J series. Vintage, though. Not modern. A bit of controversy regarding the modern versions in regards to where and how they’re made.
It’s difficult to recommend other pens due to price as well, mainly because the prices for these pens range by quite a lot.
I really think that this is a pen that people should look to have in their collection – even if they’re not into vintage. It goes hand in hand with other big players in vintage collections such as the Parker 51 and the Vac.