Monday, December 20, 2021

REVIEW: NEW PARKER 51 FOUNTAIN PEN

REVIEW: NEW (MODERN) PARKER 51 FOUNTAIN PEN
As expected, the reintroduction of the Parker 51 caused quite a stir within the community. It took me quite a while to get my thoughts about it in line, but I think -perhaps somewhat unexpectedly- my overall impression of the new version is quite a bit more positive than you might expect. I actually think it's a pretty successful hommage to the original in many (not all) ways. This modern version is more than capable of holding its own, and I think it was to be expected that it wouldn't just be a carbon copy of the vintage model. In fact, I'd even go out on a limb and say that I really like and even prefer some of the changes Parker made in the modern version. 
REVIEW: NEW (MODERN) PARKER 51 FOUNTAIN PEN
L to R: Vintage P51 gold-filled, modern P51 Deluxe, Vintage P51 'Lustraloy', modern P51
Designwise, Parker stayed pretty true to the original. Between the standard version with brushed steel cap, and the 'Deluxe' with gold-plated details, the designs perfectly mimic the two vintage P51 (both aerometrics) I own: one with guilloche gold-filled cap and one with the 'Lustraloy' brushed steel cap. Especially from afar, you'd be forgiven for not being able to distinguish between the old and new. 
REVIEW: NEW (MODERN) PARKER 51 FOUNTAIN PEN
Modern Parker 51 on the left, the slightly shorter vintage P51 on the right.
There are some things that give it away, though: the dimensions didn't change too much, but the new 51 did get ever so slightly longer. The barrel takes up all of that extra length, creating a different cap-to-body ratio. This longer barrel gives the impression of a much larger pen, even though in reality it's not that big of a difference. 

The second dead-giveaway is the clip, which is now the more modern arrow interpretation that Parker uses on most of their current pens. I have to admit it's not as nice as the vintage arrow, and I find that the vintage-inspired design of the 51 would've warranted an equally vintage-inspired clip to go along with it. 
REVIEW: NEW (MODERN) PARKER 51 FOUNTAIN PEN
One of the major differences between the original and new 51 is the switch towards a threaded cap. Called almost a blasphemy by some, I actually think it's an improvement over the original. At least in the condition that original vintage P51's are in at this point -often well-used throughout the years- I'm not a particularly big fan of how the clutch-style cap works. On both my vintage pens, the cap feels mushy and it's hard to tell if it clicked on properly or not. The screw-cap at least leaves that guessing work out of the equation, and you can be certain that it's always on securely. No risk of accidental uncapping and an inky mess. As an aesthetic nod to the original design, a metal ring just below the threads mimics the original clutch ring of the vintage 51. 
REVIEW: NEW (MODERN) PARKER 51 FOUNTAIN PEN
A vintage P51 on the left and the modern version on the right
Despite the cap finial of the modern P51 really just being a single part, the stepped shape and 'jewel' insert somewhat recreates the look of the vintage. More precisely, it's inspired by the first generations of the Parker 51. The metal 'jewel' finial is actually surprisingly historically correct, as the very first P51's came with an aluminum jewe! 
REVIEW: NEW (MODERN) PARKER 51 FOUNTAIN PEN
REVIEW: NEW (MODERN) PARKER 51 FOUNTAIN PEN
L to R: Parker IM, vintage Parker 51, modern P51, modern P51 deluxe, Pelikan M805, Lamy 2000, Lamy Safari
Of course the original Parker 51 -as with many vintage pens- isn't a terribly large pen. The modern 51 measures 14 cm (5.51") when capped, which is about 4 mm longer than the vintage. 
REVIEW: NEW (MODERN) PARKER 51 FOUNTAIN PEN
When uncapped, the modern Parker 51 (Left) is a bit shorter than its vintage counterpart!
Surprisingly, the roles are reversed when uncapped: here, the modern P51 is 4 mm shorter, coming in at just 12,3 cm (4.84"). Though of course, the hooded nib allows you to grip the P51 much closer towards the front, so it remains usable unposted. For those that do like a slightly longer pen, just like its vintage counterpart, the new P51 posts very securely and balanced. The modern P51 has a comfortable section diameter around 10 mm where you hold it, but it is of course still a rather skinny pen for modern standards. The entire pen is lightweight, coming in at around 20 grams total. 
REVIEW: NEW (MODERN) PARKER 51 FOUNTAIN PEN
Top: the modern P51 takes a regular Parker converter, Bottom: a vintage P51 aerometric captured converter.
The c/c filling system was obviously to be expected. Parker hasn't been doing aerometric-style (or for that matter, Vacumatic pump-filler) mechanisms for years at this point. As their brand name positions them in the market to cater towards a wide audience, not just the die-hard enthusiasts, it makes sense that they put their money on c/c filling systems. Not that I think cartridges or converters should be seen as a lesser option, as they remain a very accessible and practical option for everyday use. 

What I DO find a really bad oversight on Parker's end, is that a pen this price really should come with a converter included in the box. As it stands now, only the Deluxe version gets one as standard. There's really no excuse for not including a converter with a 90€ pen, and then charging a ridiculous 8 to 10 extra euros for one. Rant over.
REVIEW: NEW (MODERN) PARKER 51 FOUNTAIN PEN
The nib, then. From what I can tell, it does indeed look like the nibs are Parker's standard semi-tubular nibs (and feeds) that were used in the previous iterations of the IM, Vector, Jotter, and some other sub-100$ models. But precisely what nib is being used doesn't really matter that much to me, what matters is how it performs. 
REVIEW: NEW (MODERN) PARKER 51 FOUNTAIN PEN
Despite some people's criticism of the new nib not being true to the original design (Left), I don't think the old and new are that dissimilar from a visual perspective. Only the shape of the hood is slightly less pointy on the modern version (Right).
The steel-nibbed standard version is a capable writer, but nothing particular to write home about. It's a stiff nib with a noticeable amount of feedback (though not scratchy). It's a very responsive writer, despite the tipping seemingly having a slight bit of baby's bottom. The gold-nibbed Deluxe version is a slightly different beast though. Despite both test pens having medium nibs, the 18k gold nib writes at least a solid half size wider than the steel one - the steel nib being more true to a western medium IMHO. The gold nib remains stiff due to the hooded construction, but you can still feel the slight softness in the gold alloy despite not getting any line variation out of it. The gold nib is also noticeably smoother, with a more subtle hint of feedback. Where the steel nib is reliable but a bit bland, the gold nib on the Deluxe is much more interesting to write with and even has a slightly stubby tipping shape that offers some line variation.
REVIEW: NEW (MODERN) PARKER 51 FOUNTAIN PEN
What I did find particularly noticeable, and even a bit bothersome is that both nibs seem to have a particularly fussy and narrow sweet spot in how you rotate the nib. And that effect seems to be magnified by the fact that the hooded nib sort of obstructs your view. So it is sometimes tricky to see the orientation of the nib properly. 

The caps have some interesting air holes embedded in the cap finials, but those don't seem to negatively affect the nib drying out all that much. While you can find a slight hard start from time to time, it never really dries out over longer periods of time, and usually starts right up again. 
REVIEW: NEW (MODERN) PARKER 51 FOUNTAIN PEN
The new Parker 51 comes in at 90€ (around 100$), which is a fair price but as I said it should come with a converter included. The gold-nibbed Parker 51 Deluxe goes for 259€, which is a substantial premium for a gold nib and a slightly more elaborately finished cap. However, the 18k nib does add a lot to the writing experience. My gut feeling says that the Deluxe version would be a better deal around the 200€ mark, where it could compete with the Lamy 2000 as a more classic-styled alternative. 

This product was sent to me by Parker so I could write this review. I was in no way influenced in the making of this review, the opinions shared in this review are completely my own! This post does not contain affiliate links.

6 comments:

  1. Market prices are significantly lower already and the Deluxe might be one of the cheapest gold nibbed pens you can get right now.
    Nice review and I agree, the new 51s are much better than their reputation.

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    1. Exactly! If you look around a bit, these can be had for a great deal, especially the Deluxe version is a great buy when you can get it at a discounted price!

      Thanks for reading!

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  2. Those air holes under the finial are a killer for me, I'll never buy a Parker pen with these. I had an IM with a giant slit under the clip, and a Sonnet with those finial air holes, and both of them dried out if I left them more than 2 days without writing. Not worth the trouble to me!

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    1. As I mentioned in my review, I didn't really find those vent holes negatively impacted the pens drying out. I did get some hard starts now and then, but over the course of several days (weeks even), they'd never really dry out.

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  3. I have to agree, these pens are a modern homage to the original iconic 51. To criticise the adoption of a cartridge/convertor filling system is a nonsense. The same was levelled at the previous S/E edition in 2002, well look what has happened to those models !! I have both of them Vista Blue and Black versions and they have been fantastic. I'm sure in time the new 2001 models will accrue a similar reputation, I actually use my pens, and already very much like the new versions which are in daily use and I have no complaints so far. Yours is about the most honest review I have seen so far, and at least it comes from a person qualifies to make a sensible assessment, unlike some of the 'reviewers' I have looked at......

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    1. Absolutely! I deliberately waited a while with my review, until the dust settled on the initial madness around this pen... I think opinions in general have already become a bit more nuanced, showing that it certainly isn't all bad as some would suggest in the past. Sure, the vintage P51 is a fantastic pen for its age, but one has to be able to admit that it isn't without its flaws either! But then again, our hobby is centered around personal tastes and very subtle preferences, so you'll always find pro's and cons...

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