Sailor Fatigue

It took me quite a while to get into Sailor pens. I didn’t buy my first until October 2019 — 2 ¾ years after buying my first fountain pen. Not gonna lie, I’m still pretty pleased with that initial Sailor purchase — the Tequila Sunrise. It was, is, a worthy first Sailor purchase.

I’ve bought 13 more Sailor pens since then, all in the Pro Gear family, 10 of which I’ve kept. Not a bad ratio, and compared to my total pen purchases, not too terribly many. However, it does encompass the most fountain pens I’ve purchased of the same general model. It ties with TWSBI 580s, at 11, for most fountain pens I own of the same general model.

To be honest, I’d likely own more Sailor Pro Gears if they were less expensive and more easily purchased. But, fairly often, the ones I found interesting were from super small runs through stores that don’t sell online. And we all know what eBay sellers do to prices. But I digress…

Cocktail 10th Anniversary Collection

My four most recently acquired Sailors were from the 10th anniversary re-release of the cocktail series. Let me say, up front, that I feel Sailor (or perhaps Itoya, as the US distributor) seriously bungled that release.

When it was first announced, the lack of differentiation between the pens in this release and the originals surprised me. I remember thinking that collectors, those who valued the collection for its collectibility, would be pissed off — and rightly so — that so many more identical pens would be available. But, since I had no intention of buying a multi-thousand dollar 10-pen set, I didn’t pay too much attention.

It didn’t take long, however, for people to start setting up group buys for the series. After all, divided by 10, the price was reasonable, even with shipping. After a bit of an internal debate, I signed up for 2 group buys, hoping to get the 2017 Après Ski and 2016 Blue Lagoon. I wasn’t so lucky, but I did get the 2012 Mojito and 2014 Picadilly Night which are also quite nice. NOTE: I was eventually able to snag a Blue Lagoon (see below) and Jim, the sweetheart, got me an Après Ski from Stilo e Stile for Christmas.

Oh, You Wanted an Easy Way to Buy One?

The next annoyance came with the announcement that select US retailers would be selling the pens individually. It would have been nice to know that up front. All the work various people had undertaken to set up group buys could have been avoided. Well, maybe. Come to think of it, Sailor fanatics likely would have organized group buys anyway to ensure they got the pens they wanted.

But, for some reason, all of the stores were selling the cocktail series pens at different times. I missed out on the Blue Lagoon from Dromgoole’s and Goldspot. I’d set a phone reminder for Goulet, only to find out they were moving the release back. Anderson Pens listed their pens on time, but never listed the Blue Lagoon. I put in a “Notify me When it’s Back in Stock” request, and that’s the ONLY reason I got one. Randomly, a couple of days before Goulet’s updated release day, I got a notification that the Blue Lagoon was in stock and snapped one up.

I understand that the pens are collectors items at this point, and that everyone — including vile, disgusting scalpers — want one or more, but it shouldn’t be such a nightmare to get your hands on a pen. I’m going to venture into the territory of conjecture.

I’m guessing a lot of the release issues were caused by COVID shipping delays. Understandable. But similar issues had been going on for months. Surely some lessons could have been learned from previous releases? Maybe make sure all the pens for an order are in hand at Itoya before telling retailers to list the pens? I’m assuming Sailor ships to Itoya, who ships to retailers, because otherwise, what does Itoya do?

Anyway, I’m rambling at this point, so let’s move on, shall we?

You Thought We Were Done?

I can’t, for the life of me, find references now to the Kure Azure being the last cocktail series pen. However, when it was announced, everyone “knew” it was the last pen. And the release of the 10th Anniversary series seemed to reinforce that. It was the “wrap up” set; it ended the series with a bang.

But then the Negroni was announced and released. I don’t remember, now, precisely when in the timeline it was, but I believe it was before the actual arrival of the 10th anniversary set. I think it was after the Kure Azure was released, but still, a new cocktail series pen. After the 10th anniversary “wrap up” set. Why have a “finale” set if you’re going to keep going?

Bubble Burst

I don’t know why that bothered me as much as it did. But it’s like my Sailor bubble popped. The Sailor price increase announcement certainly did nothing to renew my interest. I thought I may want the next “outer space” pen, the blue green nebula, but it did nothing for me. It actually annoyed me further. We’ve had three pens from that series with opaque resin and silver trim, and now they’re releasing a transparent pen with gold trim? Just nope. Even the recent beautiful translucent pink Japan LE pen with rose gold trim didn’t move me enough to try to buy it. And don’t even get me started on the “Pen of the Year” that looks like a cross between the Pelikan Star Ruby and Platinum Carnelian.

Sailor Pen of the Year 2021 looking in the Mirror of Erised seeing "mom" and "dad" Pelikan M200 Star Ruby and Platinum #3776 Century Carnelian
I made this when I saw the Pen of the Year. It was my first thought.

Sailor fatigue has well and truly set in for me. I don’t know if it will last, but I hope it will. I don’t feel the pens are worth it at the new price. They’re injection molded resin, after all. Indie pen and blank makers are making amazing pens and blanks that blow Sailor’s offerings out of the water at a fraction of the cost. You could practically recreate a sailor with many indie makers, or have Sailor-shaped pens made in much more interesting materials.

Now that I’ve likely upset the Sailor fans, I should wrap this up. How fares your Sailor bubble? Just starting, still growing, or already burst?

TLDR: Let’s just say I don’t see myself buying a Sailor pen anytime soon.

5 thoughts

  1. I agree with your take on Sailor. My “Sailor Bubble” has been much smaller than yours. I started with a plain ivory plastic 1911 with the 14K nib; a forgettable pen. Then I got a Classic Pens CP7 Atlantic with the 21K nib in broad; very nice. But most of what makes it great is that it is a super-elegant sterling silver holder for the typically lovely Sailor nib.

    I was in on a Cocktail Series group buy too. I got the Black Velvet and the Piccadilly Nights. They were nice enough, but I sold the Piccadilly because I thought the Black Velvet was prettier and that I didn’t need both. The Black Velvet had a dry, scratchy nib that required some work. I believe a number of folks have experienced QC issues with the nibs on the Cocktail pens. This is another demerit for Sailor.

    Finally I got an ebonite King of Pen direct from Japan. I heard about the coming price increase and wanted to get one before it goes out of reach. The nib is wonderful and the ebonite is beautifully polished. But when this pen retails for $1200+ after the increase and it still is limited to a thimble-sized converter, I can’t see the value proposition in that.

    I’m not going to get rid of any of my remaining Sailors, but I also have no plans to buy any more.

    1. I don’t plan to get rid of any of the Sailors that are currently on my “keep” list. But I think if any future Sailor catches my eye, I’m going to make myself sell one of my other ones in order to get it.

  2. Rachel, you are so spot on with ALL of this.

    I’ve had “Sailor Fatigue” for a while because all the US pens are terrible. Period. I’m sorry, but as a marketer and a product developer, you don’t make things because “YOU” think they’re pretty or it’s someone’s favorite color combo (unless they’re a celebrity or someone recognizable via social media) at the company…you give the customers what they want by asking them, tracking what they’re buying, or spotting trends on social media. Releasing products and Marketing is not some Enigma. It’s a science. 🤬

    And the non US editions are hard to get. I was so turned off when Noble released the Black Cat Pro Gear and I couldn’t get my hands on it. Now every time I go to buy a Sailor, I think of how disappointed I was and angry that the pen showed up for $1200 on eBay the next day.

    And the recent 10-20% price increase because they’ve never done it before. I call bull shit. I call bull shit so hard I may have peed myself a little. Now a pro gear slim is close in pricing to a regular pro gear. Daqfaq?

    Honestly. I am done with Sailor for the time being. I’ll continue to use their inks because they finally got their shit together and released the Ink Studio line in the US. But other than that, we’re on a break.

    And thank you for letting me rant. Please send the therapy invoice to my email. 😂

  3. Rachel, You are 100% 🎯 on with this post. The choices for the NA are questionable. It’s like someone is throwing darts at a dart board now. Making pens based on your favorite colors is cute for your Etsy store but not for a multinational corporation. We went form boring AF to random AF.

    The price increase is the most crazy thing. People don’t realize the designs for these Sailor pens hasn’t changed in a decade aside from the colorway, sparkles, finial, and occasional nib stamp. Zero R&D aside from the nib stamp. The R&D for these base pens has paid for itself more than a few times by now. To use gold prices as the rational for a price increase is laughable because I checked and the cost of gold hasn’t gone up as much as Sailor’s have increased in the last 10 years. I think people are so new to the hobby that they don’t have a point of reference as to how much the prices have gone up multiple times in the last decade. That excuse is BS.

    So you want more money? Where are the new designs? and I’m not talking about adding sparkle or changing the color of your plastic *facepalm* Where is the piston KOP? They made one called the 95 for their anniversary so it’s possible. The cost of making a plastic tube with a CC is a fraction of actually designing a new body and adding the complexity of a piston. SO… The cost of making the body of a Pro Gear Slim vs a King of Pen is only fractional more aside from the nib. And the nib price difference for these is NO where nearly as much as the actual price difference.

    So why? By raising the prices on new pens they are killing a portion of their market. I’m saying this and I own three King of Pens, a PG, and a 1911L. Unless the color combination of the pen is a home run, I will no longer buy Sailor pens and I was buying more than one a year. Bye…. I also know that you can purchase the base models that have not increased in price *yet* and use the nibs on other pens and customs. Just a heads up for peeps Sailor will discontinue the regular line and reintroduce them with slight changes, a new SKU and higher price.

    Don’t get me started on the Japan only models… My favorite thing is the Japan sell out before anyone can buy one through a seller and then they appear on ebay within 24 hours for twice the price by scalpers.

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