Saturday, 3 January 2015

Waterman exhibition at Mora Stylos

Visiting Mora Stylos is always a fascinating trip: I've never seen such a massive stock of rarities and beautiful top-tier pens outside a pen show.

This autumn, the shop became even more interesting for pen collectors when it held an exhibition of Waterman pens and memorabilia. (I stupidly didn't take any pictures of the Waterman ink pots, model Waterman lorries and trucks, Waterman advertising, and other goodies on display, and have been regretting it ever since.) Monsieur Mora wrote the book on Waterman ("Waterman 125 ans d'expérience"), so there was a lot of knowledge and care going into the exhibition, and I wasn't disappointed.

I started with the display of early pens. Mainly for budgetary reasons, this isn't my particular interest, though I know enough that when a taper cap Waterman comes my way at a flea market for a few quid, I snap it up. And of course these early pens tend, many of them, to be a bit boring compared, say, to the many colours of the Man 100 - the severity of almost unalloyed black can be disconcerting - but this was quite a display. Once the red and the ripple came in, I was hooked.

There were a few pens that really caught my interest. There was the Waterman 20, in black. There was the Waterman 20, in red. And there was, great Scott! - the Waterman 20 in red ripple.That really is an amazing pen, striped like a tiger in the company of sleek black domestic cats.

Just for good measure there was the 'doll' pen (down in the bottom left corner of the photo).

There was a lovely display of different overlays.  (Confusingly, some of them seem to have different names in French from what we call them in English.) Some official Waterman overlays, and some ridiculously ornate, possibly Italian, overlays of crisp filigree and minute chasing. I particularly like the night-and-day overlay on red ripple - the gold and the red go so well together to create a luxurious and warm effect.

There were a few surprises. Emerald ray, for instance - I caught that out of the corner of my eye and said to myself "That'll be an Ink-Vue, then". No, it wasn't. It was a safety pen. Now to me, safeties are 1920s or before, and 'ray' celluloids are 1930s and later... but there was a marvellous anachronism with the same appeal as, say, a Brad Torelli agate acrylic Parker 51!

I'd never seen these finishes before, either - the Saigon pens, with an eastern design in red lacquer (there was another in green), and the honeycomb pattern in silver with black lacquer. That's one I would love to try recreating.

And eggshell, too. I know a few manufacturers today use eggshell mosaics as part of their urushi ranges, though abalone is much more common, but I never expected to see an early Waterman given such treatment. It is both intensely luxurious, and strangely chaste with its monochrome, matte finish.

Ripples were well represented, with a whole range of the different ripples: red, rose, olive, blue-green. I only have red, the most common, in my own collection. These were stunning, too - Waterman seems to have cornered the market in really strong, curved ripples, while other manufacturers had to make do with a vaguely marbled ebonite that doesn't have the directionality and drama of the Waterman pattern. I particularly like rose ripple, which is just made to have gold furniture - the gold complements the yellow and pink so well. (A conversation on FPN ascertained that MP Kandan of Ranga Pens is now producing rose ripple ebonite pens in India, so I could be adding one of those to my collection this year.)

And some more...

 After ebonite, of course, came celluloid. Easier to find, perhaps, but never easy to find in good colour - many of the colours, particularly the 'Persian', discolour easily. That's not an issue here! Not just one, but three colours of lizard - brown, green and grey - a stunning jade Lady Patricia (one of my favourite pens), and a bleu/creme pen that has such a clean contrast of white and blue it might almost have been a modern acrylic.

I wish there had been more Hundred Year Pens, a design I like very much - but then look at the one in the photo above. A really splendidly transparent green. My three don't look anything like that!

Moving on to modern times, Taperites and Crusaders were not much in evidence, but the CF was represented by a quite impressive collection of different gold and silver finishes. You often see quite acceptable CFs, but the finish on these was perfect, and it makes such a difference; pens absolutely scintillating, bursting with tiny glitters of light. I was most excited, though, to see a pair of CFs that might look to the uninitiated rather boring... one in silver trim, one in gold, a pair of CF demonstrators, in pristine condition.

Incidentally, the CF is a C/F for the American market and a CF in France.

Man 100 was the other pen to receive a whole case pretty much to itself, and this collection included quite a number of prototypes - some different woods, for instance. Again I'm kicking myself for not having taken more pictures - but I don't think pictures could really do justice to the sheer number of different pens, textures, and materials in that case.

Thanks very much Mora Stylos for such a superb exhibition!

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