Classic Pens LB2


Waterman Man 100 Gold "Specimen"

by Jim Mamoulides, April 30, 2004

WatermanWaterman Man 100 Specimen

Top Of The Line

Gold, while not the costliest of precious metals, is the king. Every top line pen manufacturer has produced a flagship model in solid gold. The royalty of pens often carry regal names, like Masterpiece, Presidential, and Command Performance, indicating not only the significance of the pen, but the status of the owner.

Gold and pens were linked even before fountain pens were common. The same qualities that attract jewelers to gold, a tarnish free and easily shaped material, made it an ideal material for pen nibs, called simply "pens" in the late nineteenth century. Many early pen makers made only nibs and contracted for "holders," initially a stem for dipping, and eventually a reservoir for ink. As the fountain pen developed, jewelers lavished elaborate gold overlays on these hard rubber holders and the relationship was cemented. Gold and pen go together.

Over the last hundred years, pen manufacturers crowned their lines with solid gold or solid gold overlay pens, often derived from their leading lines. The base pen would be redone in solid gold, including the cap, barrel, and clip, and in some pens, the section, lever, and other secondary parts as well. These became the dream pens, costing many multiples of the base model.

WatermanWaterman Man 100 Specimen

Solid gold models representing the top of a pen line really came to the fore in the 1940s. The 1944 Eversharp Skyline 14 karat solid gold Command Performance sold for US $75.00, many multiples of the US $5.00 price of the popular striped cap plastic models. A standard all-plastic Sheaffer pen from 1949, the Valiant, sold for US $12.50. The solid 14 karat gold Masterpiece model from the same year sold for US $100.00. In both cases, all the metal parts of these pens were solid gold or a solid gold overlay onto a plastic base. Parker added its Presidential model to the 51 line in 1949 following the switchover to the Aerometric filling system.


A Hundred Years In The Making

Waterman celebrated its centennial in 1983 with the introduction of the Man 100 pen and an advertising campaign dubbed Watermania. Company literature quotes Francine Gomez, the third generation female leader of the company saying, "For a hundred years, we have been professionals in the writing industry, nobody will argue with that."

WatermanWaterman Man 100 Specimen

The Man 100 line began with a large black plastic pen, 5 5/8 inches long capped, with gold plated trim and a large two-tone 18 karat gold nib with the "IDEAL" marking. The design of the pen combined elements of the tubular hard rubber pens of the early history of the company with a new version of the C/F clip, borrowing an element of post-modern Waterman design, to create a new and elegant large pen.

The Man 100 was a great success, encouraging Waterman to continuously expanded the line, adding new materials and finishes. In 1985, Waterman introduced the Opera, with its machine turned guilloche finish, a nod to early chased hard rubber pens. The first of several limited editions based on the Man 100 was released in 1985, an edition of 5,000 solid sterling silver pieces. Two of three wood models, in briar and macassar wood, were released in 1987, with olive wood following in 1988.

Or Massif

With the Man 100 line fully established, it was time for the pièce de résistance, a solid gold model. Waterman chose a heavily fluted Godron design for the new pen, set for 1988 release. Waterman elected to make the premier pen in both solid sterling silver and solid 18 karat gold, in both pen and twist action ballpoint versions. All elements of the the gold pen would be hallmarked 18 karat gold, including the cap, section, barrel, end cap and clip.

WatermanWaterman Man 100 Specimen

For such an extravagant pen, intended for customers who don't ask about prices, the initial price was £5,000, or US $10,000, a truly princely sum. Thus, the solid gold Man 100 entered the market as the most expensive regular line pen offered.

Not Your Father's Demonstrator

Such a pen would not be a stock item at the thousands of locations where Waterman pens were offered. Waterman has a very broad line, from school pens on up, and most retailers would be selling the standard and entry lines, leaving the high end items to jewelers and boutiques. Who would sink the kind of money into a solid gold pen that would likely sit around for that chance well heeled customer? And that customer likely would not likely buy a pen that had been handled.

Since this king of pens would most likely be a made to order item, high end dealers needed something they could use to demonstrate what the "real" pen would look like.

WatermanWaterman Man 100 Specimen showing the "SPECIMEN" stamp on the cap and barrel

Waterman devised a clever way to demonstrate the pen, creating a look alike pen in gold plate, with all the pieces marked "SPECIMEN," both to distinguish it as a demonstration pen and to avoid any unsavory attempts at sale. The pen represents the solid gold pen in every way. Every detail is present. It's a beautifully rendered official fake.

The prospective customer could try this pen at the dealer to get the full impression of how the final pen would look and feel. The dealer would not have to worry about loss of value, as this pen could be safely handled. The small bumps and scuffs from use would not affect its ability to mimic the original and, after all, it's a sales tool. Being fully functional, the pen would also serve as a writing demonstrator, allowing the customer to get a taste for the writing quality that awaited them. The solid gold pen could then be ordered, and the Specimen could be returned to its display, to entice another wealthy client.

WatermanWaterman Man 100 Specimen

Because this is a demonstrator pen, it was not a catalog item for resale. I was unable to find out the pricing dealers had to pay for this pen, but I would assume it would be in the range of a sterling model, and at dealer cost.

WatermanWaterman Man 100 Specimen cap detail


If you are even slightly attracted to gold, seeing the very large Waterman Man 100 done in an all gold deep Godron pattern will grab your attention. It is hard to imagine that the real thing looks better than this.

This demonstrator, this Specimen, an interesting choice of name, is a very large and heavy pen, much like the solid silver models, and heavier than the regular line. I'm particularly impressed that the top of the cap, the end of the barrel and the section are all done in gold, and that the section and end cap continue the Godron design to each end of the barrel.

Even with all that shiny gold, the Godron pattern breaks up the light like facets on a stone, giving a lot of visual appeal. This also translates well in the hand, as the pattern is always at your fingertips, giving a good writer's grip and the feeling extends to every place your hand touches the pen. This pen feels great in the hand!

This is a very large pen at 5 5/8 inches long capped and a very long 6 3/4 inches posted. It posts with a very positive snap on the end of the barrel. The cap is secure, a feature I really like in the Man 100 design. The cap also snaps just as securely onto the section. The clip is mounted high on the cap, and the pen will only ride low in a long pocket. It's weight will bend light material, but people who buy the solid gold pen are probably wearing starched shirts. For a demonstrator, it's very well constructed, as expected when representing the pinnacle Man 100, and is very heavy.

WatermanWaterman Man 100 Specimen cap and nib detail

The pen is fitted with the early 18 karat two-tone rhodium plated nib which is engraved with the "IDEAL" trademark. The nib is more responsive and flexible than later Man 100 nibs. It's very smooth, and with a little pressure, the tines will spread just enough to add some expressiveness to the line. This was a pleasant surprise. I also have an early black Man 100 with the same nib, and it has the same semi-flexible characteristics, so this may have reflected early thinking on the Man 100 nibs. Later nibs are definitely stiff.

I imagine that Man 100 "Specimen" pens are not at all common, and may have been limited to a certain number of high end Waterman retailers. That may not translate into high value, but the pen does reflect the cachet of the solid gold model. Since the "SPECIMEN" markings aren't strongly intrusive, the illusion presented by this pen lasts. This is the costume jewelry of the high end pen world! The difference being that it's actually the real thing, a official mock-up made by Waterman, which is much better than a fake Rolex, and it won't turn your arm green!



Grateful thanks to Stanley Klemanowicz for loaning the beautiful Waterman Man 100 gold "Specimen" pen. Stan was not only kind enough to loan the pen, but supplied lots of background and research information.


Comments on this article may be sent to the author, Jim Mamoulides Bibliography

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