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Pilot Pens

In 1918, Japanese engineers Ryosuke Namiki and Masao Wada founded the Namiki Manufacturing Company in Tokyo, Japan. Namiki, who had been a professor at the Tokyo Merchant Marine college, quit his job to manufacture gold fountain pen nibs. Wanting to perfect fountain pen design, he came up with his own prototype pen that he and Wada began manufacturing. Both colleagues shared a passion for the sea, so they named the prototype pen Pilot after the Japanese fleet's flagship. The company still operates today as the Pilot Corporation.

Pilot fountain pens are famous for their Namiki pen brand, which features Maki-e designs. Maki-e is an ancient Japanese method of applying multiple layers of lacquer decorated with colored pigments, powders, flakes of gold and silver, and thin slivers of abalone shell. These pens take months to produce and popular designs sell for thousands of dollars.

Pilot is also known for its Capless fountain pen first produced in 1964. This pen features a retractable nib, eliminating the need for a cap. The pen was renamed Vanishing Point in 1972. Some collectors specialize in collecting this specific brand of Pilot vintage fountain pen.

Quick Facts

  • Each Namiki Maki-e fountain pen is crafted by an individual artist. The pen may go through the lacquering process as many as 130 times before it is finished. Each pen is signed by the artist who crafted it
  • The rarest Pilot fountain pens are those made by Namiki in cooperation with Alfred Dunhill Ltd. of London in the '20s and '30s. A rakucho and cherry blossoms Maki-e fountain pen sold at a Bonham's auction in 2014 for $47,500
  • A Pilot Vanishing Point Carbonesque fountain pen in red sold at auction in 2014 for $276.75

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