According to legend (and the Sailor website) a British sailor visiting Japan in 1911 introduced a fountain pen to Mr. Kyugoro Sakata, a local engineer from Hiroshima. Mr. Sakata was so impressed by the design and concept that he started his own pen company, named after the sailor that introduced the pen.
Fast-forward a hundred years and Sailor is now one of the most well-regarded fountain pen companies in the world. Sailor produces a remarkable range of products, from entry-level pens for the casual notetaker to stunning works of art that can take months for an expert craftsman to make. Sailor’s nibs, in particular, are renowned for being the best of the best—beautifully designed and well-tuned with excellent flow.
A Sailor pen has been at the top of my wish list ever since I got started in this hobby in 2016, but their price has always been an obstacle in the U.S. market—their cheapest gold-nib pens start at ~$150, while their flagship models—sized more appropriately for my hands—start at ~$250 and can reach ~$1,000 (!). And with my modest income, I decided to hold off on purchasing a Sailor pen until I had more experience in the hobby (and more money in the bank).
In 2017, Sailor started releasing North American limited editions of their “1911” fountain pen model which are offered in different color options than their typical production line models. When they released the 1911 in “Anchor Gray” in September 2017, I decided to pull the trigger. Although gray is still a pretty understated color, something about the aesthetic and marketing struck a cord with me—I enjoyed the maritime vibe from the Sailor brand name and the anchor gray. Their limited edition models are priced a bit higher than their production line models–about $288–but I got it at Pen Chalet so was able to get it on sale.
The 1911 Large uses a classic, torpedo-shaped design, but Sailor executes it perfectly.
The cap unscrews from the barrel in about 1.5 turns on very smooth threads with tight tolerances. The cap appears to have an inner plastic liner that covers the nib and feed to help prevent dry out.
The 1911 Large is filled via Sailor’s proprietary cartridge/converter, and the barrel unscrews from the nib and grip section on numerous threads that feel tight and secure. There is also a rubber O-ring on the section to help secure the barrel on the final turn (a helpful feature to prevent the barrel from jostling loose in transit). Although the threads on the barrel are made out of resin, the section uses metal threads, so the pen cannot be eyedroppered. However, the metal components in the section give the pen a decent heft and help distribute the weight toward the nib, where it feels most comfortable for me.
The pen can post, and does so securely, but it is also long enough (and heavy enough) to be used unposted for my relatively large hands. The pen has an understated clip, but it’s springy and easy to attach to all kinds of cases.
Fit & Finish (5/5):
The 1911 Large is made out of plastic—likely injected-molded—but it’s a thicker and denser plastic than that of the Platinum Preppy or Lamy Safari. Moreover, the plastic in the 1911 Large model feels even more substantial than the plastic used in the “standard” or “slim” sized pens from Sailor’s line-up (perhaps simply due to the larger size). It’s really something that you have to feel to understand, but overall, the 1911 Large uses high-quality materials and feels solidly constructed. The tolerances are tight and everything feels secure and looks well put together. No complaints here.
The 21kt gold medium nib on this pen has great flow—not too wet, not too dry—and is smooth, with just the subtlest touch of feedback. Very difficult to describe, but this nib is something else. I can tell that it went through a rigorous quality control process. And for this price range, I’d expect nothing less.
Writing Experience (5/5):
The 1911 Large is a well-balanced pen with a phenomenal nib. The writing experience is fantastic, to say the least.
Overall Impression (20/20):
I’ve always wanted to try a Sailor pen, and I’m glad I purchased this one for my collection. I’ve been using it for a year leading up to this review, and I can confidently say that it’s one of the best writing fountain pens I own. I probably won’t be adding another Sailor to my collection any time soon, but I have been eyeing their “King of Pen” range (basically the 1911 but larger). Though at nearly $900 for a King of Pen, that likely will never happen.
- Classic aesthetic.
- Solid, robust build. Great materials.
- Nib is flawless—smooth with a touch of feedback.
- Comfortable and well-balanced in the hand.
- Very expensive.
- Cartridge/converter fill. This could be a con for some that want more from a pen in this price range (e.g. piston filler, eyedropper, etc.). And the ink capacity in Sailor’s converters are not the greatest (but if you’re using a fine or medium nib, it’s not that noticeable).
*Photos shot and edited on my OnePlus 5T.
Length Uncapped (nib tip to end of barrel): 123 mm
Length Capped: 140 mm
Length Posted: 155 mm
Section Diameter: 11.5 mm
Barrel Diameter: 13.5 mm
Weight Uncapped: 14 g
Total Weight: 26 g
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