The short version of this review: Oh my God! For a slightly longer version, keep reading…
Pilot Vanishing Point Fountain Pen
Nib: Extra Fine (Oh my, yes!)
Filling System: Pilot converters & cartridges
About the Pen:
Around 1964, Pilot introduced a high-tech and remarkable writing instrument: a fully retractable fountain pen they called the Capless. Over the next 60 years, they’ve made a number of refinements and design changes, such as changing the original twist-to-retract mechanism to the pushbutton style we see today.
A note about the “Vanishing Point” and “Capless” names: The official name of this pen has gone back and forth a number of times (as has the brand name between Pilot and Namiki). I believe it is still called the Capless in many parts of the world, but it’s marketed as the Vanishing Point in the US.
The current incarnation of the Vanishing Point is as technologically advanced as it is elegant.
When I opened the box and took my first look at the Vanishing Point, the first word that came to mind was “wow.” And honestly, every time I pick it up, I think the same thing. It’s really stunning. Perhaps I just really like the matte black finish (I’m a sucker for a true stealth pen).
Almost every exterior surface of the pen is matte finished, even the clip. The only shiny surfaces are on the nib and the rings between the barrel sections, and they’re still black (even though the nib is 14k gold, it has a wonderful black finish that matches the pen).
The shape and design of the Vanishing Point (VP) are a bit of an oddity in the fountain pen world, as the VP is a retractable pen (in the US, we often call them “clicker pens”). Being retractable, the VP doesn’t have the usual fountain pen anatomy. There’s no cap, no section, no finial, and no end cap.
I think I’m going to refer to the front piece as a “nose.” That seems to be appropriate. The nose is not dissimilar to a typical click-style ballpoint pen. It tapers down away from the barrel into an open-ended snout (I’m taking this “nose” metaphor as far as I possibly can). Instead of a round hole (nostril? Okay, I’ll stop) at the end, the opening is a semi-circle that better accommodates the unique shape of the fountain pen nib.
With no cap to keep the nib from drying out, the nose contains a spring-loaded trap door that seals up the nib compartment when retracted. I’ve let the pen sit for a couple weeks and the nib started right up, so the trap door is definitely doing its job.
Because the pen doesn’t have a cap, the nose also serves as the attachment point for the clip, allowing you to still clip the pen into your shirt pocket or pen sleeve. I’ll talk more about the clip placement later.
There are two pieces to the barrel instead of the usual single piece found in a typical fountain pen. The two barrel pieces screw together, allowing you to fill the pen, replace an ink cartridge, or even replace the entire nib unit. This is pretty cool, because you can buy different nibs that you can swap out whenever you want.
The rear portion of the barrel houses the pushbutton mechanism for extending and retracting the nib unit. The pushbutton sports the same matte black finish as the barrel, nose, and clip. Have I mentioned that the finish is absolutely luscious?
The Vanishing Point’s nib is much narrower than a traditional fountain pen nib. It’s more akin to a hooded nib in width & shape. And even the nib has a black finish to it, although it’s a shiny black rather than matte. But it still matches the pen really nicely.
Build Quality (5/5):
I’ve heard nothing but glowing reviews regarding the Vanishing Point’s build quality…and of Pilot pens in general. I have experience with the Pilot Metropolitan, and I’ve been very impressed with the quality of those magical, $15 pens, so I had pretty high expectations for the VP. So far, it has met my expectations.
Note: They’ve been perfecting this design for 60 years. I think it’s safe to assume stellar build quality by this point.
The fit and finish of this pen are flawless, as is the pushbutton mechanism for extending and retracting the the nib. It gives just enough resistance to prevent accidental extension in your pocket, but it’s smooth and solid enough to feel like a premium writing instrument. The Vanishing Point just feels durable.
And something I always appreciate is great attention to detail in the machining of the barrel threads. When screwing or unscrewing the barrel, the threads feel like they’re gliding over each other. It feels smooth…almost satiny (satinish? satin-like?) with no hitches, catches, or misalignments.
The clip is nice and springy, without being too difficult to use. I think I would trust the clip to securely hold the pen in my pocket without fear of it coming loose. I’d say it’s capable of holding the pen in place anywhere between sitting at your desk and going for a vigorous jog. Progressing to an all-out sprint across the office is probably out of the question, though.
I do wonder about the long-term durability of the clip. It’s possible it could loosen up over time, but I’ve not used it long enough to find out for sure. Check back in about five years for an update.
One thing I want to address…because I’m so impressed with it…is the nib unit. Unlike a traditional fountain pen where the nib and feed are basically separate items, the Vanishing Point sports a specialized nib unit that packages the nib and feed in a stainless steel housing that also accommodates a CON-50 converter or Pilot ink cartridges.
There are two attributes of this nib unit that I find spectacular. First, Pilot sells them independently of the pen so you can buy replacements and other grades, including a stub option. The second great feature is this little nub they built into the side of the nib unit. This nub marries up with a slot in the nose section’s threads, ensuring that you always insert the nib correctly. Inserting a nib like this the wrong way could easily spell disaster during extension and retraction, so this is a pretty handy little fail-safe that helps me not destroy my amazing pen.
Another “wow” moment for Ken. Given the narrowness of the nib and how ridiculously fine a point this EF nib has, I really can’t believe how well this pen writes. The Lamy 2000 has a definite sweet spot that leads to skipping if you’re not holding the pen at just the right angle. But the Vanishing Point has nothing of the sort. It doesn’t seem to matter if I’m at the top, bottom, left-side, or right-side of the paper, this pen never fails to put down ink.
I’ve practically filled an entire A4 sheet with my super tiny handwriting, and I haven’t had one single skip or hard start. Not one. The ink flow is perfect. The feed system seems perfectly balanced, keeping up with the demands of the nib without providing too much ink for the EF nib to handle.
After a full 60 seconds of being exposed to the air, the pen didn’t hard start. It wrote immediately. Whatever voodoo Pilot installed in the feed system, it really is flawless. I’m so impressed.
As I’ve said a million times, a pen has but one job: to write. Any pen that doesn’t write every time, all the time isn’t holding up its end of the bargain. The Pilot Vanishing Point writes every time, all the time. Even if left uncapped for a full minute while you’re waiting for the next priceless jewel from your professor during lecture. Even if stored in its box for two weeks waiting for you to return from your trip across the country to attend some training.
Every time. All the time. It’s a beautiful thing.
I find the Vanishing Point to be extremely comfortable. The barrel and nose taper down to a pretty small diameter, but it works well for me. After a full page of very small writing, I’ve experienced no cramping or other discomfort.
The finish on the pen has a very soft, satiny feel to it. It’s very nice. I’d maybe even say it’s luxurious.
I didn’t know what to expect with the placement of the clip. Most fountain pens have the clip attached to the cap, so when you’re writing, the clip is either sitting on your desk or safely or posted on the back of the pen. But because (1) the VP has no cap; and (2) when clipped in your pocket, you want the nib pointing up, the clip has to be attached at the nose. So basically, as you write with the VP, your finger and thumb rest against the clip. I’ve heard from some people that the clip gets in the way and it’s uncomfortable.
Luckily for me, that’s not the case. In fact, I find that it helps me hold the pen correctly, preventing me from rotating the pen as I write.
Writing Experience (5/5):
Given my preferences and expectations, I find the Pilot Vanishing Point to be pretty much the perfect pen for me. It has a SUPER fine line. It never skips. It never hard starts. I find it comfortable to hold, even for extended periods of time. It has a very solid, durable feel to it, and of course, it’s a mighty sexy pen to look at.
I love the extension/retraction pushbutton. It works exceptionally well and is very handy for quickly converting the pen. I will say that the nib gives quite a bit of feedback. I pretty much expected that, though, given how fine the writing line is. It’s not scratchy, but it is quite “toothy” and would probably annoy people who prefer that “writing on glass” feel. It’s a small price to pay for this amazingly thin line.
Speaking of the line, it’s very consistent. No blops, drips, or mushiness at all.
I know what some of you are thinking (or shouting at your screen as you read this): “How the heck could a $140 pen be a top value?!” Yes, I can hear you.
Keep in mind that the nib is made from 14k gold, so that’s going to automatically boost the price of the pen somewhere between $50 and $80. This is, in every way, shape, and form, a premium pen that works exceptionally well and is made from very high-quality materials. It also has a very high degree of engineering and R&D that’s gone into its design.
The Pilot Vanishing Point is a fantastic writer, it looks great, it’s comfortable to use, and it operates flawlessly. In my opinion, it writes better than any other fountain pen I’ve used, and it works perfectly for my writing style.
So yes, I consider this wonderful, gold-nibbed pen a great value. It’s a pen that will probably be perpetually inked up and in use, so I have no doubt that I’ll get my money’s worth out of it.
The Nutshell: Overall Score: 25/25
|Best Qualities||Worst Qualities|
|Incredibly fine line||Nib's got feedback|
|Writes every time, all the time||Clip could get in your way (not me, though)|
|Gorgeous||It's a little pricy|
If you’ve made it this far, you’ve probably figured out that I have fallen in love with this pen. And in case you haven’t figured it out, then believe me when I tell you: I’ve fallen in love with this pen.
For me, this pen is perfect. The line weight fits perfectly with my small handwriting, it always writes, and it’s a really beautiful pen.
There is honestly nothing about this pen that I dislike (as evidenced in my unprecedented 25/25 score). My only concern is whether or not prolonged use could loosen the clip, given that your fingers rest against it during use. Only time will tell regarding that aspect. But in the meantime, the Pilot Vanishing Point sits alone on the Fountain Pen throne in my kingdom.