Bought: At least a decade ago from WHSmith's (large stationery shop), reduced to half price (£3-£4... I think).
Availability: This is about the easiest fountain pen to lay hands on in the UK and, as I understand it, it certainly isn't difficult to find in many other parts of the world, either, whether in a high-street shop, a supermarket or on the net. The price hasn't risen too much in the last decade, either. If you want a fine nib you may not get one quite so easily, though, and extra fine stopped being made ages ago!
There's a bit of a story behind this one, for me:
You have to understand, me and the Parker Vector model, we go way back...
When I was nine, I changed schools. My first school had carried a few of the 1970s “progressive educational” ideas into the 80s which, in part, meant that once you could print something vaguely recognisable as lower case letters (and my parents had ensured that I had started school being able to do that), they just left you to get on with handwriting the best way you could. However, my new school insisted on fountain pens! I couldn't even do “joined up” writing.
At around the same time, my favourite Aunt was diagnosed with lung cancer and was receiving intensive chemo- and radio-therapy. My parents and I visited her every Saturday, often in hospital, and one of us must have mentioned that I had to have a fountain pen, because she gave me £10 and told me to go and get myself a pen for school. That was how I got my first Vector fountain pen. It was a “flighter” model and I had my name engraved on it. I loved that pen, and it became doubly precious after my Aunt died the following year. We moved to Scotland when I was 13 and it got lost during that move – I grieved for that pen.
Moving on, rather a lot of years, I wandered into a branch of WHSmith, probably for a magazine or newspaper, but WHSmith sell two things which I can't resist, books and pens, so when I saw a bargain bin with Parker pens I made a beeline. I ended up buying a navy blue Vector (the colour is now discontinued, but there is a brighter blue version) and a magenta/gunmetal ballpoint (I still have the ballpoint somewhere but I don't even know what model it is – a bit like an Urban, but it pre-dates that, so I'm not sure). That Vector began to live in my handbag and amazingly (considering I've never been all that careful with it) it has survived to this very day. I have to admit it's well past its best now, even if it is still a very decent writer. I thought I'd review it while it's still in the land of the living.
Appearance/Design – 6/10:
This pen is very utilitarian; there's nothing fancy or exciting about it, but it is very practical and it gets the job done. The only semi-unusual part of the design is the metal section (brushed stainless steel) with a plastic body – I can think of others, but not one so inexpensive. Other than the section/nib, the end-cap on the barrel and the clip are also metal and the clip is in the traditional Parker arrow-shape, though without any engraved fletching. The clip has plenty of spring, so no problem clipping it to most everyday things.
Here's a link to the Vector “family” on the Parker website: http://www.parkerpen...catalogId=12002. Parker may call it “chic”, but even though I have a lot of affection for the Vector model, objectively, “dull but worthy” is probably a better description of the design, here's mine:
Perfectly good pen, but a little boring, really, isn't it? As you can see mine's a bit (OK, a lot) scuffed – it's a 10-year-old daily carry (handbag pocket with at least 1 other pen, a propelling pencil, a mobile phone and sometimes keys) and you may even be able to see that's it's less than 10 years ago that I kicked the habit of chewing pens when lost in thought!
Calling it boring is slightly unfair of me, it has clean straight lines and I like the contrast between the steel and plastic parts of the pen which, perhaps, makes it a little more classy than the average inexpensive plastic bodied pen. The only other thing worth noting is that it has a sturdy plastic “ring” around the bottom of the nib which gives it, almost, a semi-hooded look. The nib itself is very small and narrow, without a breather hole and PARKER printed across it just below the slit.
What has to be noted in its favour is that, even though this is a 1980s design, meant for the younger/less affluent end of the market, instead of the pen equivalent of a huge permed mullet, enormous shoulder-pads, fluorescent eye makeup and earrings that could double as chandeliers, Parker kept the design simple and reasonably refined.
That's all I have to say about it, there isn't much more, is there? Score-wise, I hovered between 6 and 7, but I think the tug to 7 is based on my personal affection for the pen. Really, it's a very functional design, but just a bit plain and unexciting, so I think it has to be 6/10.
Construction/Quality – 10/10:
This surely has to be a high scoring category, after all its still going after 10 or more years.
The plastic part is light but robust – well it was robust. The body has several hairline cracks around the threaded end now (hence my surmise about it not lasting much longer). I know exactly how they came about, and it's mostly my fault. I was screwing the (metal) section into the (plastic) body about a year ago, after refilling, and I over-tightened (I knew not to do that on this pen, but I wasn't concentrating). Unfortunately, after you've cracked it once, it becomes a lot easier to do a second time. I imagine this is probably an inherent design flaw in the plastic models when used a little heavy-handedly - the metal's rigid and the plastic has a enough give to be slightly over-tightened, but not enough to survive if you are really being vigorous. Still, it took about 9 years for it to happen, so it certainly can't lose construction/quality points for this.
When it comes to my original flighter model it was practically indestructible – that pen was accidentally knocked off desks onto hard classroom floors numerous times, occasionally while uncapped, and took no harm, even when landing nib-down. I think it was stood on, at least once (the barrel, not the nib – I don't think it's that tough).
I like the nib a lot, but then again I would, I'm used to it and it's used to me – but I'll go into that in more detail later – it's undoubtedly a good quality nib for this money, though.
A very solidly built, reliable pen, and for an inexpensive workhorse, rather than a status symbol or future heirloom, a 10+-year lifespan is pretty impressive! So I have to give it 10/10.
Size and Weight - 6/10:
It's fairly light, especially considering it's partly stainless steel, and I guess it manages that by being fairly small. Don't get me wrong, it's not tiny, but I do think it's smaller than average – width-wise, anyway, lengthwise, it's actually pretty big, if you post it. (Thinking it was on its last legs, I decided to replace it with a stainless steel Jotter, now that is a teeny pen – not my best purchase.) Compare it to a Parker Jotter and Platinum Preppy:
It is quite a narrow pen, which, added to the unyielding metal section, doesn't always make it the most comfortable to write with for long periods. Because I've spent so much time writing with one, over the years, I don't notice (until too late – i.e. when my hand starts to ache) that it's too small for my hands but, really, I'm more comfortable with a larger pen. For a child who is of an age/skill level to have fully-developed fine-motor skills (i.e. happily uses a fountain pen and always holds it correctly) or a woman with smaller hands, though, this makes a great pen – I just have clodhopper's hands. It's not minuscule and they are very common, both in this model and the similar roller-ball, so it's often used by men (and women with big hands), but for people with relatively large hands there are more comfortable pens out there.
In summary, it's a compact pen, but posted it's a very good length for even the largest hands. Unfortunately, even if it was 20-25% fatter, it still couldn't be called a wide pen. It's light, which is often easier, but it's not ideal for prolonged use, unless you have small hands. I don't feel it can have more than 6/10.
Nib Performance - 10/10:
This nib is used in the Vector and Jotter and was used in the Reflex and others in the past (I can speak for the three pens named, since I have one of each) and I believe it's also currently used in the IM and Urban – in other words, if you have tried a current model Parker in the lower-cost half of their range you will have used one. You'll have your own opinions on it, in that case, but I really like it. It looks undersized to me in the IM and Urban, but here it's in proportion and looks neat and appropriate (I'm afraid I'm back to the dull but worthy language) but this section of the review isn't about how it looks, it's about how it performs.
It has almost no spring. However, for a cheap steel nib, it is smooth and a real pleasure to write with. This one has had a lot of time to adapt to my writing style (and for a good proportion of the last decade it was one of only two fountain pens I regularly used, so it has been well broken in) but I don't recall it ever being at all scratchy. My two much newer Parkers with the same nib bear this out. This is a medium, and as this nib was also on my first fountain pen, it is, I think, unconsciously the standard by which I judge whether another medium nib is truly medium or not. When compared to half a dozen other mediums I own, this actually seems quite fair (though my “identical” Jotter nib is a very broad “medium”, so they aren't 100% consistent). Anyway, here is a sample to give you an idea of how it writes (the ink is Diamine Amazing Amethyst, though the colour is slightly off in the photo):
It's got a great feed, no skipping, no hard starting (even left several weeks without using) and is fairly wet, though not a “gusher”. As you can (hopefully) see from the picture, it can produce decent shading with the right ink.
All in all, it's a great nib for the money. A true medium, smooth, on the wet side; I can't fault it. I'm giving it 10/10.
Filling System/Maintenance - 8/10:
With that metal end-cap, it isn't an eyedropper candidate, but if it is likely to be used as a school/work pen, I can recommend the cartridges, for convenience as well as a lot of ink capacity (but not much variety of ink). Parker cartridges are the second most readily available, after the international ones, (in the UK, at least) and they can (apparently, I don't speak from personal experience) also take the far more uncommon Aurora ones. You can get two types of converter for Parkers but I've only ever had the (smaller) basic piston filler version, so I'm not 100% sure if it takes the "deluxe" twist one (I'm fairly sure it does, but help with that, anyone?) The piston filler doesn't hold much ink, which is great if you quickly grow bored with using the same colour, but wouldn't be much use if you were sitting a 3-hour exam or were spending a full day at Uni, taking screeds of notes in every lecture.
This isn't the most maintenance-friendly pen. I've regularly cleaned it using water (sometimes with a little washing-up liquid) but have never been able to take the section apart. I tried again recently (I even watched Stephen Brown's disassembly line video for this pen to get some tips) and still couldn't do it. At its age, I'd really appreciate being able to take it apart for a deep clean, especially as it was a work pen used exclusively with black Quink for many years. Quink's well behaved, but I'd still have liked to have given the nib and feed a really thorough clean when I was swapping to lighter inks (to be fair, I just soaked it with a little washing-up liquid in water, overnight, and it seemed fine).
(I've never tried, but it may be worth pointing out, to anyone interested, that the Vector has the reputation of being able to deal with inks that should be kept at least a mile away from most other pens. Even if you don't particularly like the pen, you could still choose to buy one for iron-gall inks and others than can be harsh to a more delicate pen's innards. However, if you do try them in it, that could make it even more irksome that you can't take it apart occasionally for a thorough cleaning.)
Excellent availability of both cartridges and converter, able to be used with anything short of India ink, but with poor ability to then disassemble it to clean makes this a difficult to score section. However, it doesn't seem to have to be dismantled to remain in a well-maintained condition, so 8/10 is fine, I think.
Value for Money - 9/10:
If anyone's reading this with an eye to purchasing, it's no good me speaking from the point of view of what I paid 10 years ago, it needs to relate to what I'd pay now. However, the cheapest I've found it new (online) is £4.50 (with a slightly garish print). In plain colours/black, you can find it online for £6.00-£8.00 or £8.00-£10.00 for a flighter (with a small premium to get a fine nib). You'll pay a little more on the high-street. For this price, you are getting a great nib, a robust body, decent inoffensive looks, total reliability and a very recognisable brand.
It is an excellent pen for the money and but is narrowly misses out on a 10 because it is rather on the small side and, frankly, is a bit boring, still, it is easily a 9/10.
Final Conclusion/Total Score - 8/10:
These UK manufactured Parkers all seem to be sturdy and reliable (I'm including my Jotter and Reflex (and previous Vector) in that statement, so it's not quite the sweeping generalisation it may at first seem). These days, you are likely to find Vectors that are made in either France or China, I believe (unless you find NOS). I don't, for a moment, say that the quality is going to be any worse, but I can't comment on whether there will be any difference (for good or ill). All I can do is rate this pen (while referring to my first one too) and it's very good.
The average score is 8/10. That seems about right – it has its faults, but over all I have never had serious complaints. As hardy as this pen has proved, I'd recommend the flighter if you want extra toughness – as long as the cost difference remains negligible it's worth it. There are other (more expensive, more attention-grabbing) contenders for someone's first fountain pen, but this one is so easy to lay hands on, pleasant to use and so reliable that I think anyone could (and should) consider it – it's not “excitement, adventure and really wild things!” but it will get the job done, and do it well.
Last question - is it a classic? Perhaps. In the sense that it has stood the test of time and is recognisable to an awful lot people, then perhaps that's a "yes".
Edited by Geordielass, 08 October 2013 - 04:41.