Having a few #52 Watermans in full and 1/2V sizes, I felt the inclination to try a couple of different nibs from Waterman pens in the same era. I bought a #55, the same style as a 52 with a different (No. 5) nib, and a #94, a thicker pen also with a nib (No.4) different from my other old Watermans. It is the latter pen I am reviewing here. My comments and scores mean to reflect the context of a vintage pen, not today’s pen new out of the box. My comparison point is mostly other Watermans and to some extent Onotos of the same era (Onotos have their own virtues and foibles). Observing worse pens on ebay and other sites also influences some of the ratings.
Appearance & Design
Style is fairly typical of the era, which would be the mid to late 1920s as near as I can date it. The #94 is slightly shorter and fatter than a #52. It is only a millimetre thicker but visually looks to be more, especially in the cap.
Furnishings on this pen are nickel, in good condition. The clip is a Waterman item, double-pinned to the cap, very probably an option with the purchase rather than universally fitted on #94 pens. The holding ring on the clip does not go all of the way around the cap, and there is no recess or other provision for it, so these suggest it was a Waterman option (marked with the Ideal globe symbol) added on order or by the retailer. The ball end on the clip suffers brassing, the rest is in excellent shape. There are the common four breather holes in the cap which undoes in a single full turn.
Notably missing is the original dress ring on the bottom of the cap. The recess for it is present, so that knocks down marks for appearance. Actually, it all looks a bit boring but I do not mind that. I see the pen as a workhorse which will not raise eyebrows for most people when I take it out, but looks as practical as it is.
The gold nib is a good large-ish size, well proportioned to the pen and in good condition with clear writing on it. There are no fins visible under the feed.
On balance, I think the appearance and design wander below average, perhaps disadvantaged by prominent stylishness in my #52 pens.
Construction & Quality
This #94 is BCHR which I read is a little unusual for #94 pens around today. Apparently the majority are celluloid, so probably score far higher in the previous category of appearance. Imprints in the HR are finely cut but all quite distinct with no part worn away. The barrel says on its longitudinal axis “Watermans // Reg U.S. (Ideal) Pat Off // Fountain Pen”and radially around the end cap the same first two lines then “Made in USA” as the third. On the end is a clear “94” as pictured.
Chasing on the barrel and cap are present but not prominent, and the pen as a whole has that slightly faded look, a slight olive hue in the black. The end caps remain shiny. Everything is tight where it should be. The filing lever is straight and still closes with a click. Cosmetically there are no apparent scratches, no cracks, and no bite marks. Apart from a lack of polish, there is really nothing wrong with quality; definitely well above average.
Score 9 (with due consideration for its age over its original appearance)
Weight & Dimensions
I do not post pens anyway unless they are exceptionally small. In this case I doubt I would want to even if it were a prior habit. The cap sits firmly on the barrel but very high. With the weight of the large clip this shifts the pen’s balance point by a few centimetres as the total length moves from 122 mm uncapped / unposted to 165 mm posted. Weight (without ink) is nearly 18g capped or posted dropping to a little over 10g uncapped.
Unposted, it is a nice, light pen with a good thickness of grip for my taste. The section below the threads is thinner than the barrel of course, with the classical flared shape. It is easy and comfortable to hold and to control for any amount of time.
For me I might score it 9 but if you really insist on capping your pens then you might be thinking of 3. Score 7.
Nib & Performance
What I like is that the nib is smooth and the pen writes first time every time with none of the vintage temperamentality one can find. The nib is well adjusted, in great shape, and behaves well despite the visible ink on it in the picture (Waterman Serenity Blue). See the picture of writing to glean more.
Flex is not my thing so I find it hard to comment on that sensibly. It appears to me that flex is minimal although I rarely add pressure to pens. Certainly the No. 5 nib on my Onoto 6234 flexes significantly more than this without much pressure.
My score is 9. Reduce that score if flex is important to you or you like to compare with a brand new high-quality pen.
Filling System & Maintenance
This is of course a lever fill pen. It had been serviced before I received it. The mechanism works as it should and the pen fills enough to satisfy me, which means it does not need to hold a lot of ink. I rarely fill pens entirely. I have not tried removing the section, having no present need. It should not be difficult, having been done somewhat recently. Given everything fits and works properly with no leaks, I score this above average.
Cost & Value
Converting to a currency most people use or can index readily, the 94 cost me about US$148 plus modest freight. I do not assign a score to a cost, because that makes no sense at all. The value is in the pen which is then compared with cost to determine a value-to-cost view. Your position on marginal affordability will be of far more weight in the “value” of the dollars.
The average and median score of the first five items is 7, rating it comfortably above average, and not great.
I like this pen. It will lead me to sell the #32 which is even more boring in appearance and less pleasing with which to write. Then again, the #32 cost far less so what did I expect? I am content with the particular purchase and commend the #94 style and nib for those with an interest in trying a vintage pen or expanding their range. It is highly likely to retain a normal place in my rotation, perhaps a little more often where I might be taking it out of the house as a practical, smooth, reliable, and largely bling-free pen.
A note on methodology.
I used a classical 5-point scale for scoring, then expanded it to use nominally 1-9. People have trouble using or processing 10-point scales or scales with no true neutral point, where my neutral is 5. The real problem in most scales is failure to use the available range, compressing to the upper end. I think 7-point might have been a better option for this.