Parker 50 – Falcon Flighter
Initial Impressions - 9 out of 10 (I was young and far more easily impressed back then).
I first saw one of these when I was at school in the UK, it was owned by one of the coolest guys in my year and I was pretty well knocked out by the futuristic look of it. Please remember that I am referring to the 1970s here, we were all expecting Jet-packs to be given out by the Government within the next few years and 1984 was not just a grim novel by George Orwell but also a date some years hence (rather than being the UK Government's plan of how to actually spend our taxes). If any Government ministers are reading this, I'm still waiting for my Jet-pack...
Having ownership firmly in my sights, I saved up in the manner of a steadfast young chap and eventually had enough to turn the dream into reality, and that is where it all started to go slightly wrong (or at least, that's how it seemed to my young mind).
I remember that the box was one of the things that would not have looked out of place on the set of Space 1999 - actually, now that I have time to reflect, it's no wonder we were so well behaved as kids, there was so much to look forward to with Eagle Transporters and a British Moon Base only 20 years into the future… Sorry, sort of lost the thread for a moment there.
The pen (when I finally got my sticky paws on it) was something of a let-down. It didn't enable me to breathe underwater, defy gravity or do half the stuff that I had built up in the way of expectations while I was amassing the funds for it. I also thought it a fairly so-so writer (something which I now know was a self-inflicted poor opinion due to my early inability to decide whether I liked a fine nib or a medium – how things have changed now that I am a stub/italic/oblique fan).
Appearance and Finish – very briefly 10 out of 10, then 9 (becoming 8, then 7 and so on).
It was available in five finishes as far as I am aware, gold-plated, matt brown, matt grey, matt black (called TX) and flighter (stainless steel). Of these I believe that the black is the rarest with the brown being the most predominant (brown was all sorts of cool in the 1970s and if they could have made a pen out of brown corduroy it would have flown off the shelves). The overall finish out of the box was pretty reasonable for the era but the major design flaw that spoiled the appearance was that the inner cap produced a ring around the section (and in some cases almost took the finish off entirely). Straight out of the box the section finish was perfect, but use would take its toll to a greater degree than almost any other pens.
Design, Size and Weight - 7 out of 10.
The Falcon was was produced in the UK and US and was very much a pen of a particular time, the design is evocative of many things then and despite having a certain ageless elegance, it very much looks like a product of that period. I love the profile of it, and given that I am not greatly enamoured of slim and light pens still find it a very attractive looking styling. However a second design problem (over and above the mark left on the section mentioned earlier) was that the ring securing the clip to the body of the cap was fragile and many examples seen on the market today have a fracture there which requires a repair. In those cases, care must be taken that the clip is not overstressed when in use and that it lies straight (vertically aligned with the cap). The trademark Parker Arrow on the clip is simple and unadorned with feathers, the cap tassie is a simple black plastic ring and the minimalist stying of these features complement the rest of the pen very well.
The size and weight are not my ideal - I generally prefer a pen of greater substance but in certain circumstances the Parker 50 is just perfect.
Here are the numbers (because you're worth it):
Weight Capped – 17.0 grams (30.5 grams lighter than a Waterman Edson)
Weight Uncapped – 11.5 grams
Length Capped – 13.1 cm
Length Uncapped – 12.4 cm
Length Posted – 14.1 cm
Barrel Diameter – 10.5 mm
Average Section Diameter – 9.3 mm
The Filling System – 8 out of 10.
It's a cartridge/converter. I am giving it a score of 8 because the supplied Parker squeeze converters were not great but again, as with the Waterman Edson there is no obvious alternative if the aesthetic of the pen (which was the principal selling point) was to remain uncompromised.
The Nib – 10 out of 10.
Yes, 10. My ability to assess the worth of a nib has matured over the years and not only does this one work extremely well, it also has the delightful ability to always start first time. I recently left it in a jacket pocket for about four months and when rediscovered, it laid down a lovely line without any hesitation whatsoever. It may not have the pure silkiness of some nibs, but for me that is outweighed by the other main factor about this nib which is the sheer beauty of it and the overall sleekness of line. As can be seen in the photograph, there is a fairly large ball tip to the nib which makes for a forgiving sweet spot which will be another plus point for some.
It is in many ways reminiscent of the Pilot 701 Myu (in that it is made directly from the section material). Some people refer to the Falcon as the "poor man's T-1" but I would stay away from that particular method of damning with faint praise.
Cost – 6 out of 10 (but this is a very subjective call).
This pen was only on the market for a few years (1977 to 1983) and not very many were made. The price that you will pay will depend on the condition and the finish. Watch out for the two major bugbears if you are planning to buy (the marking around the section where it comes into contact with the inner cap and the condition of the clip retaining ring).
I think that when it comes down to it, you will most likely buy this pen for its look rather than its performance. It's a fairly elusive creature and the fact that there will always be people who want one can mean that it will often fetch a high price, but there are also good examples to be had for much more reasonable sums.
Overall – 46 out of 60
I like this pen for what it is in its own right and (in my case for reminding me of the very brief time when it was available). It is another of those pens that will appeal to some and leave others cold. It was symbolic of a specific time and what it means to me and the memories that it triggers will be different for me to any effect it may have on others. This is not a pen that I would suggest that everyone should own (or even try), buy I would recommend that the pictures are at least briefly studied so that you can see another example of the pen-maker's art.
What I will say is that on a sunny day in Bath, sitting outside a pub and doing The Times Crossword with it remains fairly high up on my list of simple pleasures.