Parker 25 Review
Parker 25, the ultimate 'writing stick'?
Parker were struggling in the early 1970s, as were many fountain pen producers. A number of smaller concerns had already died, mainly due to not having the means to cope with the onslaught of the ballpoint pen a couple of decades earlier.
What was needed was, not only a new product but a new market, or at least a new set of consumers. Parker researched the issue and decided that younger people, principally those roughly between 18 and 30 years old represented a largely unexploited marketplace. They also reasoned that, as this void existed, it would be no use to simply rehash existing products that had been largely ignored in the past and that a revolutionary product, specifically targeted at 18 to 30 year olds, was the best option.
Parker acquired the services of a British designer, Kenneth Grange, now Sir Kenneth Grange CBE, PPCSD, RDI, to lead the design team for the new pen. Grange had established a reputation as a pioneer of 'User Centred Design', a process in which user centred goals and user characteristics play the prominent role in the design process. His credentials could not have been better suited for what Parker had in mind. The result of the process was introduced in 1975 as the Parker 25.
The pen is a 'Flighter', Parker's name for a steel pen with a brushed satin finish. Sold as a Fountain pen, Ballpoint and boxed set, it clearly found its mark and was an immediate success.
The Parker 25, because of its tough all steel construction and utilitarian design, is an extremely robust pen, just about as unbreakable as a fountain pen gets. I have noticed, however, that a slightly 'wobbly clip' condition is not uncommon in well used pens. Most 25s are well used, and with good reason, Grange met his brief perfectly and produced an extremely functional and easy to use fountain pen at a time when many pens were more 'finnicky', complicated, and expensive.
The part of a pen that is most likely to show wear, apart from the nib, is the bit that sticks out most from the body of the pen. On the Parker 25 this is the square carrying logo on the end of the clip and it is made from plastic!. Of course it wears quickly and it is rare to find a 25 with a clear, crisp logo. Either Grange overlooked this or thought it didn't matter as it had no effect on function.
At 13.7cm. capped and 14.2 cm. posted the Parker 25 is a decent sized pen, a little 'chunkier' than most:
The Ballpoint, which operates by 'clicking' the cap, is 13.5 cm. in length:
The steel nib is almost tubular, it was produced with extra fine, fine, medium, and broad points. This pen has a medium point:
The unusual, some would say ugly, shape of the barrel is unique. Whether you like it or loathe it for aesthetic appeal it is totally in line with the user centred design in that it allows the cap to be easily and securely posted and produces a smooth contour to the pen:
Nevertheless, unposted it looks decidedly odd:
Predictably, the Parker 25 is a very practical cartridge/converter filler, the pen was originally supplied with a fitted converter and an ink cartridge so it was ready to write in either configuration.
In use the pen is well balanced and not 'top heavy' as many metal pens tend towards. The nib is very firm without the 'soft' feel of a Gold nib but it is a surprisingly smooth and consistent writer:
From 1975 to 1979 the nib had a central breather hole. Date codes were added to the 25 in 1980. This particular pen has no breather hole and no date code so it must have been made in late 1979 or early 1980. At over 40 years old it qualifies as a 'vintage pen' if the standard criterion for a vintage item to be over 20 years old is accepted.
It is interesting to note that, when Kenneth Grange designed the Parker 25 he researched the prospective user group thoroughly and came to the conclusion that the younger buyers would not care too much about appearance and had little time for 'show offiness', being more concerned about durability and practicality. How thing have changed! Ostentation and the need to display wealth, real or imagined, is now almost the raison d'etre of many younger people and practicality and durability are, at most, secondary considerations.
That, of course, doesn't alter the fact that the Parker 25 is an excellent choice as a pen that has a good deal of character, is virtually unbreakable and will write well for decades. It is much more than a 'writing stick'!