All fountain pen innovation starts in Japan.
Is that too strong of a statement? Probably so. I'm certain Germany, for starters, would have a good argument. But for me, I'm constantly amazed by the ideas that come out of Japan. The Sailor Trident was one of those brilliant ideas. A fountain pen that writes like a ballpoint - who wouldn't want that? Not many people apparently. Innovation does not always equal success, as the Trident never really established itself upon launch in the early 1980's.
Sailor did not come up with the idea for the Trident on it's own though. Instead, they purchased the three nib design from a company called Spacer (all of this history is found on Russ Stutler's Trident page which was the main resource for this review.) They felt they could convert the hordes of ballpoint users into fountain pen users with the Trident, but the pen had too many shortcomings to gain a foothold in the market.
The primary issue with the Trident was maintenance. All of the extra tines in the nib left the Trident prone to clogging. IF the pen stayed in constant use it was great, but if left to sit for a day or two it became a problematic writer. Disposable pen users could not handle that added aggrevation caused by this unique design.
My experience with the Trident (on loan from the esteemed Thomas) was generally positive, but not overly impressive. The three nib system worked as intended, but left my line width inconsistent. I imagine it had to do with the exact spot on the nib I was hitting the page with. With three nibs and six slits all coming together to make one point I don't see how this is avoidable. There was no skipping, but that is because Thomas keeps his pens in pristine condition. The ink flowed nicely, but I have to admit that it felt odd as the nib moved across the page. This is not your traditional fountain pen.
And I think that is the lesson learned with the Sailor Trident. You can't be everything to everyone. It is exciting to see companies like Sailor innovate and take risks like this, regardless of the commercial success of the product. It's like a concept car that actually saw the light of day, and I'm glad I got to take it for a test drive.
You can read more about the Sailor Trident at Mr. Stutler's site linked above, and also this wonderful dissasembly from Penzuki.
You knew this was coming, right?