The Pilot Custom 823 is a pen that inspires, and for good reason. The amber colored barrel with brown end caps and gold furniture is striking, and noticeable from a distance. The vacuum filling system seemingly holds an entire bottle of ink, making it perfect for writers, even Neil Himself. The 14 karat gold nib is flawless and glides across the page, as you would expect from Pilot.
This is a grail pen for many. Deservedly so.
In the few weeks I spent with the 823 I can see why so many people love this pen. It has a feel unlike any other Pilot I own. The barrel is slightly longer and larger, and the added weight of the filling mechanism gives it that just right feel. Put it in your hand and start writing and it is magical.
Vacuum filling sytems are not that common so my experience is limited, but the way the 823 fills is incredible. Pull the plunger out, dip the nib up to the section in the ink bottle, and push the plunger back in until it snaps down. In one shot, the barrel was at least 3/4 full. It was so cool and impressive that I emptied the ink back into the bottle and plunged it again. Same result as the first time. So much ink!
Generally speaking, you cannot go wrong with a gold nib from any of the Japanese big three - Pilot, Platinum, or Sailor - but Pilot nibs are my personal favorite. I’ve never had an issue out of the box, and that was the case with the fine 14k gold nib in the 823. From the moment it touches the page it is good to go with clean, smooth lines. I used Pilot Blue Black ink exclusively with this pen and it was an excellent choice.
Looking at pictures of the pen online I somehow overlooked the fact that the end caps were brown, not black like I thought. They match the pen perfectly, and actually made a big impression on me and my perception of the pens looks.
And that is the kicker for me with the Pilot Custom 823. Aesthetically, there is no arguing its beauty. But it’s not for me. I was actually hoping to fall in love with it while it was on loan to me, and while it is an elite writer, I never bonded with it visually. For the price, around $288 which includes a gift box and a bottle of Pilot Blue ink, I need to bond with a pen.
Even though it isn’t for me, I think the 823 could be the one for a lot of fountain pen users. And by the one, I mean that this pen could conceivably be the only fountain pen you own. It does everything well, with no flaws, and no downside. It’s expensive, sure, but if you aren’t like me and NEED a ton of pens, then I’m not sure there is a better choice on the market.
(Goldspot Pens provided this product at no charge to The Pen Addict for review purposes.)