When promises are not delivered: The Parker 5th

(This is a guest post by Sébastien Morissette. You can find more from Sébastien on Twitter @SebMorissette.)

Recently, I have received a gift from my manager. She knows all about my pen addiction, of course, as I do most of my pen usage at work. She gave me a Parker IM Premium 5th Twin Chiseled. 5th in the name means it is the one with a fine liner - felt tip refill that hides under a fountain pen nib shaped hood. She thought she was buying a fountain pen but only realized it wasn’t once back home. She offered me to go back to the store and exchange it for a fountain pen but I refused, by courtesy, and acted like I was happy to get felt-tip pen. And I was in a way: it is not every day that your Manager goes out shopping to buy you a gift as a mark of appreciation. More even so that it is not my work anniversary or my birthday.

At first, I have to be honest, I was a bit disappointed with her buying mistake. What was I going to do with a fake fountain pen? Putting a fake nib on a felt-tip pen is like putting a racing rear spoiler on a Toyota corolla. It doesn’t belong there, it is meaningless, it is useless and it looks silly.

That being said, a closer look to the pen quickly brought me to realize that the pen itself is of good quality. It is made of what seems to be good quality aluminum, and both the shape of the pen and the finish is absolutely beautiful. I got the two toned one with a chromed colored cap while the body is somewhere between gun metal and rose gold. The whole pen is etched with a nice chiseled pattern. The chrome-colored clip is the classic Parker Arrow clip. The grip section is brushed aluminum. There are 3 different finishes in total on the pen between the grip, the pen body and the cap. Without being totally stunning it is a very nice looking pen and does attract attention from my coworkers, more than some of my most expensive fountain pens. The hood is engraved with the Parker’s arrow pattern and the Parker name.

I am not a felt-tip pen person. I do use Sharpie pens from time to time, and do enjoy them, but if I’m reaching out for something else than a fountain pen or a pencil will naturally pick a good rollerball over a felt tip 9 times out of 10. Being a pen nerd, I still was intrigued by this pen and wanted to learn more about the reasoning behind the design choices. I went on Parker’s web site and here is what I found:

“Parker 5THTM Technology: a flexible tip which interacts with the metal hood, and is finely engraved with the emblematic Parker arrow, to provide an exceptionally smooth and fluid writing experience, with an intense and sharp rendering. Adjusts intuitively to the user's style of writing, in just a few words. A highly innovative technology that ensures a clean and simple refill process.”

This refill is rather on the dry side. I did have to adjust my writing angle from low 45 degrees to a good 75 degrees in order to keep a nice wet flow of ink. I wrote for a good 1-hour session on two occasions and had to put the cap back on between pauses to prevent the tip from drying. The pen feels good in the hand and is well balanced. The cap posts well, while keeping a good weight balance. I prefer not to post the cap in general, and this pen body is long enough to be comfortable to use without posting.

The refill that came with my pen is a Medium Tip in a gorgeous green colour. Again my curiosity pushed me online to find out which colour is available for this refill. Again a nice surprise was awaiting me. Parker offers a great selection of bright colour for the 5th type refill: Black, Blue, Burgundy, Purple, Peacock Blue, Olive Green.

But the question remains: Does it do what Parker say it does? From the second that I started writing with this pen I could feel a remarkable difference from a sharpie pen. This Parker refill is Soft. I mean Soft with a capital “S”. Super Soft. Even on cheap copy paper. But the whole idea of a flexy tip that interacts with a hood does not work. The tip bending property does not absorb any sort of the pressure variation created by your hand movement because it hits the hood instantaneously. The concept, while being good, doesn’t work. The hood is too rigid. Parker’s marketing material also states that the tip “Adjusts intuitively to the user's style of writing, in just a few words”; I have not experienced that.

Overall it is not a bad pen. The quality of the materials and the softness of the tip makes it a pen that will find a spot in my non-fountain pen rotation. I will buy refills of each colors and will use them. That being said I believe that anybody who would buy this pen based on Parker’s promises on what the 5th technology writing experience will be disappointed.

As for the aesthetically disturbing nib-like hood, well, it tends to go away when using the pen because that “nib” is not touching the paper, which tricks my brain to believe that it is simply part of the barrel. Because of that I can tolerate it, like I tolerate a trunk lip on a Toyota Corolla, but never a racing spoiler.

Posted on July 14, 2016 and filed under Parker, Pen Reviews.