Pilot Fermo: the thinking person’s Vanishing Point

To me, Pilot is a little bit like the Mafia. You try to escape, but they reel you back in.

I have written at length about my love affair with the 912 FA, then reluctantly sold it when I admitted to myself that my grip doesn’t suit flex. I bought, sold, bought and sold the 91, bought and sold the 92, left a Vanishing Point in a drawer for a decade before selling it, bought and sold the tiny Myu, and bought and promptly sold the 823 FA after getting to the top of Quill’s waiting list. In short, I have more ins and outs with Pilot than the Hokey Cokey.

In March, I ordered a Fermo, Pilot’s least-known retractable pen. Everyone knows the Vanishing Point, which I think looks like an awfully clumsy whale (unpopular opinion, perhaps). Even the beautiful limited-edition finishes can’t save it for me — I can’t help but cry at how svelte the original faceted VP was, replaced by this ungainly beast. The slimline Decimo is better, but still… and then there’s the Fermo, which has a completely different business end, and a twist retractable mechanism.

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The lesser-spotted Pilot Fermo

As these things do, it gnawed at me for some time, then I ordered one. From Japan, obviously — as far as I know, nobody sells the Fermo in the UK, and if they did it would be ludicrously expensive. Why did I order it, given how I feel about the VP and my tumultuous relationship with Pilot in general? Shouldn’t I have learned my lesson?

Apparently not. With the 1912 and Dialog 3, I’ve developed a thing for retractable pens. And I was willing to give Pilot another chance.

The Fermo could not be more different from those two German beasts.

While the Dialog is simply huge, and the 1912 squat, the Fermo is long and slender.

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Would you believe the Fermo is longer than the Dialog? All three pictured here on my Galen Writing Box.

While both the Dialog and 1912 have relatively normal nibs, the Fermo’s pokes out like a miniature needle.

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Three retractable nibs! How very different they are.

While the Dialog ratchets open like clockwork, and the 1912 feels damped like an expensive amp’s volume knob, the Fermo’s mechanism is sprung.

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The ridged plastic knob extends the nib.

But enough with the comparisons. Let’s start at the beginning.

The Fermo is slim, straight, more angular than the normal Vanishing Point — although twist the two halves apart at the rather noticeable join and you’ll find that the 18k nib unit inside is identical.

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It’s a standard VP nib unit. Tiny 18k nib.

Mine is a handsome navy blue, offset with rhodium trim.

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The navy and rhodium are lovely, in my opinion.

The nib emerges from a small door in what appears to be a finial; unlike the normal VP the clip is entirely separate (and in my opinion more comfortable), although as with the VP the clip is deliberately not aligned with the nib.

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Teeny tiny nib. I like how the clip isn’t integral to the hatch segment.

The nib is activated by a grippy ridged knob at the far end. As mentioned above, the mechanism is sprung: if you don’t rotate it past a certain threshold (perhaps 80% of travel), the nib will spring back to fully closed under its own steam. Similarly, when you’re done writing, give the knob a nudge and the mechanism will retract for you. It’s reassuring that you’ll never have the nib extended unless you want it to.

Being made of metal, the Fermo is hefty. The mechanism makes it rather back-heavy, but not uncomfortably so.

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The branding is subtle. Can you spot where the two halves of the pen separate?!

I ordered my Fermo in a fine width, and I am delighted to say that it’s an utterly amazing nib. It’s as glassy smooth as you’d expect from a Pilot, despite being a true Japanese fine, and surprisingly bouncy given how tiny the nib is. I wouldn’t say it’s wet, but the flow is decent — and I have been troubled by dry Pilot nibs in the past. Most interestingly, the nib feels almost like it’s got a bit of an architect grind, although without the sensitivity to angle that can make architect nibs difficult to use.

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Yes, it’s a different photo from the one above — look at the super-narrow tipping, and the offset clip.

For a while I considered selling the Fermo as part of my ruthless cull, but this joyful nib pulled me back in. It’s great to have a truly precise, fast-writing notetaker that has the convenience of a retractable nib. And to me it’s much better looking than the regular VP, which is a bonus.

If you want one for yourself, they seem to run between $175 on Jetpens to £180 imported but orderable from Amazon. Watch out —  you’ll pay customs on that too.

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