I have a thing for retractable fountain pens, like the Montblanc 1912 and the Lamy Dialog 3 (and yes, the new Curidas). But the king of them all in the market is the Pilot Vanishing Point.
I have tried a few Vanishing Points (or ‘Capless’) over the years. The current ‘normal’ Vanishing Point first. Then the twisty Fermo. Then the retro Faceted. The only one I haven’t tried is the skinny, pastel-shaded Decimo.
If you’ll pardon the pun, none of them quite ‘clicked’ with me.
The new Vanishing Point LS (Luxury Silent?) might be the first one that sticks. It arrived today, and my first reaction was overwhelming: it’s like Pilot has listened to every criticism I had of the Vanishing Point models over the years and fixed it in one go.
Goodbye to the bottlenose dolphin
Let’s start at the nib end. The Faceted Vanishing Point was gorgeous, with the clip swooping out of the angular yet streamlined metal end cap.
Then the modern Vanishing Point ruined all that, with a bulbous wavy clip emerging from an oversized, rounded hatch-cap that reminds me of a bottlenose dolphin. The pursuit of a clean-looking cap end was a main motivator for me investigating the twisty Fermo.
The LS solves the problem. It has a smaller, neater, slightly more angular hatch end that’s somewhere between the VP and the Fermo. Just as importantly, it has a sleeker, longer clip. It looks great from any angle. Incidentally, the clip is still not quite in line with the nib, although it’s not so obviously offset as on the normal Vanishing Point.
Moving up, the barrel is still lacquer/paint over brass like the usual Vanishing Point, so the LS is weighty and solid feeling. This is a good thing: the Faceted may have been sleek and gorgeous, but it feels light and fragile, and many suffer cracking.
Mine is a gorgeous, rich, lustrous aubergine or plum colour, offset by bright chrome trim.
Turn a blemish into a feature
On the normal Vanishing Point the two parts of the pen screw together with a couple of bulbous metal bands. It’s ugly and clunky, but this join needs to be strong because it’s what handles the tension of the sprung mechanism being actuated over thousands of uses.
Here the LS wins again. Pilot hasn’t tried to hide the band; instead it’s made it a feature, with a turbine pattern that looks modern, engineered and unique.
Rethink the click
The biggest difference is at the knock end where the retractable mechanism is actioned.
The normal VP is a clicky mechanism. It’s reliable and relatively smooth, but it’s loud and sudden: the nib jumps back into the barrel when retracted, and there’s even a little rebound when you’re extending it. It always made me a little paranoid about ink spatter, and the CHA-CHINK noise actually deterred me from using the Vanishing Point for quick notes in meetings, which should be its natural habitat.
The Fermo is a sprung twisty, which is silent and a neat mechanism, but can be a little tricky to extend with one hand reliably.
The LS has the best of both worlds, and then some.
At first glance, it’s still a normal clicky.
You press the knock to extend the nib.
It does so near silently and with no rebound. The knock stays depressed into the barrel while the nib is extended (so you physically cannot retract the nib by clicking again).
Below the knock is a wide metal band, which rotates as you press the knock down. In fact, you can rotate this band to extend the nib if you choose, although I don’t know why you’d want to.
To retract the nib you press sideways against a cam lobe on this band, to actuate a twisty mechanism. It’s silent and retracts the nib quickly but smoothly. The lobe is easy to find but doesn’t engage accidentally or touch your hand in use.
Although it’s asymmetric, this metal band is much cleaner and more attractive than the coined plastic twist-knob on the Fermo.
Different but the same
So that to me counts as three big flaws with previous Vanishing Points fixed: the bulbous end, the ungainly join, and the noisy knock.
Other than that, the LS is very familiar territory for modern Vanishing Point owners.
The overall size and weight is about the same: in other words, heavy, long, fairly broad, but not uncomfortable. The screw threads, the nib unit, it all feels the same. And unfortunately the LS ships with a CON-40, the worst converter in history. But I’ll get over that.
Mine came with a fine 18k nib, which was dry and scratchy out of the box. I slipped the tiny nib off the feed, loosened it up with brass shims, opened up the feed channel a bit, and I’m much happier with the result. Of course, you can swap the nib unit for a new one in a matter of seconds.
To me after owning four VPs, the writing experience will never been the Vanishing Point’s selling point: the nib has a little softness, but it’s lacking in character, at least at finer sizes like F and M. I should try a stub or broad, really.
But at last the LS delivers on the promise of the Vanishing Point as an unparalleled quick note-taker. Like the modern normal VP, it’s robust with a clicky that you can activate in a moment with one hand. Like the Fermo, it uses a twisty mechanism to retract the nib without a jolt. And it does so near-silently.
In my eyes it’s a huge bonus that the LS has been sprinkled with an aesthetic overhaul too. The nib end and clip look so much neater, the twisty retract mechanism is as well integrated as it can be, and the turbine-edged centre join is a stroke of genius, blingy yet ‘engineered’ at the same time.
Worth the ‘luxury’ price tag?
This improvement comes at quite the cost. The LS is not available in the UK yet — I ordered mine from Malaysia. From the same store, it cost three times as much as the normal Vanishing Point.
Considering the nib unit and basic barrel construction is identical, this is a huge increase for the new extend/retract mechanism and otherwise cosmetic changes.
To me, I like the LS and I do not like the normal Vanishing Point. The LS functions in use noticeably better than both the normal VP and the Fermo. So it’s not a case of choosing one or the other. Pilot has simply made a Vanishing Point I want to own — at last.