Thursday, August 25, 2022

Newest Acquisitions (Virtual "Show & Tell") ~ part 420

A few weeks ago, I sent in a mail-in coupon for a $30 CAD rebate for some prescription contact lenses I bought. I was expecting the rebate to arrive via cheque, but it came in the form of a pre-paid Mastercard -- interesting! I knew there was a charge associated with using the card at a brick & mortar store, so I used it to buy myself an gift card and, subsequently (ie. one minute later, heh), used it to buy myself a new pen I'd been eyeing. Happily, the rebate almost fully covered the cost of the pen.

But enough background about my purchase...Meet my new Parker 'Vector XL' fountain pen!

(please click on images to enlarge)

Part 1: How are these two pens even related???
The Parker 'XL' arrived from an Austrian seller in the black cardboard Parker presentation box above (which had a protective cardboard sleeve, partially shown in the photo). The model currently comes in five different matte finishes--Metallic Black, Metallic Silver-Blue, Metallic Teal, Metallic Lilac and Metallic Green (the colour of my pen, which is a "sage green' shade). If you're not into fountain pens, the 'Vector XL' also comes in rollerball form in the same five finishes.

The standard-sized Parker 'Vector' fountain pen came out in 1984 (the rollerball came out a few years earlier) and became a very popular student/starter fountain pen. It was made in both the US and UK and is still in production today (since the closing of the UK plant, production of the pen switched to China and India). The pen came in a large variety of colours and designs---including some special editions--- and was available virtually everywhere (I remember buying one at a local Pharmasave).
Here's a standard-sized 'Vector' (the black pen below):

The pen I'm reviewing today--the Parker 'Vector XL' (the green pen) -- came out in 2021. As you can see, it's wider in diameter (11mm vs 10mm ) and slightly longer when capped (13.4 cm vs 13.1 cm) than the black standard-sized Parker 'Vector' in my photos.

The posted length of the two models is nearly identical (15.6 cm for the 'Vector XL' vs.15.4 cm for the standard 'Vector')....

...but the uncapped 'Vector XL' body is longer (12.3 cm vs 11.4 cm, from nib tip to barrel end).

Unlike the Parker 'Jotter' and 'Jotter XL' ballpoints (which look like a regular model and its oversized counterpart), the two fountain pens above are completely different in appearance, from top to bottom! The 'Vector XL' is a cylindrical metal-bodied pen with a matte finish, whereas the 'Vector' has a cylindrical, shiny plastic body with a narrow metal barrel end. Their caps and clips have different designs, and their sections are shaped differently and made of different materials -- opaque plastic for the 'Vector XL' and brushed steel for the 'Vector'.

Because it has more metal parts, the 'Vector XL' is much heavier than the ultra-light 'Vector'--19.2 grams vs. 9.4 grams (with no converters/cartridges inside either pen). In terms of maximum section diameter, the 'Vector XL's is around 11.3mm, while the standard 'Vector's is about 8.6mm (my measurements).

The differences in these models extend to their stainless steel nibs, as well; the 'Vector XL's is a traditional-looking, #5-sized open nib, while the 'Vector' nib is almost triangular in shape and considerably smaller. Both nibs have the Parker name engraved on them, but the 'XL' nib has a large "X" engraved at the end of its nib slit.

The 'XL' comes in only two nib options (Fine or Medium), but the standard 'Vector' comes in a larger variety of nib widths, as it's also available as a calligraphy kit containing three italic nibs (fine, medium and broad---I'm not sure of their nib widths, though).

As for filling systems, those are (not surprisingly) the same - both models take Parker's proprietary ink cartridges and/or Parker's proprietary converters (I believe Aurora's cartridges/converters might work in these pens, as well).

Part 2: You know how some people look more like their cousins than their own siblings??

When I showed my new Parker 'Vector XL' to my fellow pen club members at our in-person meeting last week, Jerred commented on its similarity to the Waterman 'Graduate' fountain pen. I'm a huge fan of the 'Graduate' (and its sibling - the Waterman 'Allure' -- both of which I've reviewed on this blog) but I just got my 'Vector XL' the day of our meeting, so I didn't notice this similarity until I looked at the pens side-by-side when I got home....and I was stunned to see that Jerred was 100% correct: (Above: Parker 'Vector XL' in Metallic Green & Waterman 'Graduate' in brushed stainless steel)

Aside from their clips, they look like the same model...

...and, in fact, you can swap their caps and barrels around (and they fit together perfectly)!

Their nibs (and feeds--not shown) look exactly alike, except for their nib engravings. In addition, both sections are made of plastic and share the same design, although the Waterman 'Graduate' (and 'Allure') section is solid black, while the Parker 'Vector XL' section is opaque and matches the colour of the pen body.

(Above: the cap finials are also the same, aside from the Parker logo on the 'Vector XL' at left)

Late side note: I just noticed that the Waterman 'Graduate' has a black disc on the bottom of its barrel, but the Parker 'Vector XL' does not. The Waterman 'Allure' (which is the same pen as the 'Graduate' but in coloured finishes) also lacks this barrel disc, so it's actually even more similar in appearance to the Parker 'Vector XL' than the 'Graduate'!

Now, before you start screaming [TWSBI]"Copyright infringement!!" [/TWSBI]😆, you should know that Parker and Waterman are both owned by Newell Brands, so there's no copyright infringement going on here. I love all of these look-alike pen models, and they all write extremely well out of the box (none required any tuning/adjustments), so it's toss-up for me as to which one I like the most.

If you are trying to decide which one to buy, you might want to keep in mind that
the Parker 'Vector XL'  takes Parker's proprietary ink cartridges/ink converters, whereas the Waterman 'Graduate' (and 'Allure') take standard international ink cartridges/converters. Currently, only the Waterman 'Graduate' comes as a brushed stainless steel (also known as "flighter") model.

Final thoughts:
I hope this review wasn't too confusing, with me comparing my new Parker 'Vector XL' to the original 'Vector', and then to the Waterman 'Graduate'/'Allure' models that it so closely resembles. The 'Vector XL' is a smooth writer and a very reasonably-priced fountain pen. I love writing with mine and would choose it over the standard 'Parker Vector' in a heartbeat
, because I think it's more durable, and a better-made pen than the current production 'Vector' fountain pens.

If you prefer very narrow fountain pens, however, you might prefer the standard 'Vector' better. In terms of colour choices and forms, the standard 'Vector' comes in a much wider variety of designs and colours than the 'Vector XL', and is available in three forms (fountain pen, rollerball and ballpoint) vs. just two (fountain pen and rollerball) for the 'Vector XL'.

As for availability, the 'Vector XL' seems to be only available (online, at least) from European online retailers, either through their own websites or via their Amazon stores. The standard 'Vector' is
available pretty much everywhere.

(photos & review by Maja)

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