You don’t always get what you think you are buying and this is true of the Parker Vector as it is of many things these days. My first Vector and by some strange quirk of fate I now have two of them, was made at the Parker factory in Newhaven, England, sometime in the late 1970’s. I think I am right that the factory closed in around 2001. It was a freebie given by British Airways to first class passengers along with a load of other things. Until a few months ago it has been laying around in my writing desk, unloved and unwanted when I decided to give it a try or bin it if I couldn’t find anywone to give it to. I am not a lover of cartridge pens but you can use a converter and use ink from a bottle. It also turned out to be rather better than I thought it would be.
The Vector is, of course, still produced today and you might be forgiven if you thought as some do, that Parker is a UK company and the pens are made in this country. Particularly since the packaging on todays Vector offering sports no less than two royal appointments, one by the Queen and the other by the Prince of Wales. It also lists the Parker Pen Company as being in Lichfield, which as far as I know is still in England. Parker Pen products may well be used in the royal household but it does not mean that either the Queen or the Prince of Wales uses a Vector fountain pen or any other of the company’s products. The Vector pen is made in France and according to the back of the packaging is a product of Newell Europe Sarl with an address in Switzerland. The second picture of the other French made Vector is the same as sold in supermarkets for £10 and appears to be the same as the UK produced one except for having three threads instead of five on the UK nib unit. I noticed that Parker Vector pens are sold much cheaper than this on Ebay. I rather think they are what used to be referred to as grey imports. The packaging on some are marked as for sale only in India and Nepal and are made under licence by Luxor who also make pens for other makes according to their website. Some of the pens are sold without packaging and others bear the Parker name manufactured by luxor but without any country restrictions on the packet. These all seem to have fine point nibs. I have not tried any of those pens but other reviews did say they wrote a little rough but then fine nibs sometimes do when compared with broader nibs.
Specifications: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder as they say and the Vector does look a little plain to me. The rather plain clip on the cap does nothing for the looks compared with the golden arrow of the more expensive pens. Still, this is a budget pen and it works well either clipped to a thin shirt pocket or thick sports jacket. It also sits firmly when posted on the end of the pen and no likelihood of splitting the plastic cap either. The pen takes the usual long Parker cartridge or you can use a Parker converter and use bottled ink instead of throw away plastic cartridges. There’s really not much else to say about the specifications except to say that the cap clicks on rather and push on and seems quite secure. These pens normally seem to have medium nibs but you can buy fine and broad ones too.
Performance: Just a few surprises here. The most important part of any fountain pen is the nib and at first I was not too impressed with the stainless steel nib which did not seem to be very flexible but was smooth with no feedback at all over various writing pads and school exercise books. Both pens reviewed have medium nibs and both pens performed exactly the same as each other. Unlike some of the more expensive Parker pens I have had over the years the Vector did not write rather too wet but delivered just the right amount of ink whether writing fast or slow. The letters had quite a nice thick and thin form to them too, far better than my Parker Fifteen which proved to be quite a disappointment. Okay, perhaps the Vector may not have passed muster in school handwriting competitions way back in the sixties but never the less I think most would be satisfied with the way the Vector writes. The pen didn’t mind being left laying down or kept upright in a jacket pocket. The cap is certainly very airtight as it still wrote instantly after being unused for two weeks. It deserves at least one Brownie point for that alone! The pen is advertised as an entry level or first fountain pen. Some have suggested this as a school pen. In the UK few school children will ever know the joys or otherwise of a fountain pen. The days are long gone when everyone had to use a fountain pen at school and ball point pens were banned. There are exceptions of course and fountain pens are still used in some schools but most state schools the ball point now rules supreme. That probably explains why most of the really cheap budget fountain pens have disappeared of the shelves of the local supermarket. We did however do the usual fun tests to see if the Vector would survive in a school environment. It wrote very well on the shiny unforgiving school exercise book, never too wet to leave smear marks or anything. It surived our drop tests without damage and really passed all tests required of a school pen for daily use. Never failed to write instantly even after being left unused for several days. Some of the admittedly very cheap budget pens would have been in the bin by morning break but the Vector proved to be among the best in class.
Conclusions? Well, at first not a pen I would use but after actually using it for over a month I ended keeping it as a back-up pen in one of my jsports ackets. It’s about the only fountain pen I would let somebody else use as they are unlikely to damage the stainless steel nib. It really is rather good although if looking for a really cheap budget pen there are others with a price tag of a couple of pounds which perform as well. At ten pounds its hardly bargain basement but then it does have the name Parker on it, if that means anything to you and you could do a lot worse with some far more expensive pens.