Review: Sailor Pro Gear Imperial Black

I bought the Sailor Professional Gear Imperial Black Pen back in March 2012. I only recently made it a a daily writer. I’ll get into why that is in a little bit.

Why I Bought It

I bought it because I wanted to add a “Stealth” pen to my accumulation as I’ve always liked them. I think this is one of the best looking stealth pens I’ve seen. I’m not alone. In the short time I’ve had it in public, it’s gotten more comments than any of my other pens. This pen was an impulse purchase as I pretty much decided to buy one the first time I saw pictures of it and bought it soon after.

Just look at it for the reason I bought it.

Photo of the Sailor Pro Gear IB

Where I Bought It & What I Bought

I purchased it from Classic Fountain Pens ( It’s not a custom nib but they do adjust all nibs before shipping. I asked for the 21kt gold fine nib to provide a light to medium ink flow when using light to medium pressure. I ordered a fine nib, which Sailor calls “H-F” (hard fine). Sailor nibs run on the thin side but that was what I wanted. The pen is currently selling for $472.

First Impressions

This is where the pen suffered, although through no fault of its own. I typically research a pen before buying so I know what to expect. I lapsed in this case, or just didn’t pay attention to people’s definition of “large”, and was surprised at the small size of the pen when it arrived. I’m prone to to multiply the effects of missed or exceeded expectations and I did so in this case. Since I was disappointed I put the pen aside after trying it briefly. I wasn’t so unhappy that I considered a return, but I considered it a niche pen for me rather than a daily writer.

Photo comparing pens capped
See the gallery for pen IDs and more comparisons. Click any photo for full-size view.

The reality is that while the pen is a bit shorter than the Sailor 1911 their sections are about the same size. I did some measurements of the Sailor Pro Gear.

  • The capped length of the pen is 5.0685″ (128.74 mm)
  • The uncapped length, nib included, is 4.5555″ (115.71 mm)
  • The posted length, nib included, is 5.821″ (147.85 mm)
  • At it’s widest point (the cap band) the pen is 0.6175″ (15.68 mm). With the clip it’s .6985″ (17.74 mm) across.
  • At it widest point the barrel is about .53″ (13.32 mm)
  • The section is 0.413″ (10.49 mm) wide near the nib (just above the lip that protects the nib) and it tapers to 0.452″ (11.47 mm) at the top of the section

Despite what appears to be high precision, those measurements are probably a little off as I didn’t want to scratch or otherwise damage the pen with the micrometer.

I don’t post my pen caps when writing which does make the pen about as short as I can go and still write comfortably.

Filling System

Sailor used their own proprietary cartridges and converters  The larger opening seems to help the ink flow which has always been great in my Sailor fountain pens. This pen consistently fills the converter with just two complete cycles. The first time it’s nearly full, maybe about 1/3″ of air. The second time the ink is at the top of the converter.

My only complaint is that the converter isn’t a screw-in type. But the fit does feel secure.

There’s metal inside the pen, so use as a eye dropped fill is out of the picture. But to be honest, this isn’t a pen design I’d consider using as an eye dropper fill.

How I Use It

Photo of Sailor Logo

I’ve been using the pen for both long writing sessions and intermittent note taking. It’s a light pen, weighing a reported 21.6 grams so long writing sessions aren’t tiring. Once I convinced my brain that this wasn’t a thin pen I started gripping the pen normally, which for me is a light grip with little pressure. The pen is a joy to write with and I’ve never grown tired using it. As an FYI – “long writing sessions” for me are typically 30 to 60 minutes. By then I either run out of things to write or need a break for non-pen related reasons.

I don’t post any of my pens so everything in this review is with the pen cap unposted. I find holding the pen cap in my left hand helps me concentrate for some reason although a tend to fiddle with it. The Sailor Pro Gear cap performs this function nicely. It’s light , sturdy and not slippery.

I’ve stuck with black inks and gray, it seems only appropriate for this pen.

The Review

The pen was nicely presented in a black, clothed lined box. Like pen, the box and lining are different shades of black. A bottle of black ink and a couple black cartridges are included. A simple but effective presentation that re-enforces the feeling that this is a special pen, although it doesn’t affect how the pen writes.

The Design

The pen feels almost metal to me, although much lighter than a metal pen would be. It’s a matte black resin with a “satinised” finish. The nib and accents are titanium ion plated and Classic Fountain Pens calls the plating “smoky” which I think is a appropriate word to use.

Others have called it a “large” pen which I disagree with, although I don’t consider it small either. But I’ve already discussed the size and my initial reaction to it.

The pen just has the look and feel of one where a lot of consideration was put into the design. The pen is nice and smooth. The polished finish has a metallic feel to me, or maybe aluminum. But like I said, it doesn’t have the weight. Despite the look, I don’t find the pen to be slippery at all. Even the internal threads and metal inside the pen where the barrel screws on are smokey black so the stealth illusion isn’t broken when opening the pen. The only break in the illusion is the top of the converter, which is still the standard silver.

The pen has been in and out of my pen case almost daily for several weeks and used several hours most days. The finish still looks as good as the day I got it. Granted, it’s still a short time in the grand scheme, but I don’t get the impression this pen or its finish is fragile. I don’t abuse my pens, but I don’t pamper them either.

Writing With The Pen

Nib close-up photo
Fine Nib

The ink flow in this pen is great. I didn’t have any problems with either the cartridges or any inks in the converter. No hard starts or skips. The first ink was a cartridge and by the time I closed up the pen and grabbed a piece of paper the nib was ready to write. Well, there was one very minor hiccup I’ll mention when I talk about the inks I used. The line put down is thin but consistent. While the orderly side of my brain would prefer the standard international size, I gladly suppress it when using this pen.

The feel of the 21kt gold nib is smooth. I din’t get any feedback on Rhodia paper, the pen just glides across it leaving the ink behind. I can say the same for other fountain pen friendly paper such as my Black & Red notebook. On slightly rougher paper, such as my Doane pads I can hear the nib as it writes on the paper although I’d hesitate to call it feedback. There’s just a hint of the pen telling me “yea, there is paper here”. It’s not an annoying noise or “singing”, just the sound of nib touching paper. My definition of feedback is resistance, even if its slight, and I don’t feel resistance on anything but the roughest paper. I don’t ever feel the nib biting into paper.

Photo of writing sample

If I hold the very end of the pen and just lay the nib on the paper at a 45 degree angle, so it’s just under its own weight, then drag it across the paper I get an unbroken line which is pretty good in my opinion since it works on any paper I’ve tried. Other pens might do this on Rhodia paper, but fall down with less friendly papers.

Cleaning The Pen

The pen is easy to clean. Now I only used black inks which are generally easy to clean but the pen is free of ink after a couple flushes with the ear syringe. A complete cleaning takes less than two minutes. Other fountain pens may be as easy, but I don’t think it gets easier than this.

Despite the slick appearance I’ve never come close to dropping the pen while cleaning it (unlike my experience with some other pens) and it doesn’t feel slippery. While the black does to attract dust it’s only noticeable in photo closeups and not during use.

Odds & Ends

Once I got past my reaction to the smaller than expected pen I couldn’t put it down. To be honest, I only inked it up at first because I liked the looks. Then I forced myself to use it for a day once I decided to review it. Now I reach for it because I want to use it. This pen will be in the rotation as a standard with black or gray ink.

The pen fits nicely in my shirt pocket. The clip slides over the material easily but holds the pen solidly in the pocket. I like the way the Sailor logo appears right side up when I look down at it in my pocket.

The only thing going against it as a pocket pen is that it takes two full rotations to uncap it. For pens I carry in my shirt pocket I prefer they uncap a little quicker (assuming its not a VP). But this is a nit-pick that others probably wouldn’t share.

Inks Used

Like I mentioned previously, this pen demands black ink. Except for one ink they all performed about the same in the pen. A nice dark line with an even flow and no hard starts, skipping or hesitation.

Sailor Jentle Black cartridge and bottle – The cartridges were unlabeled but I think it’s safe to assume they were Jentle Black like the bottled ink. In any event, they performed the same as the bottle. The flow was good and I would say it was more on the medium end of the “light to medium” ink flow I like and had the nib adjusted for. Drying time was about 8 second on Doane paper and just a bit longer on Rhodia.

J. Herbin Perle Noir – I’d say this was just a little wetter than the Sailor black ink, but not by much and I’d still call the flow medium Drying time was just a bit longer than the Sailor ink.

Irosjizuku Fuyu-syogun ink bottle
Current favorite ink for Sailor Pro Gear IB

Pilot Iroshizuku Fuyu-syogun (Light Cool Gray) – OK, so gray isn’t black but I wanted to try an Iroshizuku ink and this was the closest to black I could get my hands on. I’d also say the ink has a bluish tint to it. This is the one ink that gave me any sort of problem. I think it was isolated but I did have one hard start while taking notes on Doane paper. This was during several days of use so I think it was just an isolated incident. Maybe some oil from my hand got on the paper. The flow of this ink was on the lighter side. This was the fastest drying ink I used in this pen, taking under 5 seconds on all the paper I used, including Rhodia. It’s great for note taking since it dries so quickly. I can be careless and still stay smudge free. I’ve since been able to get Take-sumi Bamboo Charcoal which should be a blacker ink. But I’m going to wait until the Fuyu-syogun is used up. Of all the inks used in the Pro gear, this is my favorite and I didn’t even know I liked gray.

Aurora Black – I used this last year when I first had the pen so I don’t have specific notes anymore. I remember it to be on the wetter side than the Sailor ink and I smudged it occasionally which leads me to believe it was slower drying than the other inks with this pen.

Wrapping Up

Despite my early disappointment I’ve come to my senses and have grown to appreciate using this pen. It’s been a daily writer for the past three weeks and has never let me down. I look forward to using it. Plus I still think it’s a great looking pen.

I expect it will be in my Weekly Ink for a long time to come. Eventually I’ll pick another pen as my daily writer, but that’s only because I like variation.

Click on any photo to open the gallery view.

7 thoughts on “Review: Sailor Pro Gear Imperial Black

  1. Wow, nice review! That is one beauty of a pen. Love that Pilot ink!
    You should have taken a picture w/a Japanese whisky though 🙂

    • Hi Mike. Glad you liked the review. I don’t think I’ve ever had Japanese whiskey. Certainly don’t have any, but a picture would be a good excuse to get some.


  2. Pingback: Monday Notebook, Pen, & Ink Review Round-up | The European Paper Company

  3. Great review. I have a question, if you have the time to answer. I have ordered the Imperieal Black pen twice now, and both times I have had to return the pen for the same reason. Under the clip and a few millimeters outside it, the cap is slightly lighter than the rest of the pen. It’s like a discolored area or possibly an area where the matte coating hasn’t been applied properly. The mysterious thing is that this has occurred for both pens bought from two completely different vendors. When I look at you close up pictures of the cap I can’t see that, except possibly for the picture with the whiskey bottle. If you look at your cap in good lighting, is the cap evenly black under the clip? Well, what I’m really after is to know whether this is something I should expect on the Imperial Black.

    Otherwise it is a gorgeaus pen and I’m a little sad that I don’t have one in my possession.

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