Waterman Safety Pen – Vintage Pens

The Waterman eyedropper-fill safety pens were produced around 1905 to 1935. Safety pens have nibs that can be extended and retracted by turning a knob at the bottom of the pen’s barrel.

These vintage safety pens are all eyedropper-fill – there are no sacs or any other system aside from the barrel that you fill with ink directly past the retracted nib. Ink is dropped into the open end to about one-half inch from the top. Waterman recommended wiping any excess ink from the joints. To extend the nib, the cap is placed on the back of the pen and turned (clockwise). To retract the nib, turn the posted cap in the other direction (counterclockwise), then recap. Waterman recommended screwing the cap on firmly, which would prevent ink from leaking, regardless of how the pen was carried (hence, the “Safety” pen — no ink would leak as it could from a slip-cap pen, especially if the cap slipped off!).

Another advantage of this design is when the nib is retracted into the barrel, it is housed in the moist barrel – this prevents it from drying out and giving hard starts or skips. As such, these pens were always ready to write. One must always remember to retract the nib before replacing the cap!

Waterman manufactured a variety of sizes and models, some small, some large, some with bands, others plain. They also produced accommodation clips to fit the 12, 13, 14, and 15 models, before “rivet” clips were readily available..

Public Domain Image from Wikipedia

Public Domain from Wikipedia

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  1. Luc
    Posted March 7, 2016 at 10:20 am | Permalink


    I have a Waterman 12S with a silver snake on the clip. I do know it is a very rare pen and I have only seen one in an auction some time ago. I would be very gratefull if I could receive an indication of the value. the pen is excellent. Near mint.



    • Gary Lehrer
      Posted March 7, 2016 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

      If the 12S is Black Hard Rubber and in at least near mint condition it likely has a value in the pen collecting community of $125 to $150. If Red Mottled Hard Rubber, $300 to $350. I don’t know of a Waterman signed snake clip. If it is such it would be the first one found and certainly worth several hundred dollars at a minimum. If aftermarket (not signed Waterman), but still signed sterling silver, then value likely anywhere between $50 and $300, depending on factors such as size, quality, intricacy and the like.

  2. Jorge Chen
    Posted May 21, 2021 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    I have a Waterman 48 safety. I don’t know what is the ongoing value of it.

    • Gary Lehrer
      Posted May 21, 2021 at 11:57 am | Permalink

      Hi Jorge, it depends very much on condition. If mint, about $2,000. If less than mint the value drops accordingly. Gary

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