Pilot Vanishing Point Fountain Pens Explained!
Arguably one of the most iconic and recognizable fountain pens in the world is the Pilot Vanishing Point. In our shop, customers ask to see and write with this pen all the time and it's always fun seeing how people react to seeing the retractable nib.
A Brief Background of Pilot Vanishing Point
Released in 1963, Pilot launched the Pilot Capless with claims that it was the world's first capless fountain pen, thus its name in Japan, "Capless." In the US, this fountain pen is known as Vanishing Point. Of course, as with many boasts of historical "firsts," there were actually some predecessors of Pilot's Vanishing Point such as the Aurora Asterope and Meteore Pullman, which are considered some of today's rarest antique pens. However, none of these vintage pens are still around today and Pilot Vanishing Point's introduction in 1963 was well-received and the pen won many awards in the following years for its innovative design. Today, it continues to be what most fountain pen users believe to be the best retractable fountain pen available.
Ads of the Capless released in 1963. From https://www.pilot.co.jp/100th/story/capless.html
Ads for a Capless predecessor, the Aurora Asterope. From: https://www.fountainpen.it/File:193x-Aurora-Asterope.jpg
In 1963, Pilot released the first version of their Capless fountain pen, which was retractable via a rotating dial on the back of the pen. This pen won numerous awards including the Oscar Award at the International Gift Fair in Paris and the Okochi Memorial Technology Prize. Its success led to the release of the knock type capless fountain pen later released in 1964. In the following years, Pilot released multiple updated versions of the Capless, testing out different materials and innovations for improving the durability and the affordability of the Capless. It wasn't until 1998 that the modern design of the Capless/Vanishing Point as we know it today was released with a metal barrel, 18k gold nib and improved outer coating.
Other Vanishing Point models such as the Decimo, Fermo, and LS were released in 2005, 2006 and 2019 and in that time, Pilot also released their very popular Vanishing Point fountain pen multiple finishes and materials.
Why a retractable fountain pen?
If you're wondering why someone would want a retractable fountain pen in the first place, the desire for a retractable fountain pen came from a number of places.
Back in the 1930s when the Aurora Asterope and the Meteore Pullman were created, World War I veterans had returned from the war, many with injuries and amputated limbs, and the need for a pen that could be operated singlehandedly arose. Pens of the time had caps that needed to be unscrewed and amputees weren't able to do that easily with just one arm.
Although the Vanishing Point was released decades later, the desire for a retractable fountain pen came from a similar place of wanting a convenient pen that could be uncapped quickly and Pilot's Capless of 1963 was pretty revolutionary in its day for doing just that.
Special Features of Pilot Vanishing Point
Aside from its main draw of having a knock mechanism to release the nib, the Pilot Vanishing Point has some features that make it stand out from other fountain pens.
18k gold nib - The vast majority of gold nib fountain pens come with a 14k nib but the nib units of any Vanishing Point pen are 18k nib, making them softer to write with.
Shutter mechanism - Despite the novelty that a capless fountain pen carries, the main concern that a fountain pen user would have is if the nib and ink would dry out very quickly. A screw cap fountain pen is secure and also keeps the seal around the nib air-tight to prevent evaporation of ink and drying out of the nib. Theoretically, a capless fountain pen would dry out in hours, but Pilot's solution to this problem came in the form of a shutter window that would come up around the nib and enclose the nib once the knock mechanism is clicked back. In practice, this shutter window actually works quite well and keeps our Vanishing Point fountain pens writing even after a week or two in the drawer.
Diagram of the Pilot's shutter mechanism. From: https://www.pilot-capless.jp/
Clip - The clip of the Vanishing Point is positioned in a unique location on the pen--on the grip section. Some users complain about the placement of the clip where they hold the pen and depending on how you hold your pen, it is possible that the clip can get in the way of your grip, making it uncomfortable for longer periods of writing, but Pilot's choice to place the clip near the grip section is actually for a good reason. Since the pen is capless, ink could potentially leak out of the pen easily into a bag or pencil case. They decided to place the clip near the grip and orient it so that when clipped in a pocket or in a backpack, the nib would actually be facing upwards, preventing any possible leakage from occurring.
Available nib sizes - Vanishing Point fountain pens come in a range of sizes from EF, F, M, B and Stub. Depending on the color of the nib, some pens only come in F, M and Broad. In Japan, the FM size is also available as a size in between Fine and Medium.
Replacement Nib Units - Unlike almost every other Pilot gold nib fountain pen and nearly all Japanese gold nib fountain pens, the Vanishing Point has swappable nib units that are separately sold. The nib can be easily removed from the pen once the pen barrel is opened and then nib size can be changed without having to pull or perform any other surgery-like procedures on your pen, which can be a comfort if you have never pulled a nib out of your fountain pen before!
Vanishing Point Models/Collections
Given the success of Pilot Vanishing Point among fountain pen users across the world, it makes sense that Pilot wished to reimagine the Capless in a number of finishes, materials and with different types of retractability. In this section, we'll give an overview of the different models of Pilot Vanishing Point available.
Vanishing Point/Capless - These standard models of the Vanishing Point/Capless come in a number of different solid colors with gold or silver trim. These VPs have brass barrels, which given them some weight in the hand.
Decimo - Released in 2005 and called "Decimo," which means tenth in Spanish because they were the tenth model of the Capless. Decimo fountain pens come with aluminum barrels that are more lightweight than their brass counterparts. They are the same length as the standard size Vanishing Points but are slimmer.
Side by side, the Vanishing Point and Decimo are the same length but the Decimo (bottom) has a smaller diameter.
Special Colors/Finishes - These VPs have the same exact dimensions as a standard VP but in special materials and colors.
- Stripe - Brass and stainless steel coating
- Raden - Brass and urushi lacquer with special inlaid abalone shell detailing
- Wood - Made out of birch wood, resulting in a lighter pen. These wooden Vanishing Points are Japan-only models.
- SE - Stands for "Seul," which means unique in French for the unique marbling pattern across the barrel of the pen.
- Yearly Limited Editions - Each year Pilot release the Vanishing Point in a limited color. They produce the number of pens to match the year and these pens all come with a serial number. Pictured below are the Tropical Turquoise of 2019 and the Red Coral of 2022.
LS (Luxury and Silent) - Released in 2019, this version of the Vanishing Point is called LS to stand for "Luxury and Silent," and these models provide for a completely silent knock. You click the knock to expose the nib just as you would on a typical Vanishing Point, but in order to retract the nib back into the barrel, there is a separate dial located beneath the knock that you turn to silently retract the nib back in.
Fermo - This Japan-only model of the Vanishing Point released in 2006 is the closest thing to the early rotation style retractable Capless pens released in 1963. It has a brass barrel with resin coating and a slimmer barrel than the standard Vanishing Point models.
To help digest all this information, we thought a little chart might help break down some of the key differences between these various Vanishing Point models.
Diameter (max.) (mm)
|Brass with resin coating||14||13.4||1.08||
|Decimo||Aluminum with resin coating||14||12||0.69||
|Stripe||Brass with stainless steel coating||14||13.4||1.12||Knock|
|Raden||Brass with Roiro Urushi lacquer and mother of pearl raden||14||13.4||1.11||Knock|
|LS||Brass with resin coating||14.5||13.6||1.44||Knock and rotating dial for silent retractability|
|Fermo||Brass with resin coating||14.1||12.4||1.18||Rotating dial|
|Yearly Limited||Brass with resin coating||14||13.4||1.08||Knock|
We hope this article has made your decision whether or not to get a Pilot Vanishing Point a little easier! For more information, check out our YouTube video all about Pilot Vanishing Point Fountain Pens and stay tuned for our upcoming Nib and Line Comparison Video.