Review: Parker Jotter Ballpoint Pen

Parker Jotter Karas Kustoms Tu-Tone RETRAKT

After discussing* how much the Karas Kustoms new Tu-Tone RETRAKT reminded me of the classic, “Mad Men” good looks of the Parker Jotter (prices start at $9.50), I realized I didn’t actually own a Jotter. So, I immediately remedied that. I purchased the teal-y blue version which is called “grey-green”.

The model I purchased is half metal, half plastic. The grey-green portion of the pen is a lightweight plastic, the rest is metal. Other options of this pen are available in stainless steel ($18) or polished stainless steel ($18.50) which probably would have been a more accurate comparison to the RETRAKT but would not have featured the familiar tu-tone look.

Parker Jotter Karas Kustoms Tu-Tone RETRAKT

The RETRAKT is clearly a heftier tool but you can see that the lengths are comparable. Since the barrel on this Jotter is plastic, its really like comparing a featherweight to a heavyweight, but the slimmer barrel of the Jotter certainly makes it a more pocketable tool.

Parker Jotter disassembled

Also, the Jotter utilizes the Parker-style refill — this is the pen that started it all — so there are quite a few options for refills if blue or black ballpoint ink is not for you. So, in terms of flexibility, the Jotter holds its own against the RETRAKT.

I love the etched arrow on the clip. I’m so glad Parker has not tried to modernize or alter the look of the Jotter. It is an icon in its simplicity.

Parker Jotter writing sample

In writing, it honestly took me awhile to get used to writing with a ballpoint. I only use ballpoints when a waitress hands me a receipt to sign so I am seriously out of practice. Ballpoint, especially on this silky, smooth Rhodia paper is slick. But ballpoints are god for everyday office situations where one might need to write on a variety of paper types. And this pen sure looks better than a Bic Stic. To be honest, the stock Parker ballpoint refill is one of the cleanest ballpoint inks I’ve used.

I went ahead and replaced the standard blue ballpoint ink with a Monteverde blue-black gel ink cartridge I had. (You think my pen stash is large, you should see how many pen refills I stash! If the apocalypse comes, I’ll be able to write for a millennia with all the gel and rollerball refills I have stashed.) Again, the gel ink was super slick on the Rhodia paper but the color coordinated nicely with the barrel color.

In the end, I think I might have preferred the metal barrel models of the Jotter for a more durable feel. Or maybe the RETRAKT has spoiled me? Either way, the Jotter is a classic and at less than $10, it deserves a place on every desk.

*See The Pen Addict Podcast Epsiode #130: Stop Spending My Money – Holiday Gift Guide 2014 for the whole conversation.

DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Jet Pens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

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9 comments / Add your comment below

  1. The teal-y one reminds me of the pen my mom used to use to pay bills and write checks when I was a kid. I think it had her name on it. She probably got it as a graduation gift. 🙂

  2. I have carried a Parker since 10th grade. I’m almost 40 now and, as an attorney, there are always two pens in my inside suit jacket pocket: one blue, one black ink jotter (along with an index card holder). I now also carry a Pilot Vanishing Point, which I love, but my Parkers are my old friends. I use the stainless version because they are just so damn reliable.

    1. I do a similar set-up. I’m a law student, and whenever I’m out and about, I keep a Vanishing Point inked with Waterman Bleu Mystère and a Parker Jotter as a backup (which came in handy during OCI). Reliable indeed.

  3. Great post. I’ve been admiring this on JetPens for a while now but was hesitant because of the refill. I didn’t think about changing it to a gel!

  4. I love your refill guide, but I would love it if it listed pens that took each refill as well. I dig this pen like crazy but I’m in love with g2 refills. What are my affordable options? Been scouring the Internet for a list.

    1. You might be able to employ Mike Rohde’s trick of just hacking the end of the Pilot G2 refill off to match the length of the Parker-style refill. He was able to make it work for his Retro 51. Or you could try the Moleskine Gel refills, Visconti Gel refills, the Parker gel refills or the Schmidt Easy Flows (used in the Retro 51s).

      While I might try to add “popular” pens that take a specific refill as an example, I don’t have the resources or the expertise to create an exhaustive list of every pen model that accepts every specific refill. My goal with the refill guide was to give folks a place to start. Please let me know if you find a gel refill that works for you.

  5. The new refills made in France seem to write more smoothly than the ones they used to make in the UK. Probably ink chemistry has improved a little. Not the best pen, but good enough, and amazingly versatile.

  6. Hi, Ana. I’ve been using Jotters for the past few years, since I fell in love with their looks, feel (I like the narrow barrel), and history. Now (2019) Parker has really reinvigorated their Jotter line with a whole slew of metal-barrel designs is striking colors, and have been offering some with a gel refill included (still the minority; most are classic ballpoints). I always throw a gel in. I have a number of plastic and steel barrel models, and I get what you’re saying about the sturdy feel of the metal ones. They also look very nice and professional. However, I find that the plastic ones, made from a quality ABS plastic, are much more comfortable and grippy. The metal ones can be too slick for comfortable writing. Additionally, the original and classic look is the plastic barrel, which you will find in TV shows like Mad Men and Endeavour. Technically, the original used a nylon barrel before the switch to plastic, but the point is, it was a plastic-like synthetic barrel, not metal — and it worked very well.

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