After the enthusiastic reception of last week’s overview of the classic ink brand Sheaffer, it seemed appropriate to continue the series and follow it up with a Desk favorite, Waterman. Waterman has been making pens since 1883 and probably started making ink about the same time.
I can’t find specific details but the current bottle design has been used since the 1920s and 30s with slight variations. The faceted gemstone look of the bottle allows the bottle to be tipped onto its side to make it easier to get ink out as the ink levels begin to get lower. It’s one of my favorite ink bottles.
Waterman offers just eight colors in its ink line up. Of those eight colors, the names have changed over time but the colors have remained fairly consistent both in range and hue. The swatches shown above may show earlier names (i.e. Havana Brown which is now called Absolute Brown) but the ink colors are the same. I got into fountain pens just as Waterman was changing the ink names so I have had bottles with new and older names. The ink colors did not change. Waterman just updated the label designs and the names.
Honestly, I think they should have hired someone from a nail polish company to give these lovely colors poppier names. Maybe Tender Purple should be called “Did You Do It on Purple?” and Inspired Blue could be “Pen Life Aquatic”? Okay… maybe these names need work but they are certainly more worthy of these pretty colors than “Harmonious Green” which is the lamest name ever.
When you see how much these inks sheen, is it fair to give them such humdrum names? I don’t think so. Six out of the eight colors in the line sheen. Tender Purple, Inspired Blue, Harmonious Green and Serenity Blue are the most likely to sheen. Depending on your paper, Audacious Red and Mysterious Blue will sheen too.
When you add the that fact that these inks are safe for vintage fountain pens and the prices per bottle is very reasonable ($11.30 per 50ml bottle) and what’s not to love?
Okay, I’ll give you more reasons…
Let’s compare each Waterman ink color with other similar inks. I’ll start with a color I initially didn’t like but have grown to love. It’s Waterman Harmonious Green. Again, I was thrown by the name. It’s not GREEN as I expected it to be and when I put it next to other similar swatches, it becomes clear that Harmonious Green is actually more of an aqua or a teal green than an actual Kelly or grass green. I think if the color had been named Jade Green or Jadeite it would probably be much more popular. Harmonious Green is quite similar to similarly-priced Kaweco Paradise Blue and the more expensive Pelikan Edelstein Jade. Pilot Iroshizuku Shin Ryoku, De Atramentis Petrol and Kobe #47 are all slightly more green but just by a tiny bit. So, I think Waterman (in my mind) Jadeite Green is in very good company.
Waterman Audacious Red shows some sheen which is similar the limited edition Franklin-Christoph ’19. The sheen in Audacious Red is not quite as pronounced and a little darker but the hue is quite similar. Seeing as how the Franklin-Christoph ’19 ink is harder to acquire than a pen show in 2020 (too soon for this joke?), Audacious Red is a good option. I included a swatch of Pelikan Edelstein Garnet which is slightly more orange and Diamine Matador and Red Dragon which are both slightly darker reds and Robert Oster Red Candy which is almost as dark as Red Dragon but not quite.
Waterman Serenity Blue (again, the name is not fitting for the beauty of the color) is very similar to both Lamy Blue and Pilot Blue. These three inks, while simple in name are classic, workhorse ink colors. They are less saturated than the three inks shown on the right: Monteverde Sapphire, Pilot Iroshizuku Asa-Gao and Monteverde 2018 DC Supershow Blue. Asa-Gao is the closest to Serenity Blue while the two Monteverde inks are deeper and darker.
We’ve had several debates as to whether Waterman Obsession Blue and Inspired Blue are the same color. I’m inclined to believe they are but just bottled with different labels. There are only slight differences in the swatches I have from my bottle (labelled Obsession Blue) and the swatches I have from my sample vial (labelled Inspired Blue) that can be chalked up to the amount of ink I put on the paper as much as to the color of the ink. That said, the comparison inks for Waterman’s turquoise ink are very similar to the inks I pulled for Sheaffer last week, including Sheaffer Turquoise.
Just for giggles, here’s the photo from the Sheaffer ink overview from last week. The colors I picked were: Sheaffer Turquoise, J. Herbin Bleu Pervenche, Lamy Pacific Blue, Franklin-Christoph Spanish Blue, Monteverde Caribbean Blue. Yep. All the same swatches.
While we are rehashing how similar some of the Waterman inks are to Sheaffer, I’ll go through the black ink swatches too. Waterman Intense Black is a solid performing water soluble black ink. This week I divided the black ink comparison with three cool/neutral blacks on the left and three slightly warmer blacks on the right. The cool/neutral blacks are from top to bottom on the left: Monteverde Coal Noir, Sheaffer Black and Platinum Carbon Black (being the only waterproof black included). On the right, from top to bottom: Lamy Crystal Obsidian, Waterman Instense Black and Kaweco Pearl Black. Both Waterman and Sheaffer Black are safe for vintage pens so my advice is to pick one and buy a bottle because everyone needs a bottle of black ink. If you are brave enough to own a waterproof black, then definitely add a bottle of Platinum Carbon Black to your shopping list. That should round out your black ink needs quite handily. If you want to experiment with other blacks, the world is your black pearl oyster. There are so many options to choose from!
Waterman Absolute Brown (shown above as Havana Brown) is a warm, reddish brown. The closest ink comparison I could find was J. Herbin Terre de Feu though it is slightly more orange. Lamy Crystal Topaz is similar in hue but the sheen throws off the appearance of the color on some papers. Absolute Brown shades but does not sheen.
I was surprised how difficult it was to find a good ink match to Waterman Mysterious Blue. Truly mysterious, wouldn’t you agree? It is an ink color that is slightly darker than the brilliant blue of Sailor Sky High but not as dark as Parker Quink Blue-Black or Colorverse 03 Saturn V. It’s definitely not a blue-black ink and much more of a true blue, maybe a bright, clean denim blue?
Tender Purple has a similar color and hue as Lamy Crystal Azurite but not quite as much sheen as Azurite. Coloverse 53 Hayabusa is similar in hue but with considerably less sheen. The only other inks I could find that were similar to Tender Purple are shown on the right and are more purple in color than the actual VIOLET color that Tender Purple actually is. I don’t want to get all “Well, ACTUALLY…” but knowing color is kind of my job. Tender Purple is violet, not purple. and Callifolio Violet is purple. These people are killing me with their poorly inaccurate naming. Either be ridiculously charming and clever or extremely accurate, please.
All-in-all, Waterman is my favorite classic ink. I love the gemstone shaped bottles. I recommend Inspired Blue and Tender Purple often at pen shows to folks looking for a “fun color” for their vintage pens but I don’t think Serenity Blue or Inspired Blue should be overlooked either for their striking colors. And Harmonious Green, despite its name is the Jadeite you’re been looking for. Intense Black and Absolute Brown really do round out an ink collection if you don’t already have a good black and brown in your collection. I know we all get blinders on looking for the newest, hottest, fanciest new ink colors but these classics have stayed classic for a reason.
- Pens: Midori bullet pencil modified dip nib holder with Zebra G titanium nib ($33.50 per 10-pack), Acrylic dip nib pen (Approx. $15)
- Swatches: Col-o-Ring Ink Testing Book ($10) & Col-o-dex Rotary Cards ($15)
- Brush: Blick Synthetic Round #0
- Ink: Waterman Ink ($11.30 for 50ml bottle)