A Pen With Personality: The Waterman Phileas Fountain Pen

Waterman Phileas x2

If you were trying to set up the Waterman Phileas on a blind date, you’d probably say that it has a “great personality”— which is code for “not that great looking.” With its “marbled” plastic body, gold furniture, and art deco trim, this isn’t a pen that catches your eye. Some may even consider it a little bit ugly.

Art Deco trim

I met The Gentleman Stationer at the DC Pen Show, and though we didn’t chat for long, I could tell he was a good guy. So when he put a handful of his “surplus” pens up for sale, I took a look, liked the price of the Waterman Phileas he’d listed, and decided to go for it. Up to this point, I didn’t own any Watermans so that was some of the draw— the chance to try a new-to-me brand at a good price.

Green Marble Waterman Phileas

And like I said, when the pen arrived, its looks struck me as unremarkable, and sort of not my style. No chatoyancy, no gorgeous swirls, no rich colors. Oh, well, I thought, it’s only $35. Since the body on this one is green simulated marble, I inked it with Montblanc Irish Green and sat down with it and a piece of Tomoe River paper. Despite the “meh” looks, the minute that nib hit paper, I was a smitten. As I doodled and scribbled, I fell deeper in love with this Phileas, so much so that it actually started looking kind of cute. That funny looking pen shot an arrow right through my ink-loving heart.

Waterman Phileas two-tone nibs

I’ve had this green Phileas continuously inked since it arrived in November 2014. It’s become a go-to pen for letter writing and journaling, or just doodling to take the edge off of a stressful day. So, yeah, smitten. Who woulda thought?!

Blue Waterman Phileas

A few weeks ago I noticed a sale going on at Bertram’s Inkwell, so I took a look (despite my vow to rein in pen purchases this year). And well, whatta ya know, a blue marble Waterman Phileas was listed—again for just $35. I’d made that pen-buying pledge so I mulled this over for awhile before ultimately deciding to buy. (Bert offers a 30-day/100% purchase satisfaction guarantee, so that pretty much clinched the deal.) Even though I already own the green version, the fact that the Phileas is a discontinued Waterman model made this find all that much more appealing.

Writing samples

When the pen arrived, I noted that what is called “blue marble” is actually quite purple. I think Wahl-Eversharp’s Everberry ink—a nice purply blue—would be a great match, but for its first fill I went with Sailor Yama Dori. That ink’s not really a match, but it’s a color I love and use often for letter-writing (especially during this InCoWriMo month). I wondered if the first nib was a fluke, but no—this one is just as nice, though maybe a touch finer. That’s kind of nice—the fact that they don’t write exactly the same even though they’re both medium nibs. Both are phenomenally smooth—kind of “soft” feeling. I don’t mean that in the sense of flex (NOT like the softness on my Visconti Opera Elements nib), but in the way it glides over paper. Whispery. So nice and yet so hard to describe.

Waterman Phileas x2

Some quick research reveals that the Waterman Phileas model is from the late 1990’s and is no longer produced. That’s too bad because this pen would be absolutely perfect for a fountain pen novice—a really lovely nib at a great price. (Prices are kind of all over the place on these, no doubt due to the fact that it’s been discontinued.) If I make it to the DC Pen Show in August, I plan to keep my eyes open for some of the other colors—red marble, grey marble, and black—or other nib sizes. I’ve read that the broad nib is particularly glorious.

Uncapped Waterman Phileas

The cap snaps on and off and posts well. The filling system is cartridge/converter, which is fine by me—easy to clean and maintain. I do like the looks of the two-tone steel nib that sports just a hint of that art deco vibe. The pen is light (24g; 17g body, 7g cap), but not overly so—sort of “just right” in hand. It almost feels like it disappears, but again, I think that’s because the nib puts you in a little trance. Well, it puts ME in a little trance.

We all know that saying, “Not everything that glitters is gold.” The Waterman Phileas has taught me that the opposite is also true—not everything that’s gold (or super smooth steel) glitters.

Waterman Phileas x2

Just like that blind date with the great personality, you’ll soon find that there’s something very interesting going on under the unassuming surface of this pen. The Waterman Phileas—the more you get to know it, the better it looks.

42 thoughts on “A Pen With Personality: The Waterman Phileas Fountain Pen

  1. I have a red marble version, with an “F” nib.

    Although it doesn’t quite match my Faber Castell Basic for smoothness, it’s a nice writer. Mine is terrible for ink evaporation – it’s a pen that needs to be used, not picked up every now and then, and I have to keep that in mind when I fill it.

    • I have two also, purchased in the 1990s. The are notorious for ink evaporation, but still great writing instruments. From my perspective, the nibs have the best flow of any non-14kt that have been on the market since. One of my favorite inks was Waterman Havana Brown in cartridges. This ink hasn’t been available in years, and the cartridges themselves evaporate. There are some nice videos and discussions about this phenomenon online. Anyway, I was so glad to see this article and your comment today.

  2. The Waterman Phileas was my entry fountain pen. I loved them so much that I started branching out to other FPs… But to be honest, as I’ve moved on to more and more FPs, I’ve sort of forgotten how much I loved my Watermans. I need to ink them up and give them some love. Thanks for reminding me!

  3. Thanks, I’ll have to try this one. I had a similar experience with a cheap Senator pen which proved to be very smooth and trouble free. More expensive pens are feeling neglected.

  4. I have a green marble with a nice fine italic grind, except that because the flow is wet/concentrated, it kind of obliterates shading on all the inks I’d be most tempted to use it with! It performs *marvelously* with Aurora Black, though. Still, because of your aside regarding broad nibs, I now have just a section/nib on its way to me to try out.

  5. Okay – so I’m not as knowledgeable re: good pens – but I’m a champ at recognizing good writing! Great post, Mary.

  6. I had one of these in green as an early fountain pen that I used but put away after moving on to other pens. I wanted to try it again last year, but found the area about the nib had dry rotted or perhaps just developed cracks from use and abuse (I was very hard on pens and rarely cleaned them out like I do now). I considered finding replacement parts, but they’re not cheap with this pen out of production.

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  8. A green marbled Phileas was indeed the first fountain pen I ever bought, and it’s still one of my favorites. Mine’s a medium nib but it seems a bit broader than a regular medium (or maybe it’s just that lately I’ve been writing with a Pilot medium which veers closer to a European fine). I have only one quibble with your otherwise excellent article — I think the Phileas is quite handsome! Sure, it’s not as gorgeous as my Kaweco ART Sport or as much kicky fun as my Pilot Metropolitan white tiger, but it looks quite “classy” for a plastic pen at an entry-level price (I think I paid about $35-$40 for a new one back in the mid-90s).

  9. Loved your review, but I gotta’ agree with Julia – I LOVE the way Phileas pens look, as well as the way they write (but I love bald men too, so there you have it – it’s a taste thing).

    I fell in love with fountain pens in the late 60’s – and have written with them almost exclusively since the olden days, when my high school bookstore sold plastic Shaeffers-on-a-card in a rainbow of colors for well under $5.00 — and a pack of cartridges was under a dollar. I still have quite a few pens from those days, and am told they are now considered “vintage” (despite the fact that they don’t write nearly as well as any of the ones I discovered after I had a grown-up budget to work with).

    Years later, when I could get a Phileas for no more than $35 EVER, I had them in every color, along with a few dups. It was my go-to – a smooth writer cheap enough to carry in my purse without worrying that I was risking my bank account if I left it somewhere. I also kept several near the desk in my home office because I do tend to misplace things for days if I blink wrong, and I so hate pen-drag that I won’t take notes at all if I can’t use a fountain pen, as life goes down hill quickly.

    Now that it is no longer in production, yiikes! Have you checked the prices they’re commanding now so you can fully appreciate the DEAL you got? I don’t envy much, but I do envy your good luck. The cheapest one I’ve found, by far, is $49.99 – and that starts the bidding on eBay! Who knows what it will eventually go for.

    Several of mine got “borrowed” so I keep looking to replace them at a price I am willing to pay for this particular pen. (So when is that DC pen show again?)

    Glad I stumbled upon your site – nice writing!
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMore dot com)
    – ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder –
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

    • I hope I’m not breaking protocol here, but Madelyn, I just found two fine point blue Phileas pens that I had forgotten I have. Since I have a total of SIX Phileas pens right now, I would be more than willing to part with one. Would $25 + shipping be acceptable to you? I bought all of them back when they were available for $35 each, and I definitely got $10 worth of use out of it! 🙂

      Mary, if I’m breaking an unwritten rule with this comment, I apologize and I’ll delete.

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  11. I also love Waterman pens, owning 3 at the moment: An Expert III, Phlieas, and a Charleston. Both the Expert III and Charleston have fine nibs, which is what I am most comfortable with, however, the Phileas has a medium nib and even though I sometimes get a bit sloppy with it, I still love the feel while writing with it. my Phileas is blue marble and I think I also read somewhere that was the most popular color. The only thing I do not like about the Phileas is the fixed nib. I am somewhat of a fountain pen snob, and I love to fine tune my nibs, and with a fixed nib on the Waterman Phileas that job is a bit tricky.

    Right now I am in a love affair with a 1937 Parker Challenger Deluxe and for a pen that is 68 years old, I have almost forgotten about the other pens in my collection!

    • I totally stumbled into this love of Watermans, and am glad I did! Your Parker Challenger sounds awesome, too. So cool how a certain pen can make us swoon despite being of a “certain age.” Enjoy!!

  12. So I don’t how it happened but I found a very nice Green Marbled Phileas on eBay and it had there for quite a while, so on a hunch I made a slightly low offer against what the seller was asking, and I don’t know if it was my lucky day or the buyer just wanted to just get rid of the pen, but nonetheless I won the pen for a song.

    Sadly the pen was in poor condition and it took a number of flushings and some aggressive pulling to finally remove the nib and feeder from the end section. Once I had the nib and feeder out all I had to do was thoroughly clean the feeder and reinsert it into end section and it began writing like the pure legacy of Waterman pens before this beautiful pen. I am using Waterman Absolute Brown ink, and I have now put down my vintage Parker Challenger Deluxe in favor of my Greem marbled Phileas. I love the crispness of the fine nib. I have read so many reviews from other fountain pen aficionados that do not like a fine nib, but for whatever the reason, it is my nib size of choice!

    I also discovered that my green marbled Phileas is slightly heavier than the blue marbled one I also have. It is of no consequence as I actually enjoy a heavy pen. So now I am looking for other Waterman’s to add to my growing collection, and would love any recommendations.

  13. Ok, I don’t know if this is the right area for this question, but since it does indeed relate directly to the Waterman Phileas, here it goes. I was wondering if there was a different nib I can use with my Phileas, other than the “Stock” steel nib with gold highlighting? I was in a small “Brick & Mortar” shop in Northern Michigan and found a very low priced Waterman L’etalon and while I don’t like the bulkiness of the pen itself, the nib, however, is wonderful.

    So this got me thinking if it would be possible to use the nib from the L’etalon in my Phileas? I do know that the Phileas nib has a sort of clip that locks it into position on the feeder, but other than that, it should be possible to marry both into my pen! Well, I am hoping such. While I do indeed love how my Green marbled Phileas writes, after writing with that L’etalon nib I was smitten with the pure elegance of the L’etalons 18k gold nib. I love the large swelling look of that nib. So any information would be highly appreciated!
    Thank you very much!

  14. Can anyone recommend where I might purchase a Waterman Phileas Pen? Medium nib, fountain pen. My last one went missing, and the price of the pen has increased considerably. Thanks.

    Ps. I love this pen. Anyone recommend a medium nib fountain pen. Have considered treating myself to a Mont Blanc…..

    • I found a couple of my Watermans on ebay at very decent prices. Also, if you can get to a pen show, you may find one there. Good luck with your hunt!

  15. I’ve had one for nearly 15 years now. EF nib and I still love it. Wonderful unassuming pen, and a top performer as usual with Waterman pens.

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  17. I have two of these, and they were also my entry level pens (bought them new). I have two blues, one F and one M. They write as well as my Sailor Pro Gear-the nibs are that smooth. I also have the marbled green as a ballpoint. Ugly? A big gawdy, but no worse than a lot of Viscontis. Spring-loaded clip, light enough for the pocket, snap cap is quite secure for pants-pocket or shirt pocket carry, and an excellent writer. Better than many current entry-level pens. I’ve been writing with mine for 25 or more years, and unlike my Mont Blanc 144, the plastic doesn’t crack. I can buy two Phileas for the cost of getting the 144 repaired. What’s your best pen? Mine are ones I can actually write with. Thanks for your great post!

  18. I have three blue marble Waterman Phileas fountain pens. purchased all three at the same time ($5 each) on clearance at Office Depot in 2003…the best $15 I’ve ever invested in pens! This was my very first fountain pen, and the end result was beautiful once I learned how pressure, angle, and flow rate work together. I’ve been asked on countless occasions what type of pen I used to make my signature look the way it did, and I can state with certainty that a fountain pen signature leaves a different impression on the reader than that achieved with any ballpoint pen. The fact I bought these pens on clearance says nothing as to their value as a writing instrument, and in that regard, I look at the Waterman Phileas as being priceless. If you have the opportunity to pick 9ne up at a reasonable price do so, as these pens have done nothing but climb in value.

  19. After having not owned a fountain pen since the ‘60s — when we called them “ink pens” — I wandered into a Portland, Oregon, office supply store to kill time on a business trip 20+ years ago and bought a green Phileas for, I believe, $32. I was immediately hooked and over the years picked up three more. I lost that first one, but the other three are still in good shape and are terrific pens. I’m probably through buying them, because the prices they fetch today are ridiculous. I’ve never gotten quite to the point of true fountain pen addiction, but have acquired many other relatively inexpensive pens since that first Phileas. Other than the Phileas, the pen I’ve found most satisfying is the Waterman Expert. Heavier, more metal, a solid and good-looking instrument. Still, though, here I am, years later, late at night, self-quarantined while awaiting the results of my COVID-19 test, and what am I doing? Googling Waterman Phileas and responding to a five-year-old blog post. So maybe one of these days I’ll spring for a replacement for that long-gone blue marble Phileas.

  20. Thanks for posting this! Even though it’s five years old I was happy to find it. The first fountain pen I ever bought was a Phileas (grey marble). I wasn’t ready to appreciate it properly back when I bought it in the mid 90’s and as a result in faded into the back of my desk ignored and forgotten for years. Then, last year, my interest in fountain pens was sparked again and I obtained a Lamy Safari and was now in a place where I could properly appreciate and fall in love with these beautiful and artistic writing instruments. As luck would have it I found my old Phileas, cleaned and inked it up and to my pleasant surprise I discovered a beautiful pen that was a joy to write with! I had no idea how lucky I had been so long ago and how luckier still I was to have not lost this gem forever. I have, since the start of the pandemic lockdown, bought four more fountain pens and have truly enjoyed their unique beauty and functionality but the Phileas has a special place. Based on your review I couldn’t help but feeling like the dumb jock in so many teen romances who couldn’t see the gorgeous, smart, great girl because she was shy, wore glasses and baggy clothes. Gladly, in my story, we lived happily ever after as the Waterman Phileas has a treasured place in my collection and is a special joy whenever I choose to write with it.

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