A Modern Classic
The Parker Jotter is a pen that has been around for a while now, 1954 to be more precise. In fact the Jotter came out at roughly the time when fountain pens were still experiencing wide use around the world. If the “Reynolds Rocket” was the first true ballpoint to achieve mainstream success and start the not-so-slow march away from fountain pens then the Jotter certainly was among the second wave to usher the old fountain pens out while making room for the new, stylish and often much more user-friendly ballpoint pens. The Jotter is small, doesn’t dry out as easily and offered in appealing finishes. But does it live up to it’s place in pen history?
As previously stated, the Jotter is an iconic pen even for those not into pen history. Heck it’s even been in more James Bond films than the Lamy Safari. The design is very minimalist, especially with the model I reviewed (stainless steel). The shape is reminiscent of the torpedo/cigar shapes of other famous pens of the era but is no longer as common in the BIC ballpoint-dominated market of today.
Is the design old? Yes, in fact it hasn’t really changed since it’s introduction despite no longer being made in the United States (it’s made in France now). But I believe that the design of the pen is what most would consider a classic. It fits in any office setting today much as it would have back 50 years ago.
Looks are important for some but the actual writing experience is king in deciding on a daily driver pen. How does the Jotter hold up after all these years? Great. Granted you keep your expectations in check.
The Parker Jotter writes really well for a ballpoint, no hard starts or stops for me. For the writing sample provided below I did not use the Parker Ballpoint QUINKflow refills, instead opting for their Parker QUINKgel product. They are roughly equivalent in price on Amazon right now, and I highly recommend that anyone looking for a smooth writing experience also opt for them over the ballpoint refills.
Ballpoint v. Rollerball v. Gel
For those unaware of the difference between gels, ballpoints and rollerball refills let me give you the long and short of it:
Ballpoints are traditionally found in most pens in the United States. Those cheap-o BIC pens: ballpoint. The dentist pen you have clanging around in your car: ballpoint. And yes, the bank pens you have 30 of: all ballpoints more than likely. Ballpoints have a thicker ink that doesn’t dry out even if left uncapped (for a reasonable amount of time) but offer the least pleasant writing experience. You’re not writing so much as engraving ink into your paper. Great for carbon copies, gravestones and not much in between in my opinion. The upside is that they will likely never bleed through a page of even the crappiest paper.
Rollerballs are smooth, water-based ink that flows near effortlessly on most pages but is far more prone to bleeding and I’ve never met a left handed person who can comfortably use one without ending up with a handful of smeared ink. If I have to use something that is not a fountain pen, generally I prefer rollerball ink.
Gel sits somewhere in between with moderately low dry time and equally moderate flow. Gel also tends to be more water resistant than other inks too, so if that matters to you consider gel refills over the others.
How does this all relate to the Parker Jotter? Well they offer both a ballpoint refill which in my estimation is serviceable enough if you literally want the minimum performance from your pen but the gel products are the way to go. Even if the price increases I still feel like if you’re spending money on upgrading your experience from bank pens and the ugly white BIC ballpoints you should at least feel the difference, otherwise you’re really just getting a BIC in a different body.
The only complaint I have about the Parker Jotter is that when you write with some pressure the ink cartridge doesn’t always feel entirely stable. It doesn’t move around enough to where I feel like it impacts my writing on a flat surface, however, it is worth noting. I’ve used this pen extensively in high school and I never found it to be an issue. If you are accustomed to something like a fountain pen though, you’ll likely be thrown for a bit of a loop and it may impact your writing for the first few times.
Is this pen worth it? It depends what you’re looking for. Are you upgrading from a ballpoint? The Jotter will definitely be an upgrade if you purchase the gel refills. Do you just want a pen that isn’t a cheap looking thing of plastic? Still I believe the Jotter will get it done for you and won’t require maintenance or especially gentle care like other more expensive pens. If you buy this pen and only use the ballpoint refills while expecting a nice writing experience then I feel like you’d be let down a bit.
The reason I love this pen is simple: it works well enough when I cannot use a fountain pen. I used it for math classes all throughout high school and found it quite satisfactory for an every day carry (EDC). Into adulthood I’ve used it for short notes, signing things and whenever anyone asks to borrow a pen. I generally don’t recommend it for all day writing (5+ hours of constant pen to paper). I did write a ton in high school but it was never for hours on end, and my hands were apparently at least a little bit smaller than they are now.
Who should avoid this pen?
- People with big hands
- Individuals who need a ergonomic grip or have wrist issues
- Professionals that need to write all day rather than simple notes or signatures
- Fountain pen users, unless like me you need something for truly terrible paper
At the time of writing this review the Parker Jotter can be found on Amazon for around the same price as a lot of other ballpoints depending on fit and finish. I believe that for that price the pen sells itself. It borders on impulse purchase territory and is a pen that won’t necessarily hurt if you misplace it.
Disclaimer: I purchased this pen with my own funds and no one has paid me for my review. Everything in here is just my thoughts on how much I enjoyed or didn’t enjoy the pen.