I'm really mad at Pilot (or maybe I should be mad at the U.S. Distributor, Pilot U.S.A.). Why? Because Pilot makes a pen that is nice-looking, and an exceptional writer, but is only available in the U.S. in one color with an MSRP set twice as high as in Japan. I'd go so far as to say that this pen could be a flagship offering for Pilot here in the States, yet it gets little love or attention, probably because of the price.
The pen that I am talking about, is of course, the Custom Heritage 92 demonstrator. The clear version is sold by U.S. retailers, including our sponsor PenChalet. Pilot also makes three different colors of the demonstrator in the same transparent plastics as the Custom 74 line: Blue, Orange, and Smoke. Unfortunately, these versions are Japan-only, but are still easily accessible through Amazon and eBay.
General Build and Appearance
The Custom Heritage is a solid pen. Some colored plastic demonstrators feel cheap, but not this one. The barrel, cap, and especially the piston mechanism (discussed further below) all feel especially solid. It's a nice mid-sized pen: big enough to use comfortably posted or unposted, but not so huge that it weighs down the front of a shirt pocket or is otherwise inconvenient for daily carry.
As I mentioned, the color scheme on these demonstrators is substantially similar to the color scheme on the Custom 74 demonstrators available here in the US. One difference is that the end caps are transparent gray, which sets off nicely against the orange. I've always wanted a pen in Pilot's clear orange acrylic--now I just have to pick up a blue version as well, which has a sapphire-like quality and is also stunning.
The Fine-Medium "FM" Nib
The Custom Heritage sports a 14K gold number 5 nib. Pilot's standard gold nibs are springy--they're not semi-flex nibs like the "FA" nibs and the nibs on a Pilot/Namiki Falcon, but you can squeeze out a touch of line variation. What's unique about the nib I have, though, is the width. Pilot makes a "FM" nib (or a Fine-Medium), which is the perfect width for me to use as a daily writer. On more absorbent paper, the FM nib leans more to the medium side; on Rhodia or Clairefontaine, the nib writes more like a Western fine. In terms of ink flow, the pen writes perfectly out of the box. It has just a hint of feedback.
A Piston Filler that Fills Completely and Is Easy To Clean
I saved what I consider the best aspect of this pen for last. In my piece on pen cleaning that I published a while back, I lamented how piston fillers had fallen out of my good graces because they were more difficult to clean. Not so with this pen! The piston mechanism is smooth and extremely efficient, meaning that the pen will take a full fill of ink, and on the flip side, will take a full fill of water when you are trying to clean it. Many piston fillers will only fill the ink chamber 3/4 or 2/3 full, which not only fails to maximize the ink capacity of the pen but requires repeated flushing to clean it. I've been using this pen with red ink (among the most difficult colors to clean), and I've been able to flush this pen completely clean with only 3-4 cycles of the piston.
The Pricing Conundrum
I'm not a huge fan of clear demonstrators, so I didn't have to decide between buying internationally through Amazon or supporting a U.S.-based retailer. It is, however, unfortunate that Pilot sets the MSRP on the Custom Heritage 92 at $275 in the U.S. (Retailer "street price" tends to be around $220.) That's too high for this pen, regardless of how nice it is, and I would think this makes it nearly impossible for U.S. retailers (at least those abiding by the distributors' rules) to compete on this pen. The Lamy 2000 typically sells at a price point between $120-140, and I'd pay that for the Custom Heritage in a heartbeat.
I love this pen, and it's jumped to the top of my queue since I received it a few weeks back. (I do a lot of copy editing, and there's something about writing with red ink in an orange demonstrator that I find incredibly satisfying.) Moreover, at the $110 price point, this pen is up there with the Lamy 2000 as an option for purchasing a first gold-nibbed pen, especially if you are looking for a piston filler. I purchased this pen off of Amazon, though they are also readily available on eBay as well, sometimes for under $100. Because I feel that Amazon offers more reliable buyer protection should something go wrong with the transaction, I favor Amazon for international purchases.
Some Extra Credit
A few other people have reviewed the Pilot Custom Heritage. Mike Dudek over at The Clicky Post reviewed the clear version with a medium nib, and Pete Denison has reviewed the blue version, also in a FM nib.
If you're interested in reading further on the reasons why pens are priced differently in various markets, I recommend to you this piece by Ian at Pens!Paper!Pencils! You can also check out PIlot's reply to Ian's piece, as well as this reaction by Dr. Deans at Pen Economics.
DISCLAIMER: This post contains affiliate links. All Amazon prices and availability are subject to change, and only current as of the time of publication of this review.