Of all the high-end pens on the market that receive far less attention than they should, the Waterman Carène sits near the top of the list. I have a soft spot for modern Watermans (defining “modern” as 1980s forward, when the pens were exclusively made in France), mainly because a Waterman Laureate was the first “nice” fountain pen I ever purchased. To date, I haven't reviewed that many Watermans on the blog, which is something I plan to change in the coming year because these pens deserve better. They're reliable, "long-haul" workhorses that really stand up to daily use.
Waterman has scaled back its offerings in recent years. The Carène’s mid-tier companion, the Charleston, is currently very hard to find, and the Edson and the Exception - Waterman’s $500-plus luxury offerings - have been or are in the process of being discontinued, leaving the Carène and the Élégance at the head of Waterman’s product line. Due to my love for the brand, I hope this represents a simple consolidation as opposed to financial trouble, though given the company’s general lack of marketing to and connection with the pen enthusiast community, I can see how they might be missing out on the analog writing renaissance that’s occurring right now.
After the discontinuation of the Edson, the Carène emerged as easily the most distinctive pen in Waterman's lineup. Waterman designed the Carène to invoke the hull of a racing yacht. (“Carène” means “hull” in French.) Personally, when I look at the Carène I see more of an "Orca"-shape, but regardless, Waterman really doubles down on the "yacht" theme in their marketing materials.
A bit over the top, but you get the drift. It’s inspired by boats.
Like most modern Waterman pens, the Carène features a lacquered metal body and cap, but also sports something relatively uncommon today: an 18kt integrated nib incorporated into the design, tapered like a ship's bow.
The Carène features Waterman’s high quality cartridge/converter system, and will take the high-capacity “long international” cartridges in addition to the standard shorter ones. I consider Waterman converters to be among the best. They’re well-designed in that they generally don’t leak or cause inkflow issues, and also have a relatively large capacity.
Note: I’ve owned a few Carènes in my “career” as a pen enthusiast. The first I ever purchased I ended up selling because of an issue with ink leaking out of the integrated nib onto the section, presumably due to the clutch cap creating suction and pulling ink out of the feed when I uncapped the pen. After asking around, and realizing that this issue was probably an anomaly, I tried again with the pen featured in this review. Several months in, I’ve not experienced any leaks or inky fingers. Looking back, I probably should have returned the pen for repair or replacement rather than sell it.
The Carène is one of the more comfortable writers in my collection. Despite the metal construction, the streamlined body sits in your hand quite comfortably, and the length/girth are perfect for me when the pen is posted. Unposted, it’s a touch narrow for my taste but definitely usable.
The 18kt integrated nibs are smooth, wet writers - not quite a "firehose", but this pen will put some ink on the page. The nib on this pen has a lot of tipping material for a “medium,” and writes on the fat side of it’s designation. If you’re used to writing with Japanese nibs or German stainless steel nibs from Bock or JoWo, you could mistake this for a broad. Waterman does make nib sizes other than fine or medium, including extra fine, broad, and a stock stub, but they typically are available only via special order. Some retailers also sell nib units separately, though the cost represents a substantial portion of the price of a new pen.
Takeaways and Where to Buy
You can’t go wrong with a modern classic like the Waterman Carène. If you appreciate the aesthetics, the Carène makes for a durable, reliable writer that I’m going to have a hard time keeping off my recommendations list for a “first pen over $200.” The Carène also forms a key part of my "work carry" rotation. Like the Lamy 2000, due to the unusual nib the casual observer who knows nothing about pens might assume that this was a nice Waterman rollerball or ballpoint, which are still common in the corporate world. This isn't a distracting or flashy pen and therefore great for a stodgy office environment.
Since Waterman still maintains a fairly large retail footprint, it’s somewhat easy to find the Carène in brick-and-mortar stores, even at non-specialized retailers that have a small “luxury” pen selection. You therefore shouldn’t have much trouble at all locating one from an online pen retailer. I acquired this pen from Pen Chalet, which as of the time of publication of this review stocks the Carène in four different models: black with gold or chrome trim (the “Black Sea” models, featured here), Blue ST, and a matte Charcoal Grey with chrome trim. While not inexpensive at around $220 retail, the Carène’s price is in-line with (or below) other cartridge-converter pens with gold nibs such as the Sailor 1911 Large and the Sailor Pro Gear. Many other variations of the Carène exist, including some that are special editions and therefore more expensive.
Disclaimer: I acquired the pen featured in this review from Pen Chalet with my own funds. This post contains affiliate links.