The Sailor Professional Gear - known to most pen nerds as simply the "Pro Gear" - is my favorite fountain pen of all time. I appreciate it's compact form factor, comfortable shape, and excellent 21k nibs. As of the time of writing, I own four Sailor Pro Gears, and I usually keep two inked. My collection includes the Pro Gear Imperial Black Edition, the Pro Gear "Sky" Limited Edition, a Pro Gear Classic in yellow, and the pen I'm reviewing here, the Pro Gear Realo "Soleil," a limited edition pen that Sailor made specially for retailer Bungubox (or Bung Box) in Hamamatsu, Japan.
Comments on the Soleil
Yellow pens are one of "my things," and this is an especially bright, sunny shade (hence the name). The color stops just short of Lamy Safari/AL-Star neon - which is a good thing - and the yellow gold trim complements the material nicely. I could do without the "Soleil" engraving on the barrel, but this is such a unique piece I don't really mind.
This particular pen sports a H-F, or "Hard Fine," nib. If you prefer stiff, slightly dry writers, then the Sailor HF will probably work for you right out of the box. I tend to prefer pens with slightly wetter ink flow, so this one will probably take a trip to Mike Masuyama at the Atlanta Pen Show for a tuning. It's also a touch toothy for my taste and can hard start every once in a while, but nothing that keeps me from regularly cycling this pen through my rotation.
Side Note: In general, I've noticed that the rhodium plated and black coated Sailor nibs tend to write a bit smoother and, at least in the case of the black nibs on the Pro Gear Imperial Black and 1911 Black Luster editions, write a bit softer than the standard yellow gold nibs. I assume this has something to do with the fact that these nibs are plated/coated.
Realo vs. Pro Gear Classic
So what about the bigger question: if you're looking to buy a Sailor Pro Gear, do you go for the "Classic" model or the Realo? If you prefer piston-filling fountain pens, then you really only have one choice: the Realo. The Pro Gear Classic is a cartridge-converter pen. Some people quibble with the quality of Sailor converters - and I agree they're not great - but I also hesitate to recommend that people pay nearly $100 extra just to get the piston filler on the Realo, especially given the limited range of colors in which the pen is available.
While the Realo is a good pen, with a quality piston and a convenient ink window, I think the Classic has a cleaner, more balanced look overall. The Realo also tapers more towards the piston knob, which makes it look "pinched," in my opinion. That said, I post my pens when I write, so I don't really notice.
Where to Buy
Sorry, but you can't buy this particular version of the Realo anymore, at least not from a retailer. Like many of Bung Box's other Limited Editions, the Soleil sold out relatively quickly and you're now limited to whatever shows up on the secondary market. I picked this one up secondhand from an eBay seller, and jumped on it the minute I saw the listing.
That said, if what you're looking for is a piston-filling version of the Pro Gear, most Sailor retailers (such as sponsor Pen Chalet) carry the standard Realo model, but the color/trim combinations are few outside of the periodic limited editions. The standard Pro Gear Realo comes in two colors: black or burgundy, both with gold trim, priced at around $330. Currently, Classic Fountain Pens (nibs.com) is offering a 22nd Anniversary Yellow and Black Limited Edition, but it's pricey at $520. I love my Pro Gears, but I'm not sure it justifies that sort of expenditure.
Disclaimer: I purchased this pen with my own funds, for my own collection. This post contains affiliate links.