Few pens make it five years in my collection without boring me, but the Sailor Professional Gear Imperial Black has managed to survive countless purges, trades, and fire sales, which makes it one of the my five oldest “pen friends.” Part of this is sentimental - I received this pen the day my daughter was born - but that’s not the main reason I’ve held on to it.
Five years with a pen is long enough to write a “revisited” or “extended” review. The pen has also been in heavy rotation for those five years, with only a few breaks longer than a month or so. Here, I’ll go through a few things I love about this pen, but also a few things that, yes, annoy me, particularly given this pen’s steep price point. Finally, I’ll talk about how to acquire a Pro Gear Imperial Black without breaking the bank, and the risks and advantages of purchasing from overseas sellers.
What I Like
Everything I said about this pen in my initial review holds up five years later. The pen looks great, writes well, and is a joy to use on a daily basis. I need to commit to having this pen in constant rotation as it’s one of my top five pens ever.
Matte Black Acrylic with Ruthenium Trim. Sure, people are getting tired of the “stealth pen,” and I agree that it’s somewhat played out, with nearly every major pen brand now trying to release a pen with a black acrylic/black trim or clear acrylic/black trim color combination. Doesn’t matter. I still love the look of this pen. I even purchased the Pro Gear Imperial Black multi pen so I have a matching set that I can carry.
Sailor’s Plated Nibs. I’ve owned a lot of Sailor Professional Gear fountain pens over the years, and in terms of look and feel, their black plated nibs are my favorite. I own three: the Pro Gear Imperial Black, the 1911 Black Luster, and the black-plated 1911 standard demonstrator released as a Nagasawa department store exclusive. While most 21k nibs are extremely stiff, these Sailor nibs are slightly softer and have just a bit more bounce than the typical nib found on a Pro Gear. They are not flexible in any way, and somewhat easy to bend/spring (see below), so don’t try to push them for “flex” - you won’t get any.
Size and Weight. This goes more to the advantages of the Pro Gear itself than to the Imperial Black model, but it’s one of my favorite-sized pens on the market. The combination of a relatively compact size when closed, and a barrel that’s comfortable to use posted or unposted, makes this a great daily workhorse.
Price. I’ll talk about this more in a minute, but my biggest complaint about the Sailor Pro Gear Imperial Black is the fact that Sailor insists, for whatever reason, on charging over $450 for this pen in the United States. If you love the look of the pen, there are ways around the ridiculous pricing by ordering from overseas, but as I discuss below, that’s not without risk.
Durability of the Finish. I don’t mind a bit of wear on my pens - it gives them character after all, especially following five years of heavy use - but I feel like I need to mention this here because many people like their pens to remain relatively pristine. The matte finish on my pen has definitely worn smooth over time, and the black fill on the Sailor cap finial has started to chip off. I have not, however, experienced any damage or wear to the plating on my pen.
Durability of the Nib. The nib on the Professional Gear Imperial Black is both its biggest strength and its biggest weakness. I own two of Sailor’s 21k black-plated nibs in fine, one on this pen and the other on the 1911 Black Luster, and both have bent and had to be sent to a nibmeister to repair. (They’re fine now, thanks to Mike Masuyama and Mark Bacas.) This is, of course, my own fault, but a small drop onto a desk from the pen slipping out of my hand damaged these nibs, whereas other nibs have easily survived a similar incident. As I noted above, the Sailor 21k black plated nib has a bit of bounce, so this probably has something to do with this nib being “softer” than your typical 21k Sailor Pro Gear nib. I’ve also heard reports of the plating wearing off the nib, or “peeling,” usually after the nib has been ground. For this reason, I don’t recommend a plated nib if you’re looking to add a nib modification like a cursive italic or architect grind.
Takeaways, Where to Purchase, and Considerations on Buying Overseas
Overall, I’m extremely pleased with the Sailor Pro Gear Imperial Black from a “looks and functionality” perspective. I don’t see this pen ever leaving my collection. That said, it’s stunning to me that five years later, Sailor has declined to lower what I feel is an outrageously expensive asking price to something more reasonable. As I mentioned above, the MSRP on this pen is an absurd $590, with the street price at $472. I didn’t pay that much money, and firmly believe this pen isn’t worth anything close to the standard U.S. price, no matter how good it looks. Until Sailor or its U.S. distributor closes the gap between the U.S. and Japanese pricing, consumers will buy from overseas, where the price hovers between $220-250 USD.
Before you order from an overseas retailer (typically via Amazon, eBay, or Rakuten storefronts, or from a buying service like Pensachi), you should know the risks and considerations. First, you likely won’t have warranty protection, and if you do, you will be under the Japanese warranty, so if you have a problem with the pen you will have to ship it back to Japan. Honestly, when the price differential is nearly the cost of buying a second pen, this doesn’t bother me that much. Most problems with a cartridge-converter pen like a Pro Gear will be a nib issue, and $200 in savings will more than offset the cost of nib work by an independent nib technician. Second, you’re not supporting your local retailers, which I generally take into account when making my purchases, and typically shop local unless the price difference is so large that I can’t justify the extra cost. Here, this pen costs nearly double to buy through U.S. channels, which frankly I can’t justify, and Sailor needs to follow the lead of Platinum and Pilot and compress that price gap.
Finally, when buying overseas, there’s always the risk of getting ripped off on the internet (i.e. receiving a fake pen or not receiving a pen at all), but you can take steps to protect yourself. If you’re willing to take the plunge on a Pro Gear Imperial Black by ordering from Japan, look for an eBay or Amazon Seller with an extensive history and positive reviews. Here’s one example. If after receiving your pen, you are dissatisfied with the purchase in any way, notify the Seller immediately and if they don’t promptly respond and agree to make it right, notify invoke the platform’s customer protection policy. As an extra layer of protection, I make sure to pay through PayPal or a credit card with a good consumer protection benefit.
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