Apparently Waterman started back in 1883 and quickly grew to become one of the big players in the American and international pen trade. In 1926 their French agent started manufacturing in France. I’m not sure of the financial relationship with the French off-shoot, but after World War II the US company started to get into trouble, and in 1954 they ceased manufacturing in the USA. However JIF-Waterman continued in France and these days are part of the Sanford group, along with Parker, Rotring and others. They still brand themselves as ‘Waterman Paris’, but I’ve got no idea how much French input there is in their design and manufacture.
As far as I’m aware there aren’t any pen shops here in NZ, but a few years ago my wife and I were taking a short-cut through a small mall in town and there before my eyes was a pen shop! I say shop, but really it was a counter or a booth type outlet. You couldn’t walk inside. The counter ran right across the front and the retailer was inside with the pens all displayed on the walls. Still, it was a separate shop that sold writing instruments as its main product. We were in a hurry, but stopped long enough to buy something, namely a Waterman Hemisphere pen-pencil set in black lacquer with gold trim. I was surprised that such a shop could survive in a small market like NZ, and in fact they shut down before I could get back there. But still, at least I can say I’ve actually been to a specialist writing instruments shop! Maybe one day I’ll be so lucky again.
The Hemisphere is available in a selection of different finishes, but in black lacquer and gold trim, it has a simple classic elegant look. Very attractive. Actually the black lacquer body is not quite a matt finish, and it does get a little polish or patina with use, but the gold is very deep lustrous colour; it certainly looks like a good thick coating of high purity metal. The pen and pencil sitting together really do make an impressive sight.
This pencil uses 0.7mm lead and has a short 2mm sliding sleeve suitable for general writing. It is fully retractable for pocket safety. The lead is advanced by a twist action ratchet mechanism. The whole top half of the body twists around through a half turn to advance the lead, and then springs back to its original position. You can advance the lead one-handed with good dexterity and a bit of practice.
There are no special grip enhancements, but the grip is quite good. The lacquer seems to keep a somewhat “cool touch” feel about it. I like the feel of the lacquer when you hold the pencil idly in your fingers. It’s actually quite a heavy pencil, but well balanced. For some reason I am always a bit surprised by the weight. Its not that its super heavy, just that it’s heavier than I subconsciously expect from its size and general appearance.
The Hemisphere is fitted with a mid size eraser, but its not very convenient to get at because you have to pull the whole top half of the body off to get to it. You then remove the eraser to refill the lead chamber.
The pocket clip is a spatulate sort of shape. I quite like the look with the cut-out centre allowing you to see the black body beneath. It is a good solid metal clip, but not all that practical because its quite stiff and not spring loaded. The Waterman ‘W’ logo is on the pocket clip and the words ‘Waterman France’ are on the centre band. The only other marking is ‘0.7’ on the lead chamber tube.
As far as I am aware, the Hemisphere mechanical pencil is only sold as part of the ballpoint pen-pencil set. The ballpoint pen is a twist action like the pencil, but rather stiffer to twist and the ballpoint clicks into place when properly extended. It’s a good smooth writing ballpoint. I’ve never had any complaints about blobbing ink, skipping, etc. The set comes in a small presentation case - nice, but nothing out of the ordinary. My case has a few small age-spots after 5 years or so. Overall as either a pencil on its own, or as part of a set, I’d happily recommend the Hemisphere.
- Best Points – Simple classic looks, good solid feel in the hand. The twist action ratchet mechanism is interesting for a change.
- Not So Good Points – Eraser is inconvenient to get at. Might possibly be sensitive to lead diameters, see this post.
- Price Range – Mid/High (that’s for the pen-pencil set, and although I don’t normally comment on pricing, it seems like a good deal).
Dimensions – Length 134mm, diameter 9mm at widest point. Balance point about 75mm up from the tip.