Parker pens are frequently easy to identify by the shape of their clips. While some other models have relatively distinctive clips, like the Eversharp Skyline’s top-strap or the Waterman C/F’s quasi-hyperbola, few have made the clip such a distinctive element of the manufacturer’s identity. What follows is not a comprehensive gallery of all the arrows to have rested in Parker’s quiver, but should serve to give a sense of the changing fashions influencing design. As more come where I can reach them, more will appear.
The first Parker arrow was designed for the ur-model of the Vacumatic, the Golden Arrow, in 1932. To heap trivia upon trivia, the clip’s designer was Joseph B. Platt, who is mainly known for his work behind the scenes on films you may just have heard of.
About 1937, the design was amended to what is known as the “split arrow”; I suppose Parker probably wanted the name as well as the shape out in public. There was a short run in 1938 of “star” clips, with a little mullet-of-five up on the shoulder of the clip to denote the pen’s warranty.
This was replaced in 1939 by the blue lozenge, which somewhat separated Parker from other star-adopting makers. Regardless of the mark (which did not appear on the accompanying pencils, nor on some of the smaller sub-models), the jewel holding it in place was now black rather than matched to the body colour of the pen.
The Split Arrow was also mounted on the Parker “51” when it was introduced in 1941. It continued to appear on the Vacumatic as well, both wearing the lozenge, which was the first time the arrow clip had spread across models. On the “51” the jewel was pearlescent, while on the Vacumatics it remained black. After 1945, when the notion of lifetime warranties was cast into doubt, Parker stopped painting the lozenge; some late Canadian Vacumatics appear with the lozenge absent entirely regardless of sub-model.
In 1948, just before the filling mechanism in the “51” was changed, the clip was redesigned into an attenuated version of the original Art Deco clip. Apparently the company was content that after ten years their name and the image were so firmly associated with one another that putting text on the clip was no longer necessary. This appears to still be the attitude, since I can’t think of a Parker clip that has appeared since 1948 which had any writing on it.
This change saw a diversity appear between US and UK production. The British arrows were more closely modeled upon the original version, with thicker fletching and somewhat stockier shafts. In the “51” these differences were relatively subtle, but the UK Duofolds had clips that were very nearly identical to those on the early Vacumatics
In the mid-1950s, there were a couple of changes to the Arrow clips. At the top end, there was a slightly more streamlined clip applied to the 61, with slightly steeper rake on the fletching. This version would also appear in the rather later 65, and as you look along this gallery you will discover it appearing on later models.
At the same time, the arrow was spreading across Parker’s lineup. Previously, it had been limited to the upper-rank models, but now it showed up even in the lowliest. The lowest of the low was the 21, which in its first several years lacked any decoration on the clip. Once the pen was elevated to being the Super 21, something very like an arrow appeared. While the shape of the clip was actually a return to the very first profile the model used, there was now a sort of nodding hint at arrow-ness; a set of chevrons up at the shoulder and a little inverted Starfleet badge at the foot. This relies somewhat on the observer’s willing participation to be an arrow, but it certainly fits into the notions of design of the day, which saw wire-legged minimalist coffee-tables and boomerang-clad laminate invading homes.
The late fifties also saw the introduction of a clip which would not find a popular resting place until 1960. The clip best known as the long-time standard on the Parker 45 started out on the short-lived 41. It is a actually much the same at the previous Super 21 clip, as the impressions are identical; in this one, there has been material removed to give a fully arrow-shaped silhouette (the treatment of the foot is somewhat different as well, but less visible). About the time the 45 appeared, this clip was also applied to the Super 21, and the quick way to discover which a person is carrying is the shape of the jewel; on the 45, it was a concave, while on the Super 21 it was conical.
When the Parker 75 came out in 1963, the fletching was slightly extended, as was the shaft, but there were few other changes relative to the 61; one has to consider the clips carefully side-by-side to spot the differences. Depending on the exact place in the 75’s long production run, the arrowhead might go larger or smaller, too.
Our next stop is back in England, in the mid-1960s, where the Duofold was being remade as the “17“. This new line got a slight amendment of the preceding Duofold’s arrow, with somewhat more angular fletching, and a loss of the more decorative portion of its ring.
The 1970s saw some diversification of the arrow’s look. The 75’s clip was, happily, slender enough to be in scale on the 180, seen to the right, which was a pen of almost caricature slimness.
To the left, we find the 50 Falcon, the clip of which has only two blades rather than the detailed feathers of previous forms of the clip. In fact, this clip is a slightly diminished version of that which appeared on the T-1 right at the start of the decade; as the T-1 was a rather burlier pen, so was its clip. As it is now an expensive collector’s piece, I don’t hold out much hope of including it in this gallery, and so I hope visitors here will be content with its little brother.
Before passing out of the 1970s, lets have a brief look at a design with very long legs. The 45 persisted through this decade, and with it its clip. The jewel’s concavity becomes a mere concentric depression, in some cases filled with a coloured disc, but the clip itself remains essentially unchanged. It also appears on the Parker 15, introduced right at the end of the decade. While not as pointedly basic as the 25’s clip, it is definitely the furniture of the modest. I should point out the 15’s jewel, which is little more than a soft plastic plug keeping the clip in place by friction.
In the 1980s we find a rather radical new look to the clip, which manifested in a couple of different ways. In both, one might think of the set design of German Expressionist films, with their strange and brutal angularity. At the left, there is the Arrow, the clip of which is a relatively complex affair; the visible part is a facade, made separately from the springy gripper and absolutely covered in sharp corners. The contemporaneous FP1 also used this clip.
To the right is the slightly less dangerous Vector clip, which is of a simpler, single-piece design. This lack of threat probably explains why it remains in use, while the other has been dropped.
I will pause here to mention some other international variations than those appearing from the UK. During the 1970s, French-made Parkers frequently appeared using a piercework billet; the only picture I have of one is from a 15 which I no longer own (and thus could not take a matched portrait of). The picture above is of a 45 made in Argentina, likely in the mid-1980s. The clip is essentially identical to that of a 61, as the Argentine establishment settled upon this as a good idea. The jewel which holds it in place is to the standard pattern of the time; it’s a raised cone, not unlike that on the later Super 21s.
Toward the end of the decade, the 88 appeared with what looks like something of a hybrid of the “17” clip and the Vector. The general outline of the clip is that of the later model, but the detail on the fletching is more in line with the past version. This form of clip also appeared on the 95, which was as much of evolution of the Arrow as the 88 was of the Vector.
In the 1990s there was a general move towards softer lines on the clips, with the transitions from fletching to shaft defined with curves rather than angles. This may be said to have begun with the revived Duofold’s clip, which combined the arrow iconography with the outline of the original pen’s “banner” clip, and was confirmed in the introduction of the new Sonnet. The Frontier’s clip, shown above, has a similar look, as did late-production 45s.
Appearing at the turn of the century, the Reflex’s clip represents something of a new record for the arrow clips, as they had never previously appeared on such a very cheap fountain pen. After the points, the clip was about the best thing this pen had to offer, as they were spring-loaded and extremely functional; some may argue the point is less worthy of note. The one shown above is from the later part of the Reflex’s production; the earlier ones were extremely vague about the fletching, bearing a pair of rhombi which looked rather more like eyes than feathers.
A couple of steps up from the Reflex, and very slightly up from the Vector, the IM has had two quite distinct variations of clip. The first, appearing in the initial five years of the pen’s run, is just about as impressionistic as that on the Reflex or the earliest Super 21. The second is a somewhat more conventional clip, in the current curvilinear mode.
Something one notices looking through this gallery is that at about this point Parker begins to move away from the decades-long policy of a low-profile cap on their fountain pens. While previously the clips were held in place by either jewels or an extremely low-profile derby (one might almost say a beret), the company’s designers seem pleased now to have a rather substantial derby to finish off the cap. This suggests that they are no longer concerned about the US Military regulations of the early 1940s, and also that they don’t expect any modern users to have flaps on their pockets. From experience, I can assert that a substantial derby and a pocket-flap is a combination which guarantees looking like a doofus.
The final exhibit in this gallery is not a fountain pen at all, although a certain amount of effort has been spent on making the Ingenuity look rather like a fountain pen. I include it, despite having excluded several pencils and ball-points that might have been presented, because its clip is very similar to that on the high-end Premier. Despite appearances, the principles of this clip are very similar to that of the Vector’s; a flat spring with some impressed decor.