This pen is something of an enigma, and I will not add a great deal of scholarship at the moment. It is known to be a result of a collaboration between Sheaffer and Sailor, but what motivated that collaboration is unknown. A ballpoint and mechanical pencil set under this name appear in a 1987 catalogue, and I’ve seen a warranty card for one filled out in late 1989, which gives a very vague notion of it being contemporary with the transition between TRZ and Fashion. The name, following Sheaffer’s long tradition of re-using names to confuse pen collectors of later ages, is shared with sub-models from as far back as 1947, and including Touchdowns fat and thin and Snorkels.
This vague notion is another layer of perplexity. So far as I can make out, the difference between Sentinel and TRZ is that the former is somewhat wider in the body (but not so wide that it isn’t reliant upon the now-unavailable slim “Cartridge II”), and the differences between it and the Fashion are even fewer; the point itself and the clip appear to be the extent of the major differences.
That clip difference is one which frequently leads people to wonder whether the Sentinel isn’t some sort of knock-off. The decoration is utterly unlike any other Sheaffer product, with the capital S lifted from the corporate logo of the Balance era surmounted by a dot of exactly the opposite colour one associates with Sheaffer products. These decorations are attractive enough, but they’re atypical; one has a sense of the design developing out of a combination of insufficient oversight of the Sailor operation by Sheaffer and of things being merely described over a telephone.
The final mystery about the Sentinel is what its place was in the company’s line-up. I speculate that it may have been meant as a budget alternative to the Fashion, as it seems to have come in fewer finishes and those far less festive. It is, though, a very well made pen in its own right, and the extra cost of importation would tend to undercut any savings in the trim. Was it an end-run around Japanese trade protections? Perhaps, although why Sailor would sign onto such an attempt is yet another mystery to garnish a salad composed of mystery.
Leaving aside the occult aspects of this pen and looking just at its performance, it is certainly in keeping with Sheaffers of its time; smooth, stiff, and evidently reliable. Sailor was definitely not taking advantage of not having its name attached to the product to fob off sub-standards wares. Apart from a likelihood of posting scars, which I mention only as a possibility since my example and others I’ve seen don’t display such things, there it little to say against this pen if one doesn’t mind cartridge filling and a lack of spring in a point.
Production Run: c. 1985 – c.1990.
Cost When New: An undated UK catalogue, which the donor thinks is from 1985, shows the price at £9.95. A more certain 1990 list, also from the UK, shows £35.95, £19.00, or £12.95 depending on trim (for modern values, try this calculator).
Size: 13.4 cm long capped, 14.7 cm posted, 12.1 cm uncapped.
Point: Steel, sometimes plated.
Body: Metal, in various finishes.
Filler: Cartridge , capacity approx. 1.2 ml
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