Don’t Lose Your Pen! High visibility Pen Comparison

There was a time when I was younger when I, like a lot of folks it seems, preferred black or manly or ‘tactical’ colors for everything. Then I slowly learned I was spending a lot of time looking for things because they were all the same color. Especially when traveling or camping.

Over time I’ve been replacing all-black stuff or putting brightly colored tape on things to make them easier to see.

Pens were a little easier as they are available in bright colors, even neon colors. There are two in particular: The Caron d’Ache 849, and the Space Pen Cap-o-Matic Tradesman.

The Caran d’Ache has a more saturated color. The Space Pen is paler, almost pastel by comparison. Both are more or less equally visible, but the CdA color makes me smile and the Space Pen color makes me feel like it spent too much time in the sun. More importantly, they both jump out visually. Dropped on the ground or in a crowded drawer or pocket they’re easier to spot, which is the point.

On grass, not so hard to find
On grass, not so hard to find
Did you spot the black one?
Did you spot the black one?

The Tradesman feels a smidge loose and wiggly and the mechanism, like the CdA, is quiet and a bit vague. Neither gives a satisfying click, like you’d find on a Jotter. But if you’re a compulsive pen clicker, those around you will be a lot happier.

The Tradesman is made of brass and I have no doubt the pen will last, although the paint has chipped a bit. The 849 is aluminum, the clip is removable, and so far the paint is chip free.

Both pens have sturdy clips, and will fit in normal size pen sleeves. The 849 has a bit more reveal above the clip which makes it easier to grab.

Neither pen has any annoying click or clack of the cartridge rattling while writing.

In general CdA cartridges are long-lasting and a bit dry in my experience, and finer than regular ballpoints on many kinds of paper. Space Pen refills are thicker and darker by comparison, but don’t last anywhere near as long. Both write on 95% of the surfaces I come into contact with, but I expect the Space Pen to have the edge, as well as writing in different positions.

The 849 is a legendary, proven design, and I’m very fond of it. It’s the refills that tend to push me away. In theory the 849 will take a Parker refill, but in practice it is not a great fit. The Space Pen refill can also be put into the 849, but it suffers the same problems as the Parker refills. The main problem is that the point doesn’t fully retract and is more likely to mark up pockets & clothing accidentally.

Both of these pens are very competent, established designs, and either will be easier to find. If sharp, saturated body color is important get the 849, if a darker, thicker writing line is important get the Space Pen.

Parker Sonnet Ballpoint Review

I bought the Parker Sonnet because I wanted a nicer looking pen for an upcoming business trip, and I didn’t want to take a fountain pen, and I wanted the pen to take Parker refills.

Amazon had it on sale, so I ordered the black and gold version:

The girth is medium, perhaps a bit thick for a ballpoint but medium for pens in general. Not a tight fit for most of the pen sleeves in the bags I use these days. It’s twist operated, so opening it one handed is no problem.

The clip is fairly firm, but has little reveal, so digging this out of a deep sleeve could be difficult. My current bags all have short sleeves so it’s not an issue. The clip does flex a bit side to side, which I don’t care for.

The gold section at the end and the black barrel shift ever so slightly while writing. It’s so slight that I’m still not 100% sure it’s happening, because when I try to shift them with two hands can’t detect it. Only while writing. It’s a minor thing really.

Unscrewing the two halves opens the pen for refill replacement and there is no spring or other parts coming out of either side. I like this.

I got the pen in late 2019, and I’ve been using it exclusively since then, which is why it looks a bit worn in the photo. It’s comfortable, and the mechanism operates the same as it did when I got it. Will it last forever? Hmmmm…probably not, but the nice thing about ballpoints is that I don’t feel like they have to.

So if you’re looking for a decent ballpoint that is formal in a generic sort of way, that is nice to hold this could be a good choice.

[UPDATE 1/15/2023] I don’t know if it is just the unit I got, or a chronic flaw in Sonnet ballpoints, but mine has developed a looseness between the upper barrel and the lower barrel. When the point is extended the looseness is gone but a there’s a gap that shows up (just to the left of the gold band in the photo).

Basically the threaded portion in the upper barrel is coming loose. I can send the pen back for repair, but it’s now out of warranty.