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.
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.