The Patrician was Waterman's flagship fountain pen for some ten years, from its introduction in 1929 until the release of the Hundred Year Pen in 1939. Nonetheless, the Patrician is not a common pen and significant variants are comparatively few. Perhaps the most notable of these is the model described on p. 73 of Fischler and Schneider's Fountain Pens and Pencils: The Golden Age of Writing Instruments (1990) as:
WATERMAN. Transition Patrician ca. 1928 . . . This transitional pen differs from the standard Patrician in that it contains earlier elements. Riveted clip-cap, globe lever, non-stepped ends (without the globe), and a solid cap band. A few examples of this pen have been found, all in emerald green. This pen should not be confused with those pens made by Waterman in the late 1930s from left over Patrician parts.
Since 1990, many additional examples have come to market, though it is still a relatively rare model. The Fischler and Schneider description remains largely valid, noting that the ends are sometimes stepped, and some have the post-globe lever of the same sort found on regular Patricians. The use of the "transitional" label, however, has not held up so well. Something that is transitional has to be a partway step, yet here the pen does not bridge a gap in the Patrician's evolution. If the pen does indeed predate the release of the Patrician proper (presumably as a market-testing mockup), it would be far more accurate to call it a "proto-Patrician".
This was how we once viewed this pen. The turning point was when we bought a clean example "from the wild" -- straight from the son of the original owner. It's one thing when examining a pen without having a stake in it; quite another, having to catalog it with a description one can stand behind. Although the pen clearly would have been worth more as a preproduction specimen, released in limited numbers for market tests, the pen itself contradicted this identification. The deciding factors were the tiny nib and un-Watermanish comb feed. If Waterman had been considering designs for a new, big, colorful flagship celluloid pen, there is no way that they would have sent out test market samples with an econo-pen front end.
The nib and feed on our example were absolutely typical, though it must be noted that some dealers and collectors have misguidedly "corrected" their pens with standard Patrician front-ends. The nib is much more unusual than one might realize at first glance. The imprint seems familiar, but isn't: just try to find another nib so marked, lacking the "IDEAL" and the size number at the base. The nib is also made from very thin metal, much thinner than any regular-production Waterman nib (note the damage to the example shown below). Finally, there is the small, round vent hole. It would be extraordinary to find that in a Waterman from c. 1928 -- it's a feature that by all indications dates to the mid- to late 1930s.
What this nib (and feed) recalls is the warranted nibs Wahl-Eversharp put on their older model pens that were being cleared out at the end of the '30s. The parallels don't stop there. What makes no sense for market testing c. 1928 makes perfect sense for clearing out old stock at the end of the '30s or beginning of the '40s, in anticipation of, or alongside the introduction of the Hundred Year Pen as Waterman's new flagship model. In Waterman's case, the batch size appears to have been quite small; perhaps the fact that all known examples are green reflects the relative lack of popularity of that by-then somewhat old fashioned color (other unquestionably late-production Patricians, finished with Patrician nibs but non-Patrician clips and trim, are typically found in the more desirable colors, such as Turquoise). Although collectors will undoubtedly continue to call the model "transitional" for years to come, it is now clear that "closeout Patrician" would be in all regards a more appropriate monicker.