Waterman model numbers

The great majority of American-made Watermans from around 1917 to 1930 were marked on the end of the barrel with a numeric code that clearly identified the model. The basic system is easily learned, and runs as follows:

  • The size of the nib (and hence, the pen) is the number in the units place.
  • The type of pen is indicated by the figure in the tens place, as below:
straight-cap eyedropper = 0 (or no digit)
slip-fit (cone-cap) eyedropper = 1
taper-cap eyedropper = 2
safety = 4
lever-filler = 5
lever-filler with slip cap = 6
screw-cap eyedropper = 7
  • Overlays and trim bands are indicated in the hundreds and thousands places (normally omitted on pens for the UK and Europe):
silver barrel overlay = 2 in the hundreds place
solid gold barrel overlay = 3 in the hundreds place
full overlay, silver = 4 in the hundreds place
full overlay, solid gold = 5 in the hundreds place
two solid gold barrel bands = 6 in the hundreds place
one solid gold barrel band = 7 in the hundreds place
one solid gold cap band = 8 in the hundreds place
solid gold cap top band = 9 in the hundreds place
gold filled = 0 in the thousands place
  • In addition, there are some important suffixes, which may also be found in combination:
slender model = 1/2
short (pocket) model = V
overlay covering barrel end = LEC

Older pens used a slightly different numbering system, which was used up until 1917 (imprinting of the new numbering system probably began in spring of that year, with a few months' delay before the new numbers first appeared in ads). The key differences in these older pens' markings are as follows:

safety = 1 in tens place, S suffix
lever-filler = 1 in tens place, PSF suffix (P indicates screw-cap)
sleeve-filler = 1 in tens place, SF suffix
coin-filler = 1 in tens place, PSF suffix
screw-cap eyedropper = 1 in tens place, POC suffix
desk pen = 4 in tens place
pump-filler = 1 in tens place or in both tens and hundreds place, P suffix
mother-of-pearl barrel = 6 in hundreds place

It should also be noted that stamping the full number only became standard practice in the fall of 1908. Earlier overlay pens will often be found stamped with two-digit codes.

There were some irregularities in this system (e.g., the #20, an eyedropper with a #10 nib), but things really started to get confusing with the introduction c. 1927 of the #7 and the #5, followed a couple of years later by the unnumbered Patrician and Lady Patricia. For a while a modicum of consistency survived: the #32 and #92 had a #2 nib; the #94, a #4. Then the #32 became simply the #3, with the last overlay pens being numbered #403 even though equipped with a #2 nib.

Note that an entirely different numbering system was adopted in the 1940s for British-made Watermans, and that while US-made pens with overlays intended for export usually had a barrel-end imprint with no digits in the hundreds or thousands place, such designations did appear in catalog listings.  In a 1912-dated French catalog in our possession, solid 18K gold overlays are indicated by a 7 in the hundreds place; silver, by an 8; and gold filled (doublé or) by a 9.