The Waterman pen company is a major manufacturer of luxury fountain pens. Established in 1884 in New York City by Lewis Edson Waterman, it is one of the few remaining first-generation fountain pen companies, as Waterman S.A..
It is currently owned since 2000 by the American group Newell Rubbermaid.
The initial years of Waterman's involvement in pen manufacturing are unclear. The earliest records of reservoir pens date back to the tenth century, with the oldest surviving examples dating back to the 18th. Waterman's improvements on basic pen design and aggressive marketing played a vital role in making the fountain pen a mass-market object.
The key novelty feature of Waterman's first fountain pens was the feed, for which his first pen-related patent was granted in 1884. From the beginning, competition in the fountain pen industry was fierce, both in the marketplace and the courtroom. Despite later company literature that depicts Lewis E. Waterman as a golden-hearted innocent, all evidence indicates that he was a tough, savvy, and innovative businessman.
Waterman pens made for Air France's Concorde
Nonetheless, it was after L. E. Waterman's death in 1901 that the company took off. Under the leadership of Waterman's nephew, Frank D. Waterman, the Waterman Pen Company expanded aggressively worldwide. While Waterman introduced its share of innovations, the company's main selling point was always quality and reliability.
As the 20th century wore on Waterman's conservatism allowed its younger and more innovative competitors to gain market share—Parker, Sheaffer, and Wahl-Eversharp, in particular. By the later 1920s, Waterman was playing catch-up; it continued to struggle through and beyond World War II before finally shutting down in 1954.
Waterman's French subsidiary, Waterman Jif (later Waterman S.A.), continued to prosper and eventually absorbed what remained of the American company and its British arm.
The Waterman company was acquired by the Bic company which went public in 1958 with a reverse merger into the older Waterman Pen Company of Seymour, Connecticut, in the United States, and later sold off the older operation.
Successfully weathering the challenge of the ballpoint pen, it was acquired by Sanford, a division of Newell Rubbermaid, in 2001, owner of The Parker Pen Company.
In 2011, the Parker factory at Newhaven, East Sussex, England (United-Kingdom) was closed, and its production transferred to Saint-Herblain (France).