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1981—1984
anfangimes were not good for Parker and it got worse economically during the late 1970's. Something radical had to be done to save the company. In July of 1981 Parker in the UK launched a new line of writing instruments called "Roller ball" RB-1, in price ranges from £1.95 to £25. Parker launched the largest ad campaign in the UK company's history. The idea was not new but Parker, who had benefited much from this strategy with the introduction of the Jotter ball pen, decided to not release the new pen until the design and functionality was at a peak.
The rollerball came from the idea to use fountain pen ink with a ball point pen. Using the best features from the two pens. Since the ball pens use a thicker ink, a ball point pen will always need more pressure, which could be tiresome if used for a prolonged time. With a more fluid ink writing would be more like using a fountain pen, which writes without any additional pressure at all (a good fountain pen writes by the pressure of the weight of the pen itself). The problem with a more fluid ink was to prevent the pen from blobbing. A ball pen does not have the intricate features of the ink feed of the fountain pens, which regulates the flow by letting air in and ink out, while at the same time trapping excessive ink in collectors under the nib.
anfangarker early realised that they already had a patent that might be modified to work with the new kind of ball pen. Way back in during the second world war a railway engineer by the name of Fred Wittnebert had come up with the idea of taking advantage of the capillary force, the same natural force that allows trees, a hundred meters tall, to be able to "suck" water through the stem using the surface-tension that lifts the liquid and keeps it trapped when inserted in a narrow space. The idea wasn't really far fetched, Parker had been using the same force together with the vacuum effect to regulate the flow in the ink feeds for ages and in the beginning of the 1950's Parker began develop the first fountain pen that could be filled without any moving parts, the legendary Parker "61" capillary filler. Now the same ideas were being dusted off for the new roller ball pen. Parker designed a refill that was in a way part of a mini-fountain pen in a closed unit. It contained floating ink, a feed and a collector. The ball was designed to give way a fraction of a millimeter when pressed against paper. This allowed the ink to flow down around the ball, giving a very wet and pleasant writing experience. When the nib was lifted from the paper the ball flexed back and shut off the ink flow, preventing blobs. The idea of a roller ball pen was not new but Parker, who had benefited much from this strategy with the introduction of the Jotter ball pen, decided to not release the new pen until the design and functionality was optimal. The liquid ink system took five years to develop, according to UK managing director Jaques Margry.
parker

The RB-1 and the Vector are very similar, but the RB-1 (on top)
had a shorter cap and section than the Vector.

anfangarker's first roller ball pen, The Systemark, was test marketed in Winnipeg in Canada, in the spring of 1974 and by 1975 it was introduced as a "floating ball pen", Stylus (a very hard fiber tip that could be used on carbon paper) and the "super soft" felt tip version, previously made for the Parker Touché. Within a year only the Jotter sold in greater numbers than the Systemark. According to Malcolm Troak it was Jaques Margry who saw the potential of the refill and decided to develop a pen especially made for the refill, and he wanted it fast! Troak describes the process as designed basically on the back of a cigarette packet by a handful of Newhaven people. It was designed to make Parker a fast brand leader in that market segment. The new RB-1 roller ball became immensely popular and after the introduction in England in July of 1981, and in the US in September, it sold in more than two million units before christmas. Parker describes the roller ball in an in-house newsletter as meeting a "staggering demand" and Malcolm Troak in his book "Pen to paper" reveals that the RB-1 quickly became the brand leader in that particular segment of the marketplace. anfanghe first RB-1 was made in a matte black polycarbonate and satin finish trim with a metal l gripping section. It sported a clean, straight cap with no cap rings and a newly designed clip which had the appearance of a chiseled-out arrow with three facets. It had no engraved feathers and was a very modern and clean design, fabricated to allow easy engraving on the clip. Earlier, in August of 1977, Parker had recruited Willi Seiberger from Parker Germany. He had made a great job boasting Parker’s sales in Germany and since the sales in general was poor in the US, Parker hoped that Seiberger would repeat his magic as he was made responsible for the marketing for US and Canada. Parker in the US was working on a massive introduction of a new, modern writing instrument, the Parker Arrow which was silently introduced in July 1981, followed by an official launch on August 19 in 1981 at a press conference to which more than 50 publications had accepted an invitation. The introduction was described by Parker as the most massive marketing effort since the launching of the Parker “45” in 1960. Hoping to capture 40-50 % of the US gift pen (over $10) market within five years Parker opted for prime time tv-spots and full colour print ads in several the high end magazines and Newspapers.

anfangt was an all-metal pen aimed at the business executive gift and self-purchase market. It sported a clean, straight cap with no cap rings and a newly designed clip which had the appearance of a chiselled-out arrow with three facets. It had no engraved feathers and was a very modern and clean design, fabricated to allow easy engraving on the clip. Although the earliest models had “Parker” engraved on the top facet and the feathers had a brushed finish. This proved too expensive so the engraving and texture was subsequently removed. Now the only restriction for the RB-1 came from Seiberger who insisted that at least the clip should follow the design for the Parker Arrow. While the Arrow clip was a stylised two-piece arrow the Newhaven team already had designed a similar one-piece clip. But it was eventually decided that the Arrow clip should be fitted to the RB-1 But very soon there were customer complaints about the sharp edges of the two-piece clip and also that it was prone to breakage. The one-piece clip was later added to the design when the name was changed to Vector in 1984. anfanglso the design of the pen itself made it perfectly suited for printing company logos and messages on it. The Newhaven industrial marketing has produced an array of designs in an array of colours and also winning many prestigious awards for their work. Unlike the Vector the RB1 has a two-piece clip, like the Arrow. It also has the minus sign on top, like on the vector. In early 1984 a fountain pen version was added to the model, it was called FP-1 and lead a short life until later in 1984 when both models were replaced by the Vector. There are some subtle design differences between the RB-1/FP-1 and the Vector. The barrel on the Vector was slightly shorter, the gripping section and cap slightly longer. Since these features are hard to determine unless one actually compares the two pens, the easiest was to distinguish them is the design of the clip. The RB-1 and FP-1 had the Arrow-style two-piece clip, while the Vector had the one-piece clip with a curved end. Read more in the Parker Vector chapter.

 

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