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The book  “Waterman Safety, the Art of Overlay in Italy” was published in 1998. The structure of the book was organized making reference to a single collection of Waterman 42s belonging to the co-author of the book.

90% of the pens depicted in the book came from this same source and only a few examples were borrowed from other collections.

At the time of publication, the book was the most complete reference on the topic of Italian overlays and had some of the most fascinating pictures ever. It was however incomplete by nature, as the collection did not comprise every single variation of the existing overlays on Waterman safety pens.

Furthermore, the book does not include any analysis of other Waterman models which were enriched with precious and semi precious overlays in Italy during the various decades. The 5X series, as well as later models are not even mentioned.

At the time we simply focussed on the scenario of safeties.



More than 20 years have passed and the world has radically changed. Nowadays, images travel at the speed of light and every collector and pen lover can see in one day more pens than a collector in the past could see in a lifetime.

Looking backward at the quality of my work, I would say that there are a few missing points in the book:

1) Reference to overlays on different models than 42s

2) Analysis of a number of overlays and their variations

3) Figural overlays

4) Comparisons between Waterman official overlays and other brands which used exactly the same patterns, decorations and designs.

5) References to the various hallmarks on semi precious metals referring to the workshop which produced them or signatures of specific artists.

A detailed analysis of the 5 points would probably require  another book .... I will instead offer a general overview for each of the 5 points,dividing the contents in 5 parts, each of which will be dedicated to a specific subject.

Part I : Overlays on different models than 42s

Many overlays  which were used on Waterman 42s in the 1920’s and 1930’s were also used to embellish other Waterman models, mainly belonging to the 5X series. These pens are actually much less common than safeties and the range of decorative patterns used for their overlays is definitely narrower than for 42s.

In the picture two very rare Waterman 52s with filigree overlay and cherubs.

The 5x series was not so successful in Italy as the line of safety pens but a few examples are known of beautiful overlays on 52s, 54,s and 56s which replicate the patterns of decoration used for safety pens, like the two 52Vs with cherubs or the fantastic 56 with two tone filigree overlay of the following pictures.

A very limited number of extremely rare pens of the 7x series are also known with Italian overlays. In the following pictures a beautiful 76 with guilloché overlay.

I have never had the chance to see a 58 nor a 18 or a 20 with Italian overlay but I am told a few of them exist, too

In many cases we can find Waterman 52s, 54s and 56s lever fillers wearing exactly the same overlays as their safety counterparts. Sometimes some details such as clips and cap tops may vary but, as a whole, the overlays are exactly identical. Hallmarks remain unchanged, too.

During the late 1930’s and the 1940’s a number of low priced Waterman models were embellished with precious/semi precious overlays. Most of them are not so rich and precious as earlier ones  and show simple geometrical patterns of decoration. Most of these later overlays were produced by the Milan- based Kosca company.

In the following picture a Waterman 52 with a Kosca overlay ( confirmed by the clip) with geometrical decoration. 

CREDITS: Personal archive, Mario Pinelli, Jor Lin, Lee Chung-Wei, Pat Mohan, Jack Leone.