Pen Comparison: Sailor Pro Gear Imperial Black vs. Pilot Custom 823
Notes: These two pens are not necessarily similar, in that they have different stylings, different filling systems, and different sizes. However, when shopping on the Japanese market, they are nearly the same price. I snapped these photos the other day because someone on Reddit was asking for advice on which pen to get. Both of them are great, and have landed a permanent seat in my collection. It’s hard to recommend one over the other, but maybe this post will help those out who are considering both pens!
When capped, the Sailor is visibly shorter than the Pilot. The flat top and bottom on the Sailor make for some great styling and looks, but it does make the pen significantly shorter. The other obvious difference is that the Pilot has a demonstrator body with an integrated vacuum filling system, while the Sailor is all-black resin with a cartridge converter. The Sailor is much more modern, while the Pilot has a classic cigar shape. This is how I prefer to write with each pen. The Sailor is much to short for me when unposted (see below), but the Pilot is pretty much perfect. In this configuration, the weight is about the same. I’ve had custom adjustments done to both nibs, so it’s hard to say which one is a better writer. The 14kt Pilot nib was ground to an architect point and the 21kt Sailor nib was adjusted for more flow than the stock nib. Despite being 21kt gold, the Sailor nib is quite stiff and unforgiving. The modification on the Pilot doesn’t allow for any flex, but my experience with other Pilot nibs was very positive. They have a nice cushion and spring to them, and lay down a smooth line.
As seen above (click to make bigger!), the Sailor is a bit short for me when unposted. I know people prefer to write this way, and it’s not uncomfortable for me. I simply prefer the cap on this pen. It adds a nice amount of weight and doesn’t throw off the balance of the pen at all. I also like being able to see the Sailor logo on the cap while writing, as it is one of my favorites in the pen world.
I prefer writing with the 823 when it’s unposted. I find the cap to add too much length and it throws off the balance. The pen by itself is long enough and heavy enough for me to write with comfortably. The huge ink capacity and metal components in the filling system help with adding to the nice weight.
Overall, they’re very different pens, but being in the same price bracket makes them more similar than I had originally thought. They both provide a different writing experience, but they’re both great looking, high quality, and in my opinion worthy of adding to a collection. If you prefer a larger pen, then definitely consider the 823. Another check for the 823 if you like unique filling systems. If you’re in the market for a more modern pen and your favorite color is black, it’s extremely hard to ignore the Sailor Pro Gear Imperial Black. Both are great writers, and neither pen would be a bad choice. If you like this pen comparison, let me know in the comments! I’d be happy to do some more as time goes on.
16 thoughts on “Pen Comparison: Sailor Pro Gear Imperial Black vs. Pilot Custom 823”
I just bought my 823 at the first of the month. The first time I wrote with it I knew it was the fountain pen I had been looking for as my every day writer. I love it so much. The Sailor Pro Gear looks very intriguing to me. I don’t know much about Sailor. Time to investigate!
Thanks! It really is a great pen. Superior build quality and great looks. Of course it writes well too.
The Sailors I’ve had are great, slightly different feel than the Pilots. I like the flat top and tail on the Professional Gear models a lot, and of course it being all black is great.
Enjoy your 823!
Ahhhhhh! That Pro Gear Imperial Black was going to be my Grail pen. . . until I found out I couldn’t have it with a fude nib. My Grail pen body and my Grail pen nib — but never the twain shall meet. Heartbreaking. But I do like your comparison post! How about comparing two similar nibs made by different manufacturers?
I can do that! How about a Pilot medium versus a Sailor medium? Or fine v fine.
The Sailor medium is perhaps a fraction finer than a Lame medium. The Pilot medium is a clear step finer.
I write with both pens. Both are superb.
Hope this helps.
Nice comparison, but you always go for customizations over your nibs?
Thank you for a nice comparison!!!
This is a great help to me to choose Sailor Pro Gear.
You’re welcome! Glad it could be of some help.
Just received my own Sailor Imperial Black and while it’s amazing I really underestimated the fineness of the nib. Only previous experience was a #3776 fine which I enjoy a lot. The Sailor nib writes consistently and looks perfectly aligned to me but It just feels rough, loud and pronounced feedback that borders on scratchy. Thinking about sending it to the master Mr. Masuyama as I read you did with happy results. Do you think he would be able to significantly improve the smoothness and possibly increase flow a bit or is he mainly concerned with addressing more problematic nibs? Possibly I am too accustomed to Western fines and thus it just feels odd to me but is actually normal for this very fine, tiny nib.
Sorry to solicit advice (and such a vague question) in a comment – I didn’t expect to be disappointed with this beautiful pen and can’t quite decide.
Thanks for your superb reviews!
I was able to contact Mike and decided to go ahead and send it in. Can’t go wrong having him tune any pen and with just a bit of help thsi will be a great pen for me. Thanks!
Thanks for the comparison! This was really helpful. How does the 823 compare to the Sailor Black Luster?
Thanks for reading!
Unfortunately, I don’t have a Black Luster so I can’t make a proper comparison.
I own both in fine. Your review was spot on. It’s extremely hard to choose, I constantly switch between the two for daily writers. The pilot fine is a much drier than the sailor. I use it mostly when I’m working with really light paper. Such as rice paper or the 52gsm tomoe river whereas my sailor does much better on cotton but either one still does great on both.