Pilot Custom 823 Review

In the year 2000, the 823 was born and since then has become one of Pilot’s biggest success stories. With thanks to the vacuum filled barrel, this pen really sets it apart from the rest of Pilot’s line up and one could argue, with any pen within this price range. What we have here is a very business-like pen, that wouldn’t look out of place in any board meeting. I feel this is where Pilot really knows what they are doing. So now let’s dive a bit deeper into this pen.


This box is big and certainly goes a long way to impressing on you that you own a luxury item. One may argue that it’s a bit too big, but still, upon closer inspection, you’ll notice that on opening, there nested by the pen is a bottle of ink. Which I have to say, is always very welcomed! Even if it’s blue or black! The ink is generally matched to the barrel colour.

The silk bending is very very stylish and offers you a wonderful cushion for your pen, especially if your pen has been writing for pages and pages! I mean who wouldn’t want silk sheets to rest on after a hard day’s work?!

Also included is your other standard items like care and warranty information.
Now let’s explore the practicality.

This pen ticks a huge number of boxes, Clip? Tick.? Fits into a shirt pocket? Tick. Fits into trouser pockets? Tick. Essentially, this thing will clip onto most fabrics!… within reason.
Detailing of the superb clip. But the real winner is the vacuum filling system. If you’ve never experienced a filling mechanism like this and were on the fence? Get off the fence, get to your favourite online retailer. There is something extremely satisfying watching the ink getting swallowed into the pens barrel and listening to the click at the end. Users of this pen will know what I am talking about!

In terms of comfort, I feel that most people will enjoy this pen, its grip section is decently wide enough for smaller and larger hands. Uncapping the pen is pretty quick and gives you access in a jiffy. You may just about make out the vacuum filling system above. For the keen eye out there, you may just about notice that there is also an inner cap, which massively helps stop the ink from drying out. So this pen is very practical, quick to access the nib, interesting filling mechanism and offers a decent size in hand.

Okay, so this design will divide opinions, you see for all its practicality, cigar-shaped pens are not everyone’s cup of ink. Some people prefer flattops. It would be wonderful to see the vacuum filler available for flat-top pens as well. But, what I do especially love about this pen is the smoke finish with gold highlightings. It’s simple and very elegant.
The trim is done especially well,  with lovely touches like the infilling of the company branding on the centre ring. If demonstrator pens aren’t to your taste, this pen may or may not appeal. You see, in a darker environment, you can barely see the ink sloshing around on the inside. But like here in the conservatory, you can just about make it out.
Taking a look at the nib, you’ll notice that the imprinting is a bit plain. For some, this probably won’t bother you, but from a design perspective, it would be nice to see them modernise it. Especially if you look at Namiki, which comes with a gorgeous 2 tone nib! And a lovely stylised image of mount fuji! 

Overall the pen is handsome and even though I prefer flat-top pens to cigar shapes. This would make for a wonderful signing pen, or one to enjoy in business meetings!

Writing and Drawing experience 

The size 15 gold nib.
Writing with this pen is decent, but will it set the world on fire? From my perspective no. That’s partly because I prefer my gold nibs soft, and whilst there is a little, I was hoping for more. Still, for everyday writing, it’s extremely good, but I still ask myself this question, does it offer more than a platinum preppy? Yes and no! Now, I realise to some people out there will be scoffing and blaspheming at me through their screens. Fingers prepped to take to their keyboards and do battle! But, please, I implore you to hear me out!

Whilst this fine nib is excellent and does the job, you can get the FA nib in japan and I honestly feel for my writing characteristics, I’d enjoy that a lot more.

In regards to would, I recommend it? Yes! Which may sound slightly contradictory. You see I have to recommend the whole experience of the pen, not just the writing. There is a suitable choice of nibs in the UK, that being, Fine, Medium, Broad and if one were to venture to Japan, you can get the Waverly and Falcon Nib.  Both of which give you different types of line variation.

Drawing on the reverse of this pen is very smooth and offers an excellent line variation. For longer writing and drawing sessions, I have really enjoyed this. The line is consistent and is up to pilots high standards. There were no issues with hard starts or any of that rubbish! And as such, I have enjoyed it. 

Interestingly though, I do own the 18 k size 10 Namiki nib and I’d say that’s a hair finer and a bit smoother!

The Pilot size 15 Nib.
Final thoughts
Please do remember these are my observations and as such don’t reflect the views of everyone.
The Pilot custom 823 is a fine pen and I’d argue is the king of its price segment. Still, there are points of consideration. 
Firstly, the design is very understated and it would be nice to see some variation in colour. Smoke, Brown or clear are your only options. Ever so recently, Pilot released the SE line and I can’t help but wonder what an 823 would look like in SE marbling!

Secondly, the writing experience is decent and for those that don’t mind the nib being on the slightly stiffer side, you’ll have a great time.

Lastly, there are other really good pens in the European market that retail for about the same price. You could opt for a Pelikan m800 as an example, which will give you an easier time for cleaning, more nib choices and a superior range of colours and finishes.

However, what you do get is a vacuum filling system, which is a joy to use and an extremely precise and wonderful writing experience.

Overall I have had a really lovely time with the pen and it’s certainly opened my eyes up to different styles of pens and nibs. Would I buy one? Yes, but it would need to have an FA nib to meet my personal tastes.

I think Pilot is certainly doing more interesting things as a company and as mentioned before, the SE lineup has really given Pilot a jolt of fresh air. Bar the capless range, Pilot generally ers on the side of caution when it comes to design. So, one hopes that going forwards, Pilot could introduce more colour variance within their lineups!

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