Pilot (pen company) is a Japanese pen manufacturer based in Tokyo, Japan. It produces writing instruments, stationery and jewelery, but is best known for its pens. It is the largest pen manufacturer in Japan, and has a large number of subsidiaries throughout the world, including in the Philippines, United Kingdom, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Brazil, South Africa, Germany and France. Most Pilot pens are made in Japan, France and the USA. Namiki, Pilot’s fountain pens with maki-e lacquering designs, are made in the Hiratsuka factory.
In 1915, Ryōsuke Namiki (並木良輔), a professor from Tokyo Nautical College in Japan, left his job to found a small factory near Tokyo to produce gold pen nibs. In 1916, Namiki expanded his product line and became a full-fledged manufacturer of writing instruments. The Pilot Pen Corporation was founded by Ryosuke Namiki with Masao Wada (和田正雄) in 1918 under the name of the Namiki Manufacturing Company. In 1926 it established overseas offices in Malaysia, Singapore, Boston, London and Shanghai. In 1938 the name of the company changed to the Pilot Pen Co., Ltd. It was again renamed in 1950 as the Pilot Ink Company, Ltd. In 1954 a branch was opened in Brazil. From 1972 to 1999 various sub-companies were formed to cover the various branches, and the collective name for these is Pilot Corporation. More recently, Pilot began the BeGreen line—pens and pencils composed of mostly recycled content.
In 1964, Pilot Corporation introduced the Capless. Unlike other fountain pens during its time, the Pilot Capless featured a fully retractable nib. The Capless was later reintroduced as the Vanishing Point in 1972. In 2012, the company released the Metropolitan, a popular entry-level fountain pen. There are a series of higher end pens that bear the name of “Custom” or “Custom Heritage” and a two or three digit number. “Custom” models are cigar-shaped, while “Custom Heritage” models have flat tops and bottoms. The number is based on the year of introduction (from the foundation of the company—the Custom 74 was introduced in 1992) for models with two digits, while the third digit on models with three digits represents a list price when multiplied by ¥10,000.