What Is the Best Professional Pen?: Tools of the Trade for Corporate Excellence (2021)

Woman writes on paper with a Waterman Hemisphere rollerball behind an Executive Name Plate

If you're an entrepreneur, corporate professional, or just generally mean business, you need the right tools for your trade.

One of those tools is a high quality pen for daily writing tasks.

But how do you know which pen is the most professional? Or which pen is best for you?

Those are the questions I'll be answering in this article.

Before I get to my actual list of the 25 best pens for professionals, I want to take some time to talk about why professionals need good pens and why they're good for business (just in case you weren't convinced already).

Let's begin.

Why do I need a pen for work?

We all need pens for our workplace to perform daily tasks. But we also might need them in order to establish a kind of tone that communicates the caliber of excellence with which we approach our various occupations.

Employees mull over profit figures printed on paper with their luxury pens

Finding the right pen for you is as much about function as it is about communicating the kind of professional you are.

What are the benefits of a high quality pen for the workplace?

Going for a higher quality writing instrument is about your enjoyment in writing and performing daily organizational tasks, but that comes with a feeling and a general atmosphere of purpose and efficiency.

Sometimes it's great to shell out a lot for a pen that makes a statement.

That said, quality writing doesn't always have to cost; Bic Cristals, which we'll talk about later, are just as "professional" as the fanciest Mont Blanc fountain pen, but it's a different kind of professionalism from the one to the other.

Does writing things down by hand affect my workplace performance?

The best thing about being intentional with the pens you buy for work is that writing things by hand actually increases productivity.

Woman indicates a point on a piece of paper to her coworker with her Dayspring Braxton ballpoint pen.

Studies show that people who take notes by hand are far more likely to recall information than people who take notes on a computer. This goes for scheduling and organizing tasks as well. Writing just connects the memory to your actions better.

What is the best pen for professionals?: My top 25

In this list of top 25, I am going to bounce around quite a bit in price points. I wanted to give an honest look at pens that I love, that are objectively good, and have a reputation that makes them professional.

25.) Cross Calais Ballpoint Pen

Calais Chrome and Blue Ballpoint Pen Set resting on paper journal

The Cross Calais Ballpoint is the best selling pen at Dayspring Pens for a couple of reasons. It's a pleaser for buying in bulk, it's affordable, and it has the reputation and solid construction of AT Cross.

This pen is going to look nice in your pocket, engrave well for a statement piece, and get the job done whether you are signing a contract or taking some notes.

24.) Uni-Ball Jetstream

Wirecutter ranked the Uni-Ball Jetstream as the best pen out there for every day writing, and The Strategist ranked it #98 in its list of the 100 best pens.

Easy to find, quick-drying, and comfortable are the top factors of this pen. If you write often and frequently or for left handed people looking for a gel pen, the Uni-Ball Jetstream is definitely worth a try.

The downside: it's not a statement pen. The Uni-Ball Jetstream isn't here to look nice, just do the work.

23.) Parker IM Rollerball

A man holds a Parker IM Rollerball Pen in man's hand

Parker has always been associated with professional writing instruments. The Parker IM Rollerball is one of the best pens for professionals, and it's super affordable, too.

D.P. at the Strategist said it best:

A smooth operator. The kind of pen that takes itself seriously. One could imagine it on a wooden desk, being used to sign important papers by an important person. An important person who doesn’t have time for smudging or bleeding. Granted, its relative heft isn’t great for writing over extended periods. But this pen approximates what a luxury pen offers, at a much lower price point. 

22.) Prismacolor Premier Felt-Tip Pen

For fans of felt-tip pens, I present the queen of all felt-tips.

In terms of writing, she's beauty and she's grace. In terms of looks, its hard to find a great felt-tip pen that looks as professional as it writes.

It's the writing experience that truly matters for a felt-tip, and the Prismacolor Premier offers something perfect.

You can also find a variety of colors and point sizes so if your work needs a little more than black, blue, or red try these out. I'm a sucker for the 01 fine tip myself.

21.) Uni-Ball Signo 207 Premier Gel Pen

The Signo 207 Premier was named the best ergonomic pen by JetPens:

Its free-flowing ink helps you hold the pen lightly as it glides across the page. The pigmented ink is satisfyingly dark regardless of how lightly you write, but if you do still grip the pen hard, its delightfully squishy grip section will relieve your achy fingers. In addition, the 207 Premier’s light weight and low center of gravity won’t tire your hand as you write.

The negative of the Uni-Ball is that it just doesn't look particularly appealing, but it writes so well that someone borrowing it will want to get one for themselves.

20.) Dayspring Pens Braxton Set

A woman writes on note paper with a  Dayspring Pens Braxton Rollerball in Red

The Dayspring Pens Braxton Set is a go-to for affordable everyday writing that will still look fancy. 10KT gold barrel matched with a colored lacquer cap and free engraving by the company.

The nice thing about the Braxton is that it's a set so you get two pens, one a ballpoint and one a rollerball, in the $30 price range. Honestly, makes a great entry level professional gift that you can actually feel comfortable giving to someone.

19.) Pilot Metropolitan Fountain Pen

When Pilot first launched the Metropolitan in 2012, Brian Goulet of Goulet Pens warned “It’s rare that a pen will come along that I feel will become as widely popular as these pens, so I don’t say the following statement lightly: the Pilot Metropolitan is a pen that has the potential to be as popular as the [Platinum] Preppy and [LAMY] Safari.” 

He’s words turned out to be quite prophetic as the Pilot Metropolitan is considered the exceptional entry level fountain pen at $18.99. They look great, write better, and are coveted by new users and fountain pen veterans alike. 

I like it cause it’s ready when I need it and it keeps me from having fountain pen guilt aka I refilled it and forgot about it and now I have wasted the pen. It's easy to clean and maintain. Bless.

18.) Pilot Precise V5

The Pilot Precise V5 falls heavily into the category of "not a looker, but a daggon great pen". The V5 will only be impressive to fellow lovers of this pen. For those who are loyal to it, when you see someone using it, you respect the user.

With multiple options available for ink color and tip size, this rollerball pen will always write smoothly and ink dries quickly. The bleed through is very limited on this gel ink (I use it for my crossword puzzle and newspapers are notoriously savage for gel pen ink feathering).

This pen is professional because it just works so well. If only it looked and felt as spectacular when you hold it...

17.) Cross Classic Century Ballpoint

A woman writes notes on paper with a Cross Classic Century Ballpoint Pen in black with gold appointments

Cross is an American pen company that often gets the reputation for the pen of professionals...for good reason. They write well and price in the lower luxury range up to fancy pants luxury.

The Classic Century line has been in production since the 1930s and are often considered heirloom pieces that will stay in the family for 30+ years. It's a slim pen so if you are looking for heft, this isn't your pen. Available as a ballpoint, rollerball, and fountain pen, I chose the ballpoint version for its ease and convenient twist action.

16.) Fisher Space AG7 Original Astronaut Space Pen

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Are you looking for a conversation starter? The Fisher Space Pen is definitely that.

Capable of working in zero gravity, underwater, in extreme temperatures, and writing at any angle (including upside down), this pen was used by NASA for the Apollo space missions. It is a little piece of history.

Now the pen itself is decent. It has a nice weight and durability to it and will look relatively unique in the hand or pocket. I would say it is a solid ballpoint, but not one I am inclined to wax poetic about it. I personally wish the ink was darker.

Ultimately, if you are a scuba diver, construction worker, or on board a Deadliest Catch Crabber, this is a great pen choice. If you are looking for something to talk about with a client, go for it. If you are simply looking for an awesome cool looking ballpoint, see some of our subsequent options.

15.) Cross Townsend Ballpoint Pen

Cross Townsend Ballpoint Pen with notepad paper

AKA the Pen of Presidents. No joke this pen was used by Clinton, G.W. Bush, and Obama as the official White House Pen.

The Cross Townsend is a simple, sleek pen with glossy lacquer and lovely appointments. I prefer the Black with Gold Trim.

The pen has smooth writing, quick drying ink, and it is available as both a ballpoint and fountain pen.

One of the things I love the most about this pen is how the cap snaps onto the barrel, softly, with a nice click. A bad cap experience will deter me from a pen.

14.) LAMY Safari Fountain Pen

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The LAMY Safari has often been dubbed "The Welcome to Fountain Pens" fountain pen. It is the perfect entry level fountain pen or daily writer. It is simple and easy to use, wont break your bank, and will last.

Ed Jelly highlights how great the Safari is for taking notes since its nibs are super affordable and easily interchangeable.

The LAMY Safari is a resin based pen, so it is light weight, but relatively durable. Looks good in the pocket and the hand. And it has a triangular hold which is super comfortable.

13.) Ohto Dude Ceramic Ballpoint Pen

Full disclosure, I saw this pen and the Ohto Horizon (you'll see it later) pop up on different forums, so I got both to try out for myself. Now, I'm obsessed with Ohto, and the real debate amongst the staff is who likes which Ohto pen better.

Luckily I am writing this article, so my opinion wins.

The Dude Ceramic Ballpoint writes like a heckin' dream. The grip is insanely comfortable, it looks professional and comes in at a whopping $17.31 on Amazon.

Do not be deceived by the ballpoint title. Turns out Ohto invented the water-based ballpoint (AKA the rollerball) so this pen is really a rollerball. It's got a medium sized barrel, and it's Waterman-refill compatible (although why you would swap the ink out in this pen baffles me.)

12.) Bic Cristal

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The Bic Cristal is arguably the greatest pen ever made.

With over 100 billion sold since 1950, the Cristal is the best selling pen in the world.

Fun fact: you and I tend to think of the Bic Cristal as a cheap throwaway, but Eliot Noyes included it in the first ever exhibit of industrial design at the MoMA. Noyes was the head of the MoMA's industrial design department in the 1930s and 1940s, and he later went on to become the head of IBM's design department from the late 1940s to the 1960s, designing iconic pieces of technology like the Selectric Typewriter.

Noyes and many other industrial designers were very impressed with the Cristal's minimal, functional design, so much so that it now has its own dedicated collection at the MoMA.

But the Cristal is widely popular now mainly because it doesn't suffer from the usual issues with ballpoints: too much pressure needed to write and line skipping. It is the top pick for Ballpoint Artists (like the one in the video above) because it is so easy to write with and the fine writing line can be manipulated for the most detail.

Ink starts the second you put it to paper. It will give you a long time of writing (Bic advertises 2km of lines). You can find the point size of your preference. The pen writes incredibly well. Its hard to say too much about the Bic Cristal because it is what it is: one good pen.

11.) LAMY 2000 Fountain Pen

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LAMY's flagship design, the 2000 fountain pen is sleek, modern, and looks crazy cool. Unlike the traditional fountain pen nib, the 2000's nib 14KT gold nib peaks out of the brushed steel tip.

It is a workhorse that is, as The Gentleman Stationer says, about as practical as a fountain pen can be.

It is a subtle pen. It will look good sitting on your desk or in the hand, but is not flashy or intense, so if you want to fly under the radar with it, you can.

10.) Retro 51 Tornado Rollerball Pen

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Coming in at #8 on the Strategist's top 100 list, the Retro 51 Tornado is massively popular right now. Part of the reason for that is because it’s super affordable 

Unsharpen ranked this the best everyday carry pen for under $25, and they consider this pen the alter ego of the Baron Fig Squire which we’ll discuss later.

This twist-action rollerball tapers towards the front end of the pen, making it look sleek, sharp, and a bit scary, and it’s got a solid weight to it.

The Retro 51 company has a TON of limited editions of this pen that are really fun and all over the place. They’re definitely worth considering for your professional pen.

9.) Kaweco Sport Classic Fountain Pen

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The Kaweco Sport series fountain pen is brilliantly designed writing instrument. I recommend it to professionals because of its cool, German design, the feel of it in your hand, and the ink flow.

The screw-on cap is significantly larger than most pens. When it's on, it takes up over half the pen barrel; the barrel is likewise a bit shorter than most other pens.

The cap is designed to be placed on the back end of the pen during use in order to feel like a full-sized pen.

The pen features a removable clip. When you take it off, the pen looks like a really cool cigar tube.

I absolutely love this pen, but I recommend getting the metal or brass version. I also recommend against getting the Sport with a fine point nib. The ink flow in these fountain pens is amazing, but the fine point can be very scratchy. Opt for the medium nib or even the large nib instead.

8.) Waterman Expert III Ballpoint

A man taking notes on paper with a Waterman Expert III Ballpoint Pen in black with gold appointments

For me, it is hard to be impressed by the writing of a ballpoint. I tend to find that they all pretty much write the same—unless they are terrible.

However, the Waterman Expert ballpoint is far and away my favorite ballpoint because it writes so smoothly. My father-in-law still gets confused and calls his Waterman ballpoint a rollerball because its oil based ink baffles the mind. My policy towards Waterman writing experience is that there is no wrong answer.

I chose the Expert III for this list (with a big shoutout to the Exception) because its medium cigar shaped barrel is great for all hand sizes and comforts. The Expert III will not only be a statement pen professionally, it is also the kind of pen your client borrows and thinks about later.

7.) Pilot G2 Retractable Click Pen

The Pilot G2 is beloved for all the reasons that make a gel pen magnificent. First off, its cheap. The ink dries quickly so left handed and right handed people alike can use these gel pens.

It's made for everyday writing that can take a quick note or write for hours. The grip is comfy and the click satisfying.

Sure, this pen might not look spectacular, but it does make a statement.

Pilot G2's are such good pens, that when people see you using one, they automatically know what kind of professional you are.

And if you lose it, you aren't out more than a couple of dollars.

6.) Mont Blanc Meisterstück Gold-Plated Classique Rollerball Pen

The Mont Blanc Meisterstück Classique is a symbol of excellence for the corporate professional collector.

By far the most expensive writing instrument on our list, it nevertheless comes with Mont Blanc’s high quality construction, luxury writing experience, and unsurpassably beautiful design. That’s what landed this pen at the #27 spot on The Strategist’s top 100 list.

It is, however, more of a distinct symbol of luxury than a tool with particularly efficient features. With the Meisterstück, you’re getting a pen that communicates value status to others rather than something that writes better than this or that rollerball or ballpoint.

5.) Ohto Horizon Gel Ink Ballpoint

I love this pen. Again, this is labeled by Ohto as a ballpoint, but it has gel ink inside, so it's essentially a rollerball and my oh my! what a rollerball! It's just nice to stumble across a cheaper pen (you can find it for as low as $8 depending on your website of preference) that is so well crafted.

The geometric design feels modern and fresh without sacrificing comfort.

It's a needle tip pen which means it has a very fine tip and the gel ink version of this pen comes with a .5mm refill.

All-metal construction means it's super durable. Taking this pen apart, you can see the thought that when into the construction design. Its click action has a delightful snap.

I would highly recommending trying the Horizon and the Dude together and comparing.

4.) TWSBI ECO White Rose Gold Fountain Pen

The TWSBI (pronounced twizz-bee) ECO is a really popular pen, and when you dig into its design, it's no wonder why.

The ECO stands for both "economy" and "ecology." The fountain pen is super affordable, but it also uses significantly fewer pieces in its construction, reducing general construction waste.

Despite its minimal construction, the ECO is a super well-built and durable fountain pen. Its acrylic barrel is far more stress-resistant than other TWSBI fountain pens, such as the TWSBI 580 which has a polycarbonate barrel.

The houses a piston filler, and this means 1) no need for buying refills or convertors (the ink is housed in the barrel itself), and 2) the ECO has a super generous capacity for ink that outdoes a lot of the competition. You'll just want to be sure to buy a bottle of your favorite ink color and learn a little about cleaning a fountain pen.

The pen is also a "demonstrator" pen which means that you get to see the ink inside.

One of the things I love about this pen is that you can pretty much take the whole thing apart with very little effort, and that makes me feel like I have complete control over the inner workings of the fountain pen.

I consider it professional because it's a pen that communicates that you know exactly what you are doing with the writing instrument in your hand. You are in command.

3.) Parker Jotter Gel Ink pen

A man holds Parker Jotter Gel Ink Click Pen in Bond Street Black over a paper journal

The Parker Jotter came in at #7 on The Strategist's top 100 list, and it's my personal favorite pen.

Jotters are gel ink pens with impeccable design sense and construction quality. The sleek design is coupled with one of the best clip designs out there by far.

Nothing feels clunky or loose, and it has probably the most satisfying click of any pen I've ever used.

The gel ink makes for a super smooth writing experience across the page.

A man writes on paper with a Parker Jotter gel ink pen in Waterloo Blue

I honestly have around 6 of these in my backpack because I really consider this the best pen for daily writing ever.

2.) Baron Fig Squire Rollerball

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The Baron Fig Squire is currently all the rage in the affordable luxury pen scene.

What's great, but also surprising, is that the Baron Fig isn't strictly a pen company. They're a product design company specializing in tools for inspiration and organization, tools like their really amazing Confidant notebook which opens completely flat (I really can't tall you how satisfying that is).

How did the Squire take the #1 spot in The Strategist's master list? Sleek design, solid feel, and world-class branding.

The good folks at Unsharpen have likewise meticulously reviewed this pen and given it a solid four stars.

It's my dream pen right now.

1.) Waterman Hemisphere Rollerball Pen

A woman taking notes on paper with a personalized Waterman Hemisphere Rollerball in black with gold appointments

The Waterman Hemisphere is one of the best pens of all time. No matter the model (ballpoint, rollerball, fountain pen), it just rules.

The rollerball pen version, however, is my top professional pen.

Here's why:

  1. The design is simply superb (especially in black and gold), very sleek, regal, and distinct.
  2. The smooth writing quality is unmatched in in every single writing style.
  3. The range of prices for different styles and materials is pretty much unbeatable for the quality.
  4. The size of the barrel is perfect in every dimension: it's neither too long nor too short, nor is is too slim or too fat.
  5. For water-based ink rollerball pens, this one has a surprisingly quick drying time, so it smudges very little.

 

These are pretty much all the reasons I really love this pen.

Conclusion

That's all for my list of the 25 best professional pens.

I hope one or two on this list pique your interest and complete your professional tool belt.

For more, read about how promotional pens can grow your business.

But now I want to hear from you!

What's your favorite pen for work? Let me know in the comments!