Still Writing After 70 Years

October 2016 is a very special month for Pentel, as the company celebrates 70 years of designing, manufacturing and selling some of the world’s favourite pens.

Pentel Celebrates 70th Anniversary

Although the name might not suggest this, Pentel is actually a Japanese company.  The late chairman Yukio Horie, founded the business in 1946 as Japan Stationery Company Limited, with a mission to develop crayons and pastels to inspire creativity.  After setting up his first factory in Tokyo he started work on his own art materials and succeeded in developing a range of oil pastels.

Next, he turned his attention to everyday writing instruments and in 1960 launched the Pentel Pencil, the world’s first mechanical pencil with a push button for advancing the lead and no need for sharpening.  At the same time he introduced Hi-Polymer Refill Lead for his pencil and the Pentel Pen, a forerunner of N50, which to this day is one of the company’s most successful permanent markers.

To Boldly Go…

But it was in 1963 that Pentel came to the world’s attention, when it launched the Sign Pen, a fibre-tipped pen that revolutionised writing and made headlines when it was spotted at an exhibition in the USA and then fell into the hands of President Lyndon B. Johnson, who loved it!  The Sign Pen was even adopted as the official writing instrument of NASA and went into space with a Gemini mission in 1966.  (We’re told the pens still worked after they returned!)  Word spread and Sign Pen became a global hit – to date more than two billion pens have been sold.

Going Green in the 70s

In 1971 the company changed its name to Pentel, to reflect the close connection between painting, pastels, pens and the word ‘tell’.

The launch of another iconic product was about to introduce a new generation to Pentel.  Ball Pentel, the famous green-barrelled rollerball, came along in 1972, a product that inspired the development of just about every liquid ink or gel pen we know today.  The reason it was so different from all other everyday pens at the time was because of its water-based ink and cushioned tip.  It gave writers the fluid writing feel normally associated with fountain pens, but without the inconvenience of messy refilling.  Over the coming years the Ball Pentel rollerball became the cool pen to have in every pencil case, studio and office.  An archive photo even shows Her Majesty the Queen marking her race card with the famous green pen.

The Ball Pentel Launch in Tokyo

The Ball Pentel Launch in Tokyo

By now, Pentel was a household name and innovation followed innovation, with one ground-breaking product after another.  (In fact, it’s estimated that around two-thirds of the writing instruments technology in everyday use today has been inspired by Pentel ideas.)

Writing the Next Chapter

EnerGel Pens

EnerGel Pens

And the Pentel story continues.  The last decade has seen the introduction of EnerGel, the name given to a range of pens which offer an amazing writing experience.  Unlike ordinary gel pens, which have strong, vivid colour but often slow drying time EnerGel ink dries really quickly.

This is especially important for left-handed writers, who often find that when they use a normal gel pen their hand smudges the ink on the paper as it moves across the page.  EnerGel removes these everyday frustrations, thanks to its super-quick drying formula on most paper.

And if you’ve been put off using a mechanical pencil because you keep snapping the lead, the very latest development from Pentel should give you something to smile about.  Orenz is a mechanical pencil which protects the lead throughout use.  It’s different to other mechanical pencils because the lead does not protrude below the sleeve and as the pencil is used the sleeve gradually retracts into the barrel until all the lead is finished.

Orenz Mechanical Pencil

Orenz Mechanical Pencil

Plus, after you’ve prepared the pencil for first use you don’t have to keep pressing the end button to advance the lead as you’re using it.  This unique ‘one-click’ pencil is available in a range of sizes including 0.2mm, the world’s finest diameter mechanical pencil.

Pentel also plays an active role as a corporate and community partner around the world.  In the UK Pentel has raised over £1.1 million for Breast Cancer Now, though sales of special edition pink pens, and more than £400,000 for Prostate Cancer UK.

Seventy years after it was founded, Pentel is a global business with over 2,000 employees and a network covering more than 120 countries.

Find out more about Pentel by visiting or check out or or

  Take a look a the range of Pentel pens that are available on as well!


Article text provided by Pentel.

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Sarah Jubb

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