If you’re not versed in the ins and outs of Japanese fountain pens (where have you been, living under a rock?!), there are three main brands: Pilot, Sailor, and Platinum.
Pilot’s perhaps the best known as a fountain pen manufacturer in the west, due to its Vanishing Point, but each has a pedigree of producing quality pens with gold nibs. Platinum’s been going since 1919, and shouldn’t be confused with the budget Platignum pens that used to be sold in WH Smith when I was growing up!
Today I want to give a bit of love to the 3776, the “flagship” in Platinum’s mainstream fountain pen lineup. While there are many more expensive models in Platinum’s range, the 3776 is a good candidate for being the most important pen that Platinum sells. It’s a classically styled cigar-shaped, gold-nibbed cartridge/converter pen that goes toe-to-toe with pens like Pilot’s 74 and Sailor’s 1911.
To the uninitiated, it’s difficult to see any difference if you put a 3776, a 74 and a 1911 side by side. In their styling they echo Mont Blancs of old, with fat cap bands and decorated gold nibs. There’s nothing unique about the styling or the functional design — not like the Pilot Vanishing Point or Myu, or even the characteristically Japanese lacquering you’ll find on more expensive pens from the “big three”.
Spend a bit more time on forums and web shops and you’ll notice a few differences come out, though. Sailor pens have a reputation for having “toothier” nibs, and tend to cost more; there’s also a mythos around its uber-speciality nibs like the Naginata Togi or Nagahara crosspoint. Pilot pens are smoother and people get excited about its own wide choice of nibs (like the Waverley, Posting, or Falcon nibs that I’ve written about in the past).
What do people say about the 3776? Not so much. But I’ve ended up with three of them, and I love them to bits, just as much as I love my Pilot pens. Why?
- The nibs are perfect. All three, ranging from UEF to Music, wrote great right out of the box. They’re not too wet, not too dry, not too smooth, not too toothy. They’re also gorgeous: full size (you know, #6 not #5), with heart-shaped breather holes and the outline of Mount Fuji stamped on them. You did know that the name 3776 refers to the height of Fuji in metres, didn’t you?
- There are plenty of colour choices. In the standard range, you can have rhodium or gold trim with solid or translucent black, translucent blue (Chartres), translucent red (Bourgogne), demonstrator or translucent pink (Nice). There are now a load of celluloid colours and lacquered decorated versions too, if you’ve got cash to splash.
- You also get choice where it counts: the nib. There’s the lush triple-tined Music nib at one end of the range, right down to the only remaining factory-produced Ultra Extra Fine at the other (note: it’s bloody difficult to make UEF nibs that don’t scratch like a needle). And you can have your nibs in “soft” version too, which doesn’t give much line variation, but provides tonnes of bounce when writing.
- They’re practical. There’s the Slip ‘n’ Seal cap, which seals off the nib unit to prevent drying out and allow use of pigmented inks (and reassure you that the pen won’t leak in your pocket, too). The converter disassembles completely for cleaning (take THAT, Pilot CON-70). The cap is on or off in a little over 1.5 turns.
- They’re dead cheap. Sure, in the UK you can pay £200+ for one of the more exotic versions, but the base model is still around £100. And if you buy direct from Japan, you can easily pick one up for around £60. That’s how I’ve ended up with three. While you can get a Pilot 91 or 74 for the same money, the 3776 has got a bigger nib — more gold for your money. Pelikan would laugh you out of the room before offering a gold nib for that price, and the Lamy 2000 only hits it when on sale, and with much more restrictive nib options.
My UEF, SF and Music 3776s are in regular rotation. They’re comfortable, reliable, and great writers. I’m not a fan of gold trim or classic cigar shapes (I prefer flat top pens like the Pilot 912 in terms of style), but I can’t argue with how well the 3776 writes. Some accuse the 3776 of feeling cheap… sure, you can feel a casting line on the plastic section, and the clip is a little rough around the edges. But that kind of proves the point to me. With the 3776, the nib is clearly where all the love and attention has been spent. And would you want it any other way?