Nothing beats hands-on time: visiting Iguanasell, Madrid

This week I had the luck of travelling to Madrid on business. In case you didn’t know, Madrid is home to Iguanasell, the improbably named pen/watch/lighter/accessories store from which I bought my Dialog 3 and various inks.

I trekked my way down through the beautiful city in 25-degree heat to check out the showroom that the website so eloquently invites you to visit.

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It looks just like this. A lovely place to browse pens.

I had to ring a bell to be admitted; I was the only customer (at 4pm on a Monday I wasn’t surprised). I chatted briefly to the woman who let me in, then she left me to my own devices to wander round and pick up the merchandise.

Iguanasell has a lot of merchandise, and with the exception of a few cases — mainly Montblanc — almost everything is out in the open for you to inspect and pick up.

For me, this was a unique opportunity to get hands-on with a load of pens that I simply would never otherwise get to see. Certainly not in one place.

I spent at least half an hour squeaking my way around on the wooden floors, picking everything up, and my reaction to some of the pens really, really surprised me. At the risk of spoilers, I have managed to cross a load of pens off of my “want” list in one fell swoop.

I was there to shop, not act as some kind of roving reporter, so I kept my phone in my pocket and didn’t take any photos of my own. Sorry.

Nakaya and Platinum

The showroom had around half a dozen Nakayas in a number of different colours, finishes and models, all standing uncapped. They were pretty in person, but I wasn’t prepared for just how light they were. I completely get how labour-intensive and beautiful urushi can be, but at the price these pens run to, well… it doesn’t feel like you’re getting much for your money.

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Nakayas must have the highest euro-to-gram ratio of any pen. 

There was also a Platinum Izumo, which just seemed awful to me. Cheap feeling, large and ungainly, uncomfortable.

Graf von Faber-Castell

At last, a chance to check out the Guilloche and Classic. On the internet there seems to be hardly any difference between these two models, but wow — the Classic is so much bigger and sturdier. I liked the Classic, but the metal section is a fingerprint magnet and even though it’s bigger than the Guilloche it’s still a tiny, skinny pen. At 500 euros for the pernambuco or macassar finishes, again it doesn’t feel like terribly good value. I’ll stick with my Intuition Platino.

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Good thing I’m not a criminal. My prints are all over this.

Kaweco

I got to handle the Dia 2 in its limited edition amber, which felt nice and solid but didn’t wow me. The standard black ends looked out of place. I’ll probably pick up one of the black and rhodium editions.

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Prefer it in black. Sorry.

Porsche Design

I’ve always been intrigued by the Tec Flex fountain pen, and sure enough the barrel texture is interesting to hold. But the section unscrewed itself just in my hand and the build generally didn’t seem that good. I’ll file it with the Hugo Boss pens as design exercises only.

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Unusual and with a gold nib, but… nah.

Parker

There was a glass case full of Sonnets, Premiers and the like, but the only Duofold was the insanely garish blue and gold special anniversary edition slathered with cartography. I passed.

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Blingy.

Montblanc

All the Montblancs were under glass, and there were quite a few gaps in the display case. I asked if they had the Petit Prince pens in yet, and while they had three on order for customers, none available for me to look at. That’s one better than the MB boutique at Heathrow where the guy had no idea what I was talking about…

Lamy

Iguanasell had a good selection of LXs and Al-Stars around, a few Dialogs in the different finishes, although oddly no 2000. I would have liked to see an Imporium, but no luck.

Pelikan

I skipped over the Pelikans. The small classics like the M120 blue and M205 blue marbled just don’t do it for me, and I’m still in the honeymoon period with my Ocean Swirl.

Visconti

Aside from the Corsani limited editions, my dream Visconti is the London Fog. No chance these days, alas. Instead there was a Jade and a Chiantishire, and I was struck by just how light and smooth they felt compared to the lava Homosapiens. They lacked some of the presence and tactile pleasure. Two more scratched off the list, then.

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At £755 I was left feeling a little… jaded. Geddit?

Big pens

I’d always thought that the Conklin All American was a small pen. But it’s an absolute chubster. I still don’t want one, but I was surprised how substantial it felt.

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Still the ugliest clip on any pen, too.

Montegrappa I’ve always ignored. Far too many models to puzzle my way through, including the cheesy Game of Thrones editions. I picked one up, though — the Nero Uno, I think — and it felt great. Big, substantial, well built. Guess I can add it to the list.

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Nicer than I expected.

Watches

I sneakily went to look at watches as much as pens. I’ve been lusting after a Junghans Max Bill for a long time, and sure enough in person they’re just as beautiful as I hoped. Only one Seiko Presage on display, but a stunning guilloche dial in person — definitely still on the wishlist.

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Look at that dial!

What was missing?

I would’ve liked to try the Lamy Imporium, Parker Duofold, Sailor King of Pen, and some Auroras (a few were in stock, but not in colours I liked). Even a big shop with lots of displays can’t keep everything in stock, I suppose…

Notebooks and inks

Iguanasell stocks mainly Moleskine and Leuchtturm, so I left those. There was an obscene amount of ink: Visconti, Pelikan, Herbin, Parker, Montblanc, and seemingly nearly every colour of Diamine, arrayed around the bottom of the room in alphabetical order. It was a real test of will!

I contented myself with four bottles: the limited edition Edelstein Olivine and Montblanc Beatles Psychedelic Purple, and two blue-blacks: Diamine Eclipse and Herbin Bleu Nuit. I figured spending 60 euros on ink was the least I could do after the amount I’d saved in pen purchases with this visit!

 

14 thoughts on “Nothing beats hands-on time: visiting Iguanasell, Madrid

  1. I really enjoyed this! Almost as good as being there.
    I had not seen that model of the Kaweco Dia 2 before…only the black one which I love. It all depends on getting one with a decent nib though, but replacement are only about £8.50 from Cult Pens.
    It is wortb giving Montegrappa a go. I am enjoying a Fortuna in black resin and was lucky to get a superb nib on mine.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think to be fair I have to point out that I bought the Izumo after a fairly short exposure 🙂 But meeting it in person was a big surprise compared to expectation.

    I also meant to mention that although I have not visited IguanaSell, I bought a Nakaya (decapod) from them only a few weeks ago. Their service was wonderful and friendly. I wouldn’t hesitate to go back to them. I think you were lucky to escape with your wallet in tact …well…apart from the ink!

    Like

  3. I really enjoy your reviews and it’s striking how different our tastes are. I have a Nakaya or two and for me the lightness is part of their sheer magic effect on me. I always thought the Izumo was ugly when I saw pictures of it, but holding it at a pen show was a different experience entirely and it is now treasured as one of my most enjoyable writing pens. I no longer find it at all ugly. And by contrast, it entirely escapes me how anyone would give the Lamy Dialog houseroom. So perhaps we are opposite sides of the pen coin – and it is always very interesting to see what is going on on the “other side”.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You make a great point, Kate! And my tastes have definitely changed, away from Japanese pens to the stouter German pens mainly. So I have been on both sides of the ‘coin’ and am acutely aware that not everyone has the same opinions as me about what makes for a good pen. It would be boring if we did :).

      Also I probably should have acknowledged in this post that it’s very different holding a pen for two minutes in a shop than actually writing with it for an extended period. I’m really talking here about first impressions. I have definitely changed my mind about pens in the past.

      Like

    • The Izumo is definitely an ugly duckling. I find that’s now part of its charm – particularly given, for me at least, the balance and feel in the hand is lovely (that Urushi in particular) and the President nib is a joy. Maybe that’s all an ex-post rationalisation given I didn’t get the chance to hold it before I bought it, but now that I have one, I wouldn’t get rid of it…

      Liked by 1 person

      • [replying here because I can’t reply directly to your message below for some reason] I have a broad on the Izumo and a medium on the only 3776 I have or tried, so it’s hard for me to generalise. But it’s a proper Western-style broad, without any of the (pleasant) feedback that 3776 has. Wet, if not Pelikan-wet, and perhaps a bit bouncier than the 3776. Maybe that’s a 18k vs 14k thing. Otherwise, no line variation.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Sounds a fascinating place. Did you get a chance to ask about the origin of the name? You’d hope that there was an interesting back story to go with it!

    Can’t agree more about the difference in impression you get with actually picking up a pen compared to seeing photos on the web. Even if you do take careful note of dimensions and weight before you order, what comes out of the box can still surprise/delight/disappoint (delete as appropriate).

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Kaweco Dia2: my pen palate cleanser | UK fountain pens

  6. Pingback: Travels with pens: Krakow and a new 149 | UK fountain pens

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