I hate the Rotring Newton

I love the German Bauhaus, utilitarian aesthetic. Braun, Junghans, those kinds of brands have built timeless, minimalist products that I covet.

I would put r0tring in that list, too. I have a 600 mechanical pencil and ballpoint and I love them, with their matte hexagonal barrels, grippy knurling, precise manufacturing and no-nonsense attitude. And, although it makes no sense, I really lust after a 600 fountain pen. Like this. Thanks, Ed Jelley.

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Why does it make no sense? Because they’re long discontinued, and fetch silly money for what is effectively a pretty nondescript pen in terms of materials, filling mechanism and nib.

Recently one of my fellow pen addicts offered me a Rotring Newton for the bargain sum of £80. I was stood in the San Francisco MOMA with jet lag at that point, so I naively assumed I was getting a 600. Boy was I wrong.

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The Newton is an affront to pens, for three main reasons.

It puts form over function

Rotring more or less kept the hexagonal shape of the 600, but inexplicably introduced not only a few blingy little details, but also a diagonal slash at each end of the barrel. This has a few implications for comfort, but it also means the snap cap only fits on the barrel one way, whether to close or post the pen.

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Yeah, it won’t close like that.

Bizarrely, instead of a conventional screw-off section, the converter is accessed by unscrewing a knob at the end of the pen,where a piston knob would be.

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This is how you get to the ink.

This releases the section. It’s exactly the same mechanism as the Graf Platino, but while with the Graf it enables a seamless, stepless barrel all the way to the nib, here it adds no value at all beyond complexity, weight and confusion.

Finally, the cartridge or converter seats so deeply into the section that it’s impossible to see how much ink you have left.

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That’s a Kaweco mini converter completely hidden within the pen.

It’s really uncomfortable

The Newton is uncomfortable. There’s a ginormous (angled!) stepdown from barrel to section, and the section while adequately long is very narrow and slippery. It basically looks like the Caran 849. No Rotring knurling in sight.

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Least. Comfortable. Section. EVAR.

It’s a moderately heavy pen, but all the weight is at the back, so it feels very unbalanced in the hand. And posting only makes that worse.

It doesn’t write very well

The small steel nib is a medium, with no breather hole. It is a nail. And it is not particularly pleasant to write with. There’s a little feedback, and an infuriating tendency to hard start just often enough to be annoying, without being perfectly predictable. I would happily pick any other pen in my pen case — including the Pilot Prera — for writing pleasure over this one.

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Jinhaos write better.

Oh dear

The Newton looks OK, although I find it a bit shiny and cheap-looking. But where other Rotrings are as simple as they can be to be functional, the Newton has unnecessary details and flourishes, yet fails at the basics of being a fountain pen: being filled, being held, writing words on paper.

I consider this an £80 lesson, but perhaps most encouragingly it’s reassured me that I have some standards left: very few pens that have crossed my desk have provoked such an instinctive and complete dislike.

9 thoughts on “I hate the Rotring Newton

  1. Sorry to hear of this disappointing experience. As I was scrolling down your post, I was going to write “Oh dear ” and then found that you had beaten me to it. I am sure that we have all made a few regrettable purchases. It is annoying when your Preppy is better than your latest purchase costing many times more. C’est la vie.

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  2. Oh dear indeed – I don’t think you’ve got the same Newton that I’ve got!

    I love the design and the engineering of it, and with my fat fingers it’s a surprisingly comfortable pen to hold and write with. As for the barrel retaining mechanism, I love that too, but then it’s all about engineering. However, you are right about posting the cap – that’s a no-no as the weight completely unbalances the pen.

    But for me the real joy is the nib – it’s got a degree of flex in it that I hadn’t expected from a steel nib. It’s reasonably wet and can deliver a fair degree of thickness variation when applying a moderate pressure. I probably wouldn’t want to write a long piece with flex, but for short notes it’s fine.

    And I was lucky too: a fellow member of the UK fountain pens Facebook group decided to part with his for less than half of what you paid, so not only have I got a pen that I really like, it was a bargain too!

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    • I wonder if Rotring varied the nib throughout the run — mine has a bit of a stubby grind, but precisely zero line variation. And I’ve tried it with a couple of inks so far, and I certainly wouldn’t call it wet. Sounds like you got lucky with the pen and doubly lucky with the price, Joe!

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      • I must admit that the small collection of Rotring pens I’ve got, including several Art Pens, have varying degrees of quality in their nibs, so I guess with the Newton I have been lucky. And yes, lucky too with the price!

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  3. Pingback: The Pilot Prera kinda makes me wish I had smaller hands | UK fountain pens

  4. Hi, as an owner of the full set of 5 Rotring 600’s & all 4 Rotring Core’s I whole heartedly agree I have seen & held a Newton & left it behind

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  5. Thank you for a well-written article about the reasons to dislike a pen. I quite agree about the posting; I prefer to post my pens, and having a back end too heavy is no fun at all. I bought only one Rotring pen quite a long time ago; I don’t even remember what model it was. But it wrote so badly that I immediately abandoned it and never bought another Rotring. And that’s saying something, because I normally give brands a second chance if I think I might’ve just gotten a fluke bad nib. I’m sure Rotring must produce some pens that are high quality and good writers for other people; just not for me.

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