An undeniable classic: the Onoto Magna

First impressions count

Onoto sure know how to create a sense of occasion. I purchased this Onoto Magna Classic prototype from the London Pen Show, but I wanted it with a gold nib and the optional brass weight added to the barrel — so it went away to the workshop instead of home with me.

I only had to wait a few days before DHL turned up. Inside the box was a hell of a first impression.

The pen box is wrapped in Onoto paper and ribbon, and accompanied by a handwritten letter, wishing me many years of service from my new pen.

Inside the paper, a blue lidded cardboard box. Inside that, a beautiful wooden hinged box. Inside that, the documentation, along with a velvet pouch, with the pen nestled inside. Underneath, a care guide and a polishing cloth.


I’m not one for packaging, but this is very special indeed. It would make an amazing gift for a graduation or retirement.

Beautiful, classic design

The pen I chose is from Onoto’s Magna Classic range, which harks back to the original Magna from 1937. My particular example is an edition of one, a prototype, made mostly from swirly dark blue resin and etched with a wavy pattern filled with silver paint, trimmed with hallmarked sterling silver cap bands, finials and solid silver clip.


The nib is bi-tone 18k gold. It’s worth noting that Onoto is lengthening the barrel on new Magnas to hold its plunger-filler, instead of the standard converter. Mine has the shorter barrel.


You’d think from the description that the Magna would look gaudy, but somehow it’s an exercise in restraint. It doesn’t look large, and the flat-top design makes it appear rather squat. But the details are exquisite. The silver coin on the end of the cap has the distinctive Onoto logo deeply etched into it, with a combination of polished and textured finishes.


The clip is tapered and decorated with chevrons. Neatly engraved on the barrel is ONOTO THE PEN MADE IN ENGLAND.


The acrylic may be blue, but it’s not bright, and much of the patterning is hidden by the chased pattern. This gives it a distinctive, pretty, but rather retro vibe. I love the way this pen looks.


All-day comfort

The cap unscrews in 3.75 turns, which compared to my usual writers is an abominable excess, and it’s the one real downside of the Magna. However, the single-start threads ensure that the clip always lines up to the barrel engraving.

With the cap laid aside (it posts, if you insist), you’ll find yourself holding one of the most comfortable pens out there. I’d held one of Dapprman’s Magnas briefly (see his review here), but I didn’t remember it feeling quite so great in the hand.

The section is long and generous — about twice as long as that on the Pelikan M800, even though the pen itself is shorter — with a subtle taper and small flare above the nib. The threads are high on the pen, and are smooth and shallow, and the step to the barrel is almost imperceptible.


I found the weight and the balance in the hand to be simply perfect (I’m glad I opted for the extra few grams from the brass weight in the barrel).


Unscrewing the section reveals a generic converter. As always, I would generally prefer a piston — and the design of the Magna would certainly support it — but I’m not as rabidly against converters as I was.


Serious nibbage

The nib is marked as a #7 medium, branded ONOTO, with a plastic feed. Although it’s a #7, not a #6, it’s almost the exact same size as the nib in a Montblanc 146 or Pelikan M800. I could tell from traces of blue ink that the nib had been tested in the factory, and whoever was in charge of final prep did a marvellous job. I have rarely used a pen that wrote so beautifully straight out of the box.


The line is generous for a medium; the flow is on the wet side, and the nib is smooth, with a little page feel. There’s also an exquisite little bounce to the nib. Combined with the comfortable section, it’s a recipe for easy long writing sessions.


Excellent pen, excellent service

Aside from the classic looks, notable comfort, and great nib, my abiding takeaway from the Onoto Magna is solidity. This feels like a pen you can use every day then hand down to your kids: it’s stout, well built, not at all fragile.

What’s more, based on the customer service I received from Onoto — plentiful communication, fast turnaround, excellent packaging — I am absolutely confident that, if anything did go wrong, they’d put it right. The lifetime guarantee is the icing on the cake.


The Magna Classic retails around £399; a gold nib costs extra, as does the barrel weight. On paper, it’s a lot of money for an acrylic, steel-nib, converter-filler. But I am very comfortable with the value proposition. You’re paying not just for the beautiful design, but for the quality build and testing, the customer service, and rarity — and the fact that it’s made in England, by a small company, not stamped out in China by the millions.

I’ve already emptied two converters since getting this Onoto. I’m sure plenty more ink will flow through in the years ahead!


11 thoughts on “An undeniable classic: the Onoto Magna

  1. I bought the red one they had at the show, with a fine gold nib – it is my third Onoto, second of their prototypes. Going past their stand I find is somewhat dangerous. Totally agree with you on the comfort factor.

    Liked by 1 person

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