Close, but no cigar? Getting to grips with the Conway Stewart Winston

Spurred on by my discovery of Onoto and my joyful first experiences with a friend’s Conway Stewart Churchill, I set off on a mission to get my own Conway Stewart.

I didn’t want one of the current versions from Bespoke British Pens, with their conventional ‘flag’ nibs… no, I wanted one from a few years ago, when they still came with beautiful dual-tone nibs bearing the Conway Stewart name, a decorated diamond shape and no breather hole.

I turned to eBay, and discovered this.

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It’s a “Winston”, which is not the same as the “Churchill” model, confusingly. This particular example is extremely rare: an edition of 50 from 2013, in teal resin with a textured pattern, called the Winston Heritage. Even rarer: this one came with a factory 18k italic, indeed a factory italic fine (IF) — exactly the nib I wanted. And it was new old stock, uninked and unused.

So, I had to buy it. For a not inconsiderable sum, and from Switzerland to boot. Don’t ask me about the import duty.

Like all Churchill-themed Conways, my Winston came in a suitcase-sized box with a book of Churchill quotes, an ink bottle, and (I kid you not) a huge cigar. The box was quickly put aside, and I took my first look at the pen, still sat in the car outside the post office.

First impressions were, unfortunately, not good, and a wave of buyer’s remorse washed over me.

The teal plastic looked, well, plasticky, and the pattern felt cast rather than chased. The colour was brighter and less appealing than the stock photos had led me to expect:

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And indeed all the threads are plastic throughout.

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My second disappointment was the balance. I expected the Winston to be big, and indeed it is.

Since my previous post on what I include in my reviews, I’ve been thinking about size comparisons. I think they’d be really useful to bring to life the proportions and size of the Winston. Here are a couple:

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Up here against (top to bottom) a Montblanc 146, Onoto Magna Classic, and Visconti Homo Sapiens. I’ve lined them up to the lip of the caps. You can see that the Winston doesn’t seem that long when capped — shorter than a 146. Proportions look fine.

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Uncapped, it’s a different story. The Winston doesn’t have the biggest nib (it’s a number 6, and looks undersized), but it has by far the longest section and is a good 5mm longer than the Homo Sapiens, with (I believe) the widest barrel, too.

Length is not a problem, if the weight is OK. However, the Winston is not just big, it’s heavy, too. The barrel is lined with brass:

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And the barrel is therefore much heavier than the section. The balance point is around 2/3 back from the nib. In the hand, you can really feel the weight hanging over the back of your hand. The cap posts, but you wouldn’t want to.

Next step was to get it inked. Filling is through a screw-in converter — functional and practical, and by all accounts more reliable than Conway Stewart’s lever-fillers.

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Unfortunately, with the converter filled, I touched the nib to paper and… nothing. The beautiful, beautiful nib did not write well. Lots of hard starting and skipping.

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With a frown I put the Winston away to mull over my options.

Luckily, I gave it a second chance.

Now that I’m used to how the teal plastic actually looks, I find it rather handsome, and the black plastic contrasts nicely — especially with the sterling silver trim to set it all off. The cap screws off in just over one turn, and the build quality is great.

While the weight and its distribution remain … sub-optimal, I’m appreciating the ultra-long, well-shaped section, and by adapting my grip the weight pretty much disappears.

I’m not sure whether I broke it in during use or just eventually flushed some debris through the feed with ink, but the nib now writes nicely. The Italic is fine and doesn’t exactly deliver much line variation, but it is easy to write with and wet enough.

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And, as I said before, it’s a great-looking nib, classy and distinctive.

Other than polishing the silver, this is a low-maintenance modern pen, with a nice gold nib and a heritage design. I’ve found myself writing with it and rather enjoying it, not least because it’s so rare.

I listed the Winston for sale, but withdrew it soon after. I’m glad I did.

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3 thoughts on “Close, but no cigar? Getting to grips with the Conway Stewart Winston

  1. From what I read and see, the pen is a farce. Cheap plastic sold as something expensive. Apart from the 18k nib, the pen is maybe worth 50-60$.

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    • Farce is a strong word. It’s a low-volume design, which always increases per-unit cost in tooling and materials. The clip and bands are all sterling silver. The box and packaging are high-end, eg cigar. The CS factory special nibs were all sent out to a UK nibmeister for grinding (from what I read). And yes, 18k nib. Chasing aside, the materials and construction are in the ballpark of an Onoto or any other high-end C/C pen. I have no idea where you’d get a modern pen with #6 18k nib for $60. Are there better pens out there at lower cost? Yes, for sure.

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  2. Btw, I really like your site and your reviews. Spot on! And thank you! I understand what you are saying. But sometimes, seldom, like in this case, you are trying to persuade yourself that the pen is awesome (maybe it is the scarcity or price). But pens from woodshedpenco, pensler, etc. etc. are far more beautiful and precious than this so-called Conway. It is just plastic. I mean, I am not cheap, but I would not give 60$ on this. It is just me 🙂 nasty little thing 🙂

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