It’s taken me a while, but here’s the second chapter in my attempt at a revised buyer’s guide.
The £50 to £100 category is incredibly competitive, and also one segment of the market where promotions can make a huge difference. Shipping and customs can hit too. For instance, Tactile Turn’s basic Gist is $99. But ship to the UK and whack on customs and VAT and you’re probably looking at £130. So I’m largely ignoring brands not readily available in the UK.
You’ll find a load of pens in this price category that I haven’t tried out for more than a few minutes. Cross Century, Waterman Expert, Faber-Castell Ambition, Opus Fantasia, any Conklins, Parker Sonnet, Kaweco Supra, TWSBI Vac 700R, TWSBI Precision, Platinum Procyon and PCL, the various cheaper Sailors like the Shikiori and Reglus, the Aurora Style, Lamy Scala…
…and loads of pens that I have tried out. I’ll be honest here, I’m just going to discount most of the pricier TWSBIs due to fear of cracking (I had a Vac Mini and Classic crack), Parkers due to being boring, and probably some other prejudicial blindspots too. Notably, I’m leaving the metal Kaweco Sports off. The pocket pen category is different.
At this price level your only fighting chance of getting a gold nib is either a cheeky deal on a Platinum 3776, or a Platinum PCL-5000. You might also manage to snag a gold-nibbed Lamy Studio on crazy discount from Endless Pens. But the rest of the time? Essentially, get used to steel.
Here are three options to suit different needs:
Faber-Castell e-Motion. This is a chunky, heavy pen with F-C’s finely tuned steel nibs. You get shiny chrome, plus white, black or wooden finishes. The Ambition is a narrower alternative. £77 at The Writing Desk.
Kaweco Dia 2. If you want a classic black pen, you can’t go far wrong with the Dia 2. It is a relatively small and slim pen, the size of the Parker Duofold International. Importantly, it takes Kaweco’s Sport nibs with a screwfit, and larger Bock 076 nibs if you want a better proportion. £75 with chrome trim at The Writing Desk.
Lamy Studio. At the bottom of the budget, around £55, is the Lamy Studio. I have a fresh appreciation for this pen, and it definitely feels like a premium model at a not-so-premium price. Lamy’s reliable slip-on nibs make an appearance, but the pretty matte finish, distinctive clip and solid weight make this a step up from a Studio or Al Star. £62 at The Writing Desk.
Honourable mention goes to Karas Pens. In the UK, the Ink just squeezes in at £94. The Starliner XL is worth a look too. If you like something a little different, check out Opus 88’s range of pens. All models squeeze in under £100.
And of course there’s the Pelikan M200, which hits just under £100 for some versions. Personally I find it too small, but it’s a proper piston filler with an ink window, made in Germany, from a known brand. That’s worth something.
Thoughts welcome! Did I forget anything?