Otto Hutt feels like a brand that’s found its swagger.
Even just a few years ago, this hundred-year-old German brand was almost invisible on the internet. Now, there are plenty of reviews popping up.
This formerly traditional manufacturer has started to be much bolder. It’s started to publish its own bilingual magazine called ‘Unique’, a little like Lamy Specs.
It has a fresh website with sharp photography and e-commerce to supplement its growing network of resellers. It’s launched bold, modern pens in fashionable colours and finishes, including rose gold, pastels and stealthy all-black, and an online configurator to design your personal pen, like Montegrappa.
It even has a new limited flagship, the designC, a pricey minimalist pen by a celebrity designer limited to 500 pieces, tapping in to interest in Bauhaus and celebrating its centenary. Stop me if you’ve heard that tune before…
In other words, Otto Hutt has clearly looked at brands like Lamy and decided that it isn’t content to live in their shadows.
Now, chat to people from the brand by email and they’re fiercely proud of what they’ve made. Quality of manufacturing, design, writing performance — they’re not hiding any more.
I figured it was a great time to check out their pens for myself.
Otto Hutt sent me a design04 to review. Like most of the brand’s pens, the 04 is a smaller pen than you get from many manufacturers today.
I won’t say it’s pitched at women, but in my opinion tpeople with small hands will suit it better. Certainly my partner absolutely loved how it looks and feels in the hand, and getting it back from her to work on this review was not easy!
Otto Hutt is based in Germany’s jewellery capital, so metalwork is its forte. The design04 is made of plated brass and available in a ton of different finish combinations, many of which are priced differently.
The company chose to send me the blue waves pattern, which is a striking fresh take on guilloche, and it retails around £180 from UK stores, with a steel nib.
For this finish, a freeform, loose wave pattern is cut by machine into a solid cobalt blue lacquer, revealing the fresh shiny metal beneath; the whole thing is then clear-coated. The result is a smooth and glossy barrel that really shines in the light.
Funnily enough, I couldn’t get out of my head the effect I used to get back at school when I scratched designs into a painted pencil tin with the point of a compass: that raw shiny metal showing through the paint.
The blue barrel is paired with shiny platinum-plated cap, barrel knob and section, which looks smart and modern. In fact, the overall design looks fresh, despite it being made in the 1960s. It’s not just the Lamy 2000 that has a monopoly on timeless design, it seems…
The cap has a kind of bulbous mushroom top, a little reminiscent of Graf’s fluted trumpet tops, but softer and not as traditional. And of course, the design04 was around before Graf…
On the top is laser-etched the company’s rather strange face logo. At least, I think it’s a face.
Update: thanks Dries for pointing out that it’s actually a nib! I guess I’m too susceptible to pareidolia…
Below the crown is a serial number and the word GERMANY. The underlying metal is brass.
The cap has a plastic liner so the threads aren’t metal on metal. Unfortunately I found the rim of the cap thin and consequently a little sharp.
The clip is neat and sprung, and made from solid brass. It doesn’t open very wide, though.
The cap posts solidly on the end of the barrel, although not deeply — it becomes a very long pen when posted!
Uncapping takes 2.5 turns, which is more than I’d like, but at least the nib doesn’t dry out overnight. The threads are square-cut and comfortable.
The section is long and dished, but it’s also very narrow and pretty slippery. I didn’t find it that comfortable for longer writing sessions mainly due to the slimness. It’s also an epic fingerprint magnet.
Unscrew the barrel — on long, long threads — and you reveal the cartridge converter filling mechanism, which is expected for this type of pen. A branded converter is included in the rather nice card box, which also includes a polishing cloth and various bits of literature.
In the hand, the 04 reminds me of a Graf Guilloche more than anything. It’s solid feeling, but slim and a little slippery, and even a little lighter than you might expect of a metal pen.
And now to the bit you’ve all been waiting for: the nib. Otto offers its pens with both steel and 18k nibs, at extra charge. I was sent a steel, and at first I was disappointed; but Otto are very careful to note that steel is not some budget compromise. The steel nibs aren’t just polished, they’re bi-colour plated, and very neatly. That’s rare.
The steel medium on my 04 runs a little narrower than an equivalent Graf, Onoto or Montblanc, and it has a precise, toothy feel. Although the nib is small, the tines feel long and elegant. This is a pen that invites you to scribble fast.
Flow is generally good, and there is actually a lot of bounce and line variation if you apply just a little pressure. It’s a nib with bags of charisma and it really suits the pen.
I found it naturally gave my writing some flourish.
Several times when writing I found skipping, mostly at the start of letters after lifting the nib from the page, or when dotting an i. But it was intermittent and I wonder whether it’s due to the section slipping in my hand and rotating the nib off axis from the page.
The feed is plastic, and it’s normally where I start when trying to work out where a manufacturer has bought its nibs (many brands change the look of the nib but the feed is a giveaway). But the nib and feed here don’t look, feel or write like anything off the shelf from Bock, JoWo or Schmidt. Now, Otto Hutt is very careful on its website not to suggest that its nibs are made in house, just in Germany. I believe they’re by Bock, but clearly to Otto’s specification and to a high standard of quality control.
High standard, but not absolutely perfect. The gold colouring on the nib doesn’t perfectly align to the stamping and nor are the tines and tipping equal or quite straight. But I’ve definitely had much worse, and unless you peer through a loupe you would never notice.
If you’re looking for a slim and robust metal pen for work or to keep attached to your planner, the design04 is a perfect choice. Long cap threads aside, it’s practical and it looks smart, particularly with the unusual wave guilloche, and you don’t have to compromise on a fun writing experience, either.
For me the design04 isn’t a perfect fit. It’s too small and the section is too narrow to be comfortable — and regular readers will know that I’m intolerant of long cap threads! But I love what this newly emboldened brand is doing. I’m keen to see if one of its chunkier models would fit me better — and if the steel nib is this fun, what are the gold ones like?!