Pens from £70 to £2,500 or even £5,000. With steel nibs and gold. Made from aluminium, silver, brass and plastic. From truly oversized to handbag-petite. In all the colours of the rainbow — if the rainbow included black and silver. Hailing from Italy, Germany, France, England, Wales and Ireland. From one-man bands and century-old ateliers.
We’re not even at the end of August yet and I’ve reviewed a dozen pens this month — and as you can see, wow, what variety, with five makers on the list being brand new to me.
There are pens here for every budget, every style. The only thing that lacked variety was filling mechanisms, with the designC being the sole pen to use anything other than a standard international converter.
Over the years I’ve managed to gain a bit of a reputation as a tough reviewer. I hope I haven’t strayed into nit-picker territory, but I’m not afraid to point out a rough edge, dodgy nib, sticky thread or inflated price tag. And although I had a few criticisms to dole out in August, looking back I’m impressed by simply how good many of these pens were. They were a joy to review.
There were fabulous nibs filled with personality from Otto Hutt and Onoto, and, happily, plenty of just-plain-functional nibs, like the JoWos on the Maioras, the Bocks on the Gravitas and Troubleshooter, and the no-nonsense steel nail on the Dupont D Initial. I hope this is a sign that my nib QC luck has changed for good.
And of course there were some outstanding moments of aesthetic beauty and elegance, like the enamel of the Onoto Great Court and the marmite designC, the arcing guilloche of the design04 and the cheeky accent ring of the Rockster.
There were innovations of practicality too, like the half-turn cap threads of the design06, the seductive click of the Dupont cap, the sprung clips of the Otto Hutts and the drop-resistant points of the Gravitas.
New in my pen cases (some to review) there are more goodies: the refined Otto Hutt design07 in sterling silver. The ultra-bling oversized Estie in sparkly green Diamondcast. The utilitarian TWSBI Eco in Cement Grey. A custom pen, using custom resin, from new UK maker Loft Pens. And that’s just for starters.
I haven’t even touched on some of the wonders I was invited to handle at the Montblanc boutique this week: pens studded with diamonds and sapphire glass, or featuring engraved silver, semi-precious stones, stained glass, checkered wood, unique nibs, and works of micro engineering that literally made my jaw drop — with prices in the tens of thousands in some cases. Can I afford them? No. But I’m glad they exist.
I guess what I’m trying to say is: we’re living in a great time to be a pen addict. Sure, vintage flex is a sad memory, but there literally has never been so much choice: from big century-old brands, pen-turners continuing the tradition, and new ambitious minds forging their own paths. At the same time, there’s never been so little risk of getting a pen that leaks or cracks or is simply uncomfortable. The bar is very, very high.
So: time to look back and raise a glass. Then let’s face the future and see what happens in September and beyond!