There’s a series of posts on the watch blog Worn & Wound called the three watch collection for $5,000. Here’s one recent example. The premise is simple but I find it fascinating. Give writers and readers a fixed budget and ask them to build a capsule collection of watches.
Do they eat up the budget with one big piece, or slice it evenly? Do they go for known brands or microbrands? Do they pick a dress watch, a diver, a chrono, or some other variety? The permutations are endless.
I would struggle to pick a definitive three-watch collection (G-shock full metal, Nomos Metro handwound, Tudor Black Bay 58 perhaps?), but I might be able to have a stab at doing it for pens. Of course, the rules need a little amendment.
First, the price range. Watches are much more expensive than pens, so a budget of £1,000 should be more than generous.
I’m going to limit to pens you can go out and buy retail today, at a decent street price, so no obscure historic limited editions from 20 years ago at sumgai bargain prices. This isn’t fantasy football. Think of it as ‘your house has burned down and you’re walking into a pen shop to start again’.
Let’s get started.
Montblanc 149 Pt. £700. I’d spend the first £700 or so on a Montblanc 149. Platinum trim, F or EF nib. This is the foundation of the pen collection, the do-it-all. A narrow nib is suitable for all papers. It’s a comfortable pen with a big ink capacity, functional clip, and a cap that seals well. Oh, and an ink window so no worries about range anxiety. Montblanc is a trusted global brand with, in my experience, excellent quality control. You can rely on your 149. And (to continue the watch metaphor) this is a dressy black number that you can wear with a suit.
Alternatives? There are tons at this price or below, with gold nibs and pistons. Have your pick of stuff by Leonardo, many Viscontis and Auroras, the Pelikan M1000, and you could probably squeak some of the Japanese big guys in here too. You could do worse than an Onoto like the Sequoyah, if you didn’t mind losing the piston. But the 149 sets a very, very high bar.
Lamy 2000. £150. It’s a no-brainer for my second choice (and yes, I sound like a broken record by now). You get a lot of bang for your buck with the 2000, and it could hardly be more different from the 149 in style and approach. The 2000 is not as dressy as the Montblanc, nor as expensive, so it’s usable in more casual environments where the snowcap would draw attention. In my opinion, when you’re picking a three-pen or three-watch collection, you really want to avoid repetition and overlap. I’d be tempted to choose the wet and wide medium nib to show off inks when the 149 is too narrow.
Alternatives? The unfussy everyday pen for £150 is a crowded market, with everything from small-batch makers like Edison and Karas to mid-tier Japanese pens like the Pilot 912 or Platinum 3776 and a sea of pens from Parker, Conklin et al. I’d be tempted to call out the Pilot 823 with its workhorse reputation and interesting filler, although since it retails close to £300 in the UK it’s pushing budget.
Schon Pocket 6. £130. This is the G-shock of the pen world, a metal pocket pen with indestructible design. Again, zero overlap with the other two, a whole different use-case, and all the flexibility of different colours to choose from and custom-ground nibs you can change on a whim.
Alternatives? Well, in my last post I pointed out the Ensso titanium as a very credible rival for about the same price. The Karas Ink v2 is also a super-solid metal pen you can count on. And, if you’re looking for something a bit more mainstream or at a lower price, there is of course the Kaweco Al Sport or Brass Sport. If you’re interested in a pen to play around with nibs, and don’t want metal, perhaps Franklin-Christoph would be a good port of call.
That takes me to a hair under £1,000. Easy peasy.
Fun exercise, eh? I’m tempted to repeat it at £500 and £100 tiers.
I’d love to know which three pens you’d pick with your fantasy budget. Let me know in the comments?