Long-term readers may remember my review last year of the Otto Hutt designC, the German brand’s centenary celebration pen made of silver in an edition of 500 pieces, for a price well into four figures.
At the time I described the experience as a rollercoaster. I found the designC alien, uncompromising, almost deliberately difficult to explain.
I stand by that phrasing. The C is a challenging pen, a feat of engineering and aesthetic expression that I believe broke new ground, but not without some bumps along the way.
Read my review and you’ll see that I didn’t love everything about it, either on paper or in my hand. The C is long and heavy, built to unusual proportions. It’s a mystery filler, a fingerprint magnet, clipless, prone to scratches, arguably over-engineered. Put it next to icons like the Montblanc 149 or the Lamy 2000 and it looks like the obelisk from 2001: A Space Odyssey. It sits impassive; it’s not here to fit your expectations.
I sent the C back to Pforzheim after publishing my review, glad to have had the experience of trying such a rarefied pen, and that was that.
But I kept thinking about the designC. I like my pen tray to show off as much variety and excellence as possible in its small scope. Amid the Arco and urushi, the designC would undeniably bring a different experience to the table — even though I already had a silver pen in the form of the Montblanc Martele. I thought about the C’s many good qualities: its materials and solidity, its simplicity, its writing experience. I realised I missed having this landmark in my collection.
Interviewing the C’s designer, Mark Braun, didn’t help me put the pen out of my mind — in fact, it gave me a greater appreciation for what he was trying to achieve. I could see faint echoes of my own collecting goals (fantasies?) in what he said about investing in just one superb pen to live with every day. I understood his vision of respecting OH’s craft and engineering past while making space for a fresh future. I felt I could see the C in a bit of a new light.
A few months later I bought a Nomos Metro watch — another deliberately unconventional design by Braun. It gave me more context to understand the approach to the C, illustrating how Braun’s brand of stark minimalism can still be playful and functional.
Just like the brief for Otto Hutt’s century pen, the Metro showed that Braun could be comfortable balancing past and future: its quirky modern colours and textures, its skinny modernist hands, somehow sit easily with the Metro’s charming retro wire lugs and creamy dial, the handwound movement and small-seconds layout.
You could well imagine that even the name ‘Metro’ was a portmanteau of ‘modern’ and ‘retro’. The Metro stands out in the rather clinical Nomos lineup.
I started to spot — or imagine — more specific parallels between the two products.
Details like the splashes of colour on the minimal dial reminded me of the playful gold indices on the designC standing out from the silver barrel.
The unique domed patterning on the Metro’s crown against the smooth polished case serves a similar contrasting role to the C’s unexpected wavy section against its featureless cap and barrel.
It’s partly due to this playful design approach that the Metro has quickly became a core piece in my tiny watch collection, a distinctive alternative to the bulky Tudor GMT, sharp and glittery Grand Seiko, pure retro Rado.
What pushed me over the edge from this rather academic thought process to an actual purchase was a post from stylocalibre on Instagram, another UK-based watch and pen nut.
Seeing what he wrote about the designC, and how it changed his perspective on pen collecting, crystallised some of the thoughts I shared above. I had a new resolve.
So I reached out to my contacts at Otto Hutt and placed my order. As always, they impressed me with their speed and professionalism, and the UPS tracking number was in my inbox before I had much of a chance to question my decision.
As it happened, only minutes after completing my purchase I received a promotion at work and some much-appreciated recognition for my career achievements — and already my brain is knitting together these events to rationalise the C as a milestone purchase for me.
So that‘s the story leading up to today, when the designC arrived, for the second time.
It was an odd feeling to unbox this pen again. The same big silver card box. The same tan leather case. The same ink bottle. And yes, the same impossibly shiny cylinder.
It’s not an easy pen to photograph, especially if you lack the talents of Dries at Pencilcaseblog. The fresh polished silver reflects so much that it obscures the outline of the pen, like a World War I dazzle ship.
But in the hand, under the eye, it’s a beautiful thing. The details sing.
It feels heavy, solid, but not huge. In the pen tray it’s no larger than a Lamy 2000.
But it stands out in its featureless shine.
Despite its simplicity and compactness the C is the definition of a flagship, with all the features you would expect and outstanding finishing. In fact, the finishing was better than I remembered. Compared to the pre-used review sample I had last time, the Pull and Twist filling mechanism is much, much slicker and I found it a real pleasure to use.
I opted for a Fine nib, which looked utterly perfect under a loupe, and writes with a little bounce and tooth and a medium flow.
I wanted a stately, forever ink that I wouldn’t get bored of; on a whim I picked Noodlers Manhattan Blue, an ink I bought in a previous life on a visit to NYC, when I considered spending even £150 on a fountain pen to be ludicrous.
I am literally a couple of hours in to having the designC back in my life. I’m sure I’ll have a lot more to say about it in the weeks and months that follow.
But the journey to today has been a long one, and I wanted to explain just why I bought it and what it represents to me.
Hope you enjoyed the rollercoaster. It was a longer ride than I expected!