I don’t know about you, but I have a strong mental block against spending £500 on a pocket pen.
The first reason is practical: there’s a disconnect between a pen that is meant to get bashed around in your pocket with your keys, and one that delivers a “luxury” experience.
The second is perhaps more sensory. In the world of pens at least, the more you spend, the more you expect to get. Pricey pens are larger, heavier, they come in a bigger box. Pocket pens are by definition small (if not always light, as the Sterling Sport would attest).
This hasn’t stopped me from eyeing up the Montegrappa Gnomo for years.
It’s a real oddball, in a class of one. It is a true pocket pen in format.
But it ticks luxury boxes with an 18k nib, ebonite feed, and hallmarked sterling silver construction.
So I’ve rarely had so much anticipation unboxing a review sample as I had with this one.
And you know what? It’s utterly charming. I love it. And not just in an “oh this is cute” kinda way; also in a “wow, this is impressive” kinda way.
It starts with the packaging: a tiny wooden box, and inside a tiny sheepskin sleeve, like the pen is wearing an old bomber jacket. The materials contrast against the plush silver, and they’re practical too.
Then the pen itself, which (although it doesn’t have a larger #6 nib) is noticeably shorter than the Schon P6 or Ensso pocket, and expands to have a much longer section than them too.
In prior years, the Gnomo had a bright celluloid barrel in red, yellow or black, but now it’s “Montegrappite”, a densely layered mix of (in this Monterosa edition) pink, grey, black and white.
It looks just like what you get when you peel layers of paint off of a very old wall.
I can’t work out whether I really like it, or find it too muddy. There is an alternative shade called Menta in grassy greens and browns.
At the end of the cap (which also serves as the barrel) is a silver protrusion where all the branding, hallmarks and edition number sits. This pen is an edition of 100, which is exclusive as editions go. Perhaps Montegrappa doesn’t think there’s much of a market for £500 pocket pens?
At the other end of the cap is another small protrusion, identical but without any branding.
This is actually the end of the pen itself, and you unscrew it to reveal the pen, then reverse it and screw back on to post.
This small protrusion is the only functional problem with the Gnomo. That’s because not only is it your handhold to unscrew the pen, it’s also a tiny cap that reveals where you insert the cartridge into the back of the section. If you’re not careful, you can unscrew this tiny cap when you intend to unscrew the pen from the cap, and you end up leaving the section behind with just a nub of cartridge visible. The solution to this is to make sure the tiny cap is tightly screwed on — but I am hesitant to do that on fine silver threads.
With the pen uncapped, you can see the section unit itself.
The section, like all the metal hardware, is solid silver, polished to a high shine and engraved with a lightly grippy chevron pattern.
It’s slim, but actually very comfortable.
The barrel step is rounded, with no visible threads at all.
The nib is simply glorious.
My review sample is an OM, cut with the left edge of the tip shorter than the right.
If you hold it correctly, rolled off to the left, it is absolutely glassy smooth, smoother than Pilots or Namikis even. Flow with a Kaweco Midnight Blue cartridge is good, with no skipping or hard starts.
The M line is wider than I usually use nowadays, but suffice it to say this is one of the best nibs I’ve had the pleasure of trying in years.
There’s plenty of softness under even light pressure, for a comfortable ride.
It’s abundantly clear that the Gnomo is a beautifully made pen by any standards. The cap is lined in white plastic, meaning no scratches on the silver, and it doesn’t dry out.
There is a step at the end of the cap so the nib itself is isolated from the section, so you won’t end up with inky fingers.
The engraving is excellent, across the pen, and the little nib is gracefully adorned and simply beautiful under a loupe.
So we return to where we started. £500 for a pocket pen is steep for sure. It’s an existential challenge: does anybody want or need such a pen? But this is no ordinary pocket pen. Post the cap and what you have is a beautiful, comfortable, excellent writer that stands up against any full-size pen you might own. It just also happens to fit into the coin pocket of your jeans.
Put it this way: I am one drunken evening in front of the Iguanasell website away from adding one to my personal collection. I’ll certainly be very sorry to send this one back.
The Gnomo was loaned to me by Iguanasell. You can get yours here.