Showing posts with label Bayard. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bayard. Show all posts

06 August 2010


All three big Japanese pen companies have torpedo-like models on their catalogs. Pilot calls them Custom –74, 742, 743, 823,…—; Platinum, either 3776 —the altitude of Mount Fuji— or President; Sailor, Profit in Japan and 1911 overseas. Of course, we all think of Montblanc and it seems that the German brand is not very happy about these copies. Rumors say that there were a number of legal actions against them.

Several torpedo pens, including a French Bayard, and a Japanese Tombow.

The usual explanation goes by saying that Japanese express their admiration by copying. However, I find this explanation hard to swallow.

Some Pilot models. From left to right, Custom Sterling (1976), Custom 743 (2009), Super 100 (late 1950s or early 1960s), Custom 742 (2009), Super 200 (1960).

The Montblanc Meisterstück was created in the late 1940s and early 1950s. During the 1960s and 1970s, Japanese companies did not copy them. Pilot’s Custom models or equivalent (the Super series) could be equally boring in looks, but they were also different.

The Pilot 65 released on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the company (1983).

Actually, only in the 1980s modern torpedo pens were marketed. It was on 1983 when Pilot created the limited edition Pilot 65 on the occasion of their 65th anniversary. With some minor variations, that model is nowadays the Custom 74.

Montblanc Meisterstück 147, Pilot Custom 74, Sailor Profit, Platinum 3776.

My conclusion is that this copying strategy obeys to marketing arguments: Give ’em what they want! And the general public still thinks of Montblanc when fountain pens are in the conversation.

From top to bottom, Sailor's Junior 21 K gold nib, Montblanc's 14 K gold nib in a 144, Platinum's music nib, Pilot's falcon nib in size 15. All of them in boring-looking torpedo style pens.

Luckily enough, Japanese nibs are a lot more exciting than their boring Montblanc counterparts of these days.

(Platinum 3776 Music nib – Sailor Red Brown)

Bruno Taut
Inagi, August 6 2010
[labels: Japón, Pilot, Sailor, Platinum, Bayard, Tombow, Montblanc]

03 June 2010

Gold Fever

Some days ago I wrote about Danitrio and the utter absurdity of using 24 K gold (pure gold within a 1% error) for their nibs. That made me think about the actual gold content of nibs.

The purpose of using gold lies in its properties as a noble metal, i.e. its great resistance to corrosion. And the rest of properties are second to that. In fact, as Prof. Antonios Zavaliangos (Drexel University, Philadelphia, USA) says, flexible nibs can be made out of almost any material usually employed in the fabrication of nibs.

Japanese pocket pens from the 1970s with differnt nib materials. From top to bottom, left to right, Platinum with fine steel nib, Pilot Myu 701 with fine steel, Morison with fine 14 K, Platinum with medium 14 K, Pilot Telescopic with medium 14 K, Platinum with medium white gold (WG) 18 K, Sailor with fine WG 18 K, Pilot Elite with fine 18 K, Sailor 21 with fine 21 K, and Sailor 23 with 23 K gold nib.

The actual gold content in nibs, we all know, is very variable. Some early nibs, on dip pens many of them, had as little as 9 K (37.5%). Sheaffer itself made a 9 K gold nib in 1955 for the British market. However, some legislation forced this content up in order to being allowed the use of the term "gold" to describe those nibs. Italy and France are very clear: 75% of gold content (18 K) is the minimum in anything called gold. Marketing and the old “more is better” were successful and even nowadays people speak of the “added value” of 18 K over 14 K gold on their nibs.

A relatively inexpensive Fit de Bayard with a 18 K (ct, in french) gold nib. Very nicely springy.

During the early 1970s, the big three Japanese pen companies competed for the market by increasing the gold content in their nibs. Platinum and Pilot reached 22 K (91.7%); Sailor topped them with a 23 K (95.8%) nib, as can be seen on the picture. The trend was a dead end and in three years the companies went back to the usual 14 K and 18 K gold contents. The exception was Sailor, still using 21 K gold in many of its luxury pens together with 14 K gold for cheaper ones. Their argument is still the same—higher corrosion resistance with higher gold content.

California-based Danitrio seems to be the only brand still suffering the gold fever. Only that could explain their interest in producing –or implementing, as they do not manufacture theirs— 100% gold nibs. But that much gold makes the nib quite soft and prone to plastic deformation. The option to avoid that risk is to make them very rigid. However, there is always the concern of whether those Danitrios were pens or mere decorative jewels.

Already mentioned Prof. Antonios Zavaliangos also wrote a very interesting analysis on the materials usually employed to manufacture nibs. The summary of all that is that 14 K gold shows a nice balance between resistance to corrosion, elasticity, ease of manufacturing, etc. It is no coincidence that most of the flexible nibs out there are made of this alloy with 58.5% of gold.

Now the question lies in whether we want or appreciate a flexible nib or not. But that topic is a long one, and almost philosophic.

(Soennecken 110 – Noodler’s Old Dutch)

Bruno Taut
(Tokyo, June 2, 2010)
[labels: Danitrio, plumín, Pilot, Sailor, Platinum, Bayard, Morison]