Showing posts with label Montblanc. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Montblanc. Show all posts

18 April 2016

Signs of Change

Along these past months there have been a number of events that might show something is changing in the stylographic scene. Isolated, these might be regarded as anecdotes, even if unpleasant at times. However, coincidence in time can be a sign of something more relevant.


These are the facts:

1. The Montblanc-Fountain Pen Network (FPN) controversy (::1::, ::2::). Back in January, some FPN members published pictures of the not yet released Montblanc William Shakespeare model. Apparently, those pictures had been leaked by some Montblanc shops. Anyway, Montblanc complained before the administrators of FPN, who decided to remove the related threads.

Some controversy (see ::1:: and ::2::, especially the comment sections), mostly outside the FPN, followed, but that is not the issue here. What matters now is that Montblanc felt the need to react instead of ignoring the whole issue or resolving it internally by disciplining those who leaked the information.


2. Brown and the trolls. Well-known blogger and pen connoisseur SBRE Brown complained on his blog about the personal attacks he had been receiving recently through the comment section of his videos in YouTube. Brown expressed his surprise for what he considered a change in the community that he had thought as exemplary.

Again, Brown’s and other’s (Armstrong of The Pen Habit, Deans of Fountain Pen Economics, thread on Reddit, thread on Fountain Pen Geeks forum, etc.) comments are secondary to this argument. The relevant detail is that now we see people who take time and effort to express their dislike about something pen related.

I understand this phenomenon as an indication of an increased popularity of those videos. More viewers mean more exposure also on those lists of suggested videos on YouTube. And more viewers imply more probabilities of undesired personalities, of trolls with nothing of interest to say. In any case, the bottom line is a larger number of people exposed to pens.


3. Delta and Marte Modena (The best summary I have found is this link by Pedro Haddock: http://elpajareteorquidiado.blogspot.jp/2016/04/el-asunto-delta.html). Italian brand Delta has decided to market some of its products exclusively through an online retailer—Marte Modena. This decision has alienated the traditional retailers as Delta is focusing on online customers, usually more acquainted with their products than the occasional customer of a brick and mortar shop.


4. Two more details, even if minor to the whole picture. Ian Hedley, of Pen! Paper! Pencils!, took the effort of writing a letter to Pilot UK to ask about Pilot’s import and pricing policies, and Pilot responded with detailed information (or detailed excuses). And in an operation of public relations, Pilot USA invited the Goulets for a visit to their facilities in Florida in November of 2015.

Both cases illustrate the importance given by Pilot to the online scene. And this is a new development.



So, what do all those facts mean?

All in all, they could be interpreted along the line of the pen community becoming larger and stronger. I have always argued that we, stylophiles, were a small group, economically weak, almost irrelevant in the economic balance of pen makers when compared to the group of occasional pen buyers. In other words, no matter how many pens we stylophiles could buy, we were no match to the volume of new fountain pens acquired by those occasional consumers.

But that imbalance might be changing. We might have become more attractive to brands like Montblanc, Delta and Pilot in the examples here described.

If my interpretation was true, the consequences would be very interesting. The business model of pen makers would evolve to cater some of our obsessions and cravings. Our opinions on fountain pens would, in fact, matter. Maybe then, the general frustration about the limited availability of nib points of most brands could be solved, for instance.

But, of course, this could just be wishful thinking.



Daiso Chinese pen with Mochizuki cross nib – unknown blue ink

Bruno Taut
Nakano, April 15th 2016
etiquetas: Montblanc, Delta, Pilot, mercado, fora, metabitácora

21 November 2015

More by Mr. Iwase

Mr. Iwase is this raden master who customized his pens in unique ways. I already reported on his workd over relatively rare pens crafted by Mr. Momose and by nibmeister Kubo Kohei. But Mr. Iwase also decorates more common pens—Pelikan M1000 and M800, and Montblanc 149.


A collection of Pelikan M1000.


Pelikan M800 and M1000, and Montblanc 149. The reddish pen is just coated with urushi.

As before, Iwase uses sea shells, usually abalone, and tries to preserve on the pen the colorful patterns of the uncut shells.

The collection of these pens is simply spectacular, but they are for the personal use and enjoyment of the author. Mr. Iwase does not sell them.


(Click on the pictures to enlarge them.)

Once again, these are unique pens even if, in essence, they are well known products.

My thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Iwase.


Sailor ProGear Senior – Nagasawa Bokkô

Bruno Taut
Over Siberia, November 9th, 2015
etiquetas: Iwase, Pelikan, Montblanc, maki-e

27 August 2014

Matching (XV)

Which one is the original and which one is the copy? Sometimes the answers are easy, but the context of those copies is always interesting.

Some people, including some Japanese, like to bash Japanese pens on the grounds of not creating original products and, instead, copying well known alleged masterpieces, even though these were not original in the first place.


A selection of balance pens by the big thre Japanese manfacturers. Among them, a couple piston fillers (::1:: and ::2::) and a plunger filler. The rest are cartridge/converter pens.


Some of the nibs of the previous pens. They include several music nibs, a couple of falcon, a fude, some Naginata, a two-fold nib...

Some truth there is in that claim—those Japanese-made balance pens exist because of the success and ubiquity of the Montblanc models. But it is also true that the big three Japanese companies have proved their capability to innovate and have created most original products. And this, in fact, does not make any more innocent of the accusation of plagiarism. Most likely the opposite—cannot these companies implement their nibs and filling systems in original designs? In fact, now and then, they do that


Sailor released this pen on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the company. It sports a cross nib by nibmeister Nagahara.

(More on the matter soon).

My thanks to Mr. Noguchi.


Inoxcrom 77, steel nib – Platinum Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, August 12th 2014
etiquetas: mercado, Japón, Montblanc, Pilot, Sailor, Platinum

04 February 2014

German Music

The pen of the day is not Japanese, but German. In fact, it is a full fledged Montblanc in its biggest and more representative model—the 149. But this is not any 149, and to see that we only need to check the truly amazing nib.


A regular Montblanc 149?

Its three-tined music nib is a bespoke unit ordered by the proud owner. It was commissioned to Montblanc Hong-Kong, which was cheaper than its Japanese counterpart. The order took two months to be completed and delivered.


A 18 K gold nib. On the side it reads "Handcrafted". By hand-really?

Now, is it just a three-tined nib? Not so easy. On the reverse side, we can see up to five tines separated by four slits. All in all it is a very wide, 6B, stub nib with a complex slit structure. Exquisite work.


The back of the nib shows a more complex structure than just those three tines visible on the front. Please, excuse the out-of-focus picture.

This nib proves Montblanc could make actual working fountain pens instead of mere symbols of status. But they do not come cheap.

My thanks to Mr. Suzuki.


Pilot Custom 74, music nib – Pilot Black

Bruno Taut
Yokohama, February 3rd, 2014
etiquetas: Montblanc, plumín, plumín musical

31 October 2013

Vanco

The Fuente meeting in October is a regular event in Tokyo during the last 20 years. It is more of a social than of a trading encounter, and the highlight of it is the final auction on Sunday afternoon.

The social part is easy to understand: we stylophiles love to be around pens and we enjoy showing our treasures to other like ourselves. At this past Fuente meeting I have seen several wonders. This is one of them:

Already in the 1920s, there existed about 500 pen operations in the city of Osaka. Most of them were small family business. Among them was the Etô family, responsible for the brand Vanco, active until the 1950s. Around 1935, Vanco marketed the following pen:


A brown celluloid...

It is a piston filler made of celluloid. The filling mechanism is a telescopic system, made of brass, to increase the capacity of the ink deposit—a well known technical solution in the hands of Montblanc. But this pen is a mostly unknown Vanco.


The Vanco uncapped. Note the piston half way through the ink window.

The nib is made of gold, although it is not imprinted as such. This claim is supported by electric resistivity measurements—gold is about 10 times better conductor than steel.


The gold nib. The inscription reads "WARRANTED / FINE / VANCO / REG. PAT. OFF. / <6> / POINTED / HARDEST Ir."


These are the dimensions of the pen:
  • Length closed: 128 mm
  • Length open: 120 mm
  • Length posted: 157 mm
  • Diameter: 12 mm
  • Weight (dry): 24.4 g


The whole piston can be released from the pen by unscrewing it out of the piston knob.

This pen stands firm on any comparison with many Western pens. The beautiful celluloid, together with this filling system make a wonderful combination. A rare treat in a Japanese pen from the 1930s.

My thanks to Mr. Sugimoto. Please, have a look at his blog with several entries on Vanco pens, and very interesting photographs of the piston mechanism (::1::, ::2::, ::3::, ::4::, ::5::, ::6::, ::7::).


Sailor pocket pen, 18 K nib - Daiso red cartridge

Bruno Taut
Chuo (Tokyo), October 27th, 2013
etiquetas: evento, Vanco, soluciones técnicas, Montblanc

25 April 2013

First Piston by Sailor

After speaking about an old self-filler by Sailor, it might be time to speak about the origins of the new, contemporary, self-filling fountain pens of this company. Between the old bulb-fillers from the 1950s and the first Sailor Realo (2006), about 50 years of boring and clean and efficient cartridges and converters have passed.

Then, to celebrate the 95th anniversary of the company in 2006, Sailor marketed a big piston filler based on the King of Pen line in the Profit (1911 in some markets) style of balance pens. And this was the first piston ever made by Sailor.


500 units were made for Japan, and 100 more for overseas markets. Most of them were black, but there seems to have been a small number units in maroon, and an even smaller number with maki-e decoration for Singapore (as reported by A. Lambrou and M. Sunami; Fountain Pens of Japan. Andreas Lambrou Publishers 2012. ISBN: 978-0-9571230-0-2). Speaking for myself, I have only seen black units.


The inkwell shown on the picture is not the original one. It had the Sailor logo on the lid.


The package includes a pen pouch made of deerskin leather coated with urushi, a traditional craft from Yamanashi prefecture. But should we remember that is only an accessory.

The second element of interest in this pen, after the filling system, is the nib. It is a Naginata Togi in M partially rhodiated. This is exceptional because Naginata nibs come usually in the big size (in Sailor terms, opposed to medium and super big sizes), and this meant that Sailor made a special casting of this nib for the commemorative pen.


The cap is subtlely engraved: "REALO 2006 / (serial number)/500". This pen is one of the 500 units made for Japan. Those for overseas markets were numbered over 100.

The final result is a pen with two elements many stylophiles love—an exciting nib and a non-trivial filling system—making this one of the most interesting commemorative pens ever made by Sailor. Should it have been more exotic with the looks, it would have been almost perfect. And that might be the case of those Sailor Realo with maki-e made for the Singaporean market. However, cheap might be not, and that in the case you found one.


The super big, in Sailor terms, nib made of 21 K gold. It is a Naginata Togi nib in M.

This first and original Realo is indeed big and could easily compete with classic oversized pens as the Montblanc 149 and the Pelikan M1000. These are their dimensions:

.Sailor Realo 95.

.Montblanc 149. .Pelikan M1000.
Length closed (mm) 153 148 146
Length open (mm) 130 132 135
Length posted (mm) 167 169 173
Barrel Diameter (mm) 16.0 15.0 14.5
Ink deposit (ml) 1.6 1.9 1.6
Weight, dry (g) 31.9 31.0 32.9

The original price of the Sailor Realo in Japan was JPY 80000, plus tax.


The wide cap ring carries the following inscription: "SAILOR JAPAN 95th ANNIVERSARY".


Detail of the decorative ring between the barrel and the culotte.

But this was a limited edition and only 600 units went into the market. Sailor, however, followed up in 2009 with a more affordable, and smaller, piston filler based on senior size of both the balance Profit/1911 and of the flat top Professional Gear models. The basic price of these smaller Realos is JPY 30000, plus tax, and that implies sticking to the usual triad of points—F, M and B. Upgrades to more complex nibs are available during Sailor sale events and at some Sailor Friendly Shops. They are not cheap.


The picture shows the original Realo from 2006, on top, and the regular model, not limited, from 2009, on bottom. The later is a much smaller pen, based on the senior size of the Profit/1911 or the Professional Gear series of pens.


Platinum 3776 (1978) – Platinum Blue-black

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku, April 17th, 2013
etiquetas: Sailor, plumín, Singapur, Montblanc, Pelikan

14 March 2013

Matching (XIII)

The controversy is always there: Is that pen original or a copy of another? Which company did father that idea? Sometimes, the answers are clear…

This Platinum pen is, in essence, a copy of the well-known and highly valued Waterman’s Hundred Year pen from 1939. The Platinum is, as well, a lever filler. Its nib, however, is a “10-years” nib made of stainless steel.



This is not the first example of a copy cat made by Platinum seen on these Chronicles. Another “10-years” pen was a knock-off of the Parker 51, and by the 1940s, Platinum manufactured a copy of the Skyline model by Wahl-Eversharp. This trend, of this learning process, ended up in the late 1950s, although some might say that it was revived with the current model 3776, so close to the Montblanc balance pen.


The "10-Years" nib made of stainless steel.
The incription reads as follows:
"PLATINUM / 10 YEARS / S*N Platinum logo / IRIDIUM / JIS logo / -< 5 >- / P-A".

My thanks to Mr. Sunami.


Pilot Vpen – Pilot Blue

Bruno Taut
Chuo (Tokyo), March 3rd, 2013
etiquetas: Parker, Platinum, Waterman, Wahl-Eversharp, Montblanc

05 March 2012

At the Museum (III)

(As seen at the Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Modern Literature).

YOSHIYA Nobuko (吉屋信子, 1896-1973) was an active, and popular, novelist between the 1910s and the 1970s. She specialized in romance novels and was a pioneer in class-S—a very Japanese genre in which a primary argument are strong bonds between girls. She herself revealed her homosexuality in her novel Two Virgins in the Attic (Yaneura no nishojo, 屋根裏の二處女, 1919).

The Parker 51 with her name engraved on the barrel.

A large number of her pens were on display at the exhibit. Some, indeed interesting: from a Parker 51 engraved with her name to a lever filler in green celluloid by Waterman to a safety pen with a silver overlay by the same company.


A Waterman lever filler in green celluloid.

A Waterman safety pen in red hard rubber with silver overlay.

However, the pens that attracted my attention the most were two frankenpens: an all Montblanc pen with body (model 12) and cap not matching, and an improbable combination of a Montblanc 252 body with a Platinum cap. I guess she was really attached to these pens. Maybe they were excellent writers and she kept using them after having misplaced the caps…


A Montblanc 12 with a mismatched cap.

The impossible frankenpen--a Montblanc 252 with a Platinum cap.

Whether Yoshiya was a collector or a user we do not know. A total of eight pens of her were handled to the museum, including those two chimeras. Enough to choose among!

(Muji aluminum pen – Diamine Teal)

Bruno Taut
March 3rd, 2012
[labels: Montblanc, estilofilia, Japón, evento, Waterman, Parker]

25 February 2012

No Logo

On a previous chronicle, I tried to analyze the role of Montblanc in the market of fountain pens. Montblanc, I concluded, sells a brand and a symbol of status devoid of mostly any content. The only detail that really matters on a Montblanc pen is the white star on display.


Japanese company Muji (Mujirushi Ryôhin), on the contrary, uses the opposite strategy. Mujirushi Ryôhin means “no brand, quality goods”, and indeed no brand name and no logotype can be seen on any of this company’s products.

On the left hand side of the cap a lip can be seen. It fits perfectly on the grooves on both section and barrel.

Regarding fountain pens, Muji has marketed a number of models. Many of them are remarkably similar to some made by Ohto. Currently (February 2012), there seems to be only one model available. It is a cartridge-converter pen made of aluminum. Its nib is, most likely, made by Bock in stainless steel. Its design, basically a perfect cylinder, is attractive and functional. The section is knurled for a good grip. Barrel and cap fit very tightly and elegantly both when the pen is closed and when is posted—the cap lip slides inside an ad-hoc groove in the section and in the barrel end.

On this picture, the groove on the barrel can be seen. The lip of the cap fits perfectly inside.

The cap, perfectly attached to the barrel on the posted configuration.

Performance-wise, this pen simply does its job. The nib is rigid and uncharacteristic; on the dry side, but without missing a stroke. It lays what looks like an M point, although there is an F engraved on the nib.


All in all, this is an average pen that honors the selling point of Muji: no brand, good quality. This is not a symbol of status. It is just a pen that writes correctly.

These are its dimensions:
Diameter: 10 mm.
Length closed: 13.8 mm.
Length open: 12.6 mm.
Length posted: 16.2 mm.
Weigth (inked): 20.0 g.

It costs JPY 1100 (tax excluded) in Japan.

(Muji pen in aluminum – Diamine Teal)

Bruno Taut
February 26, 2012
[labels: Muji, Ohto, mercado, Montblanc]

16 February 2012

Branding

I finished the previous chronicle with a non-very pleasant sentence about Montblanc pens. But indeed it is not clear whether Montblanc pens are bought to be used or to be displayed.

On another front, I recently encountered this both terrible and brilliant sentence: "Successful corporations must primarily produce brands as opposed to products." (Quoted by Naomi KLEIN in No Logo, 1999).

Assorted Montblanc products.

Et voilà! Montblanc is one of those brands, and Richemont group is the successful corporation behind the undeniable prosperity of the white star. 80% of the market of luxury writing tools is in their hands, and the very sought-after logo is now on goods that have nothing to do with writing: watches, jewelry and leather complements. The success of Montblanc is, after all, on the brand and not on the quality of the product. Montblanc is a symbol of status.

These Japanese copies of Montblanc stopped being a threat when Richemont Group went on to selling a brand instead of a product.

And that is why Montblanc fakes are so easy and so ubiquitous—their goal is to display the white star, and nothing else. Just like the original product. Whether they write or not is totally irrelevant.

Selling a brand instead of a product has some toll to pay.

(Sailor Profit Realo – Athena Sepia)

Bruno Taut
February 10th, 2012
[labels: mercado, Montblanc]