Fountain Pen Review

Montblanc Heritage Rouge et Noir: Coral and Tropic Brown

Today I am more on the luxury path because I want to introduce you to the Heritage Rouge et Noir line by Montblanc. Here I focus on the fountain pen(s) exclusively (and skipping e.g. the ball pens etc.). A friend of mine lent me the Coral and I contribute with the Tropic Brown which I purchased in Hamburg last summer. The collection is completed by a black coloured pen (which has no specific name – at least I didn’t found something on the MB-website related to this). I concentrate here on the models I have access to.

Nibs, feeds, and caps from Montblanc Heritage R&N Coral and Tropic Brown
The nib, the feed, the section and the cap (with the clip)

What makes these pens so special? Well, for me it their style in combination with one of the softest nibs I have ever seen. The last point, however, means not too much, since I have not so much experience with fountain pens and their nibs. Actually, I own a couple of fountain pens, but most of it are modern products (which is not necessarily bad but I am sure I lack the great writing experience of many vintage pens as well as many modern ones, though). The nib of both pens, as well as others of this collection, behaves the same in terms of softness and writing experience. The back of the nib is flat (not rounded like many other nibs known from MB or Pelikan etc.). Due to this, the nib bends a bit and makes the writing soft or springy (I am sorry, but I have no better words for it). But there is almost no flex, no spreading of the tines, that is. You obtain not more line variation by pressure than by any other more regular modern nib from MB. The point is, it doesn’t feel like a nail.

Both pens, the Coral and the Tropic Brown, showing a bit feedback while writing, they do not glide over the paper absolutely smoothly. But this might be also dependent upon paper or ink. Also the polishing of the nib has an influence on this.

The pen I lent (the Coral) is equipped with an oblique medium nib, the Tropic Brown carries an oblique broad nib. In internet shops as well as in the Montblanc Boutique the Heritage Collection you can choose between a fine nib or a medium nib, only. In case you prefer oblique nibs or broader (B, BB) you have to send it to Hamburg for a nib exchange. You can not take away a pen with a non-F or M nib directly, that is. The nib exchange can take 2 weeks plus shipping time. Anyway, the nib looks gorgeous! It is quite small (almost same size as the MB Meisterstück 144), shows the imprint of a snake (very similar to that of the Writers Edition Agatha Christie) and has a triangular breather hole. The overall design of the pen is skinny but elegant. Everything (nib, section, barrel, twisting turning knob) is well proportionated.

The Heritage Rouge et Noir line offers also a black pen. The main difference between the black one, the Coral and the Tropic Brown is the colour as well as little details on the cap, the clip, the nib, and the surface of the barrel. The cap of the black version, has an orange finial, a bit more simplified clip where the snake eyes lacking the gems. The nib is unicolour, rhodinated. The section is matted. This version is the cheapest of the three („cheap” has another meaning in the Montblanc universe, for sure …). The Coral, is unicolour – everything is in this orange tone. The nib is rhodinated, but the area of the snake imprint is gold coloured. The snake clip is „aged” with an artificial patina or taint. The eyes of the snake include green stones (very tiny little gems). The section is matted like the black version). The Tropic Brown has an orange finial which fits very good to the brown tone of the rest. The clip and the nib (as well as the shiny/polished section show an champaign gold tone. The nib is unicolour, the snake clip shows dark gems.

All three models have in common that the barrel and the section are of metal, whereas the cap and the twisting turning knob are of plastic. Here comes the first little draw back, since it turns out that there is a slight colour difference between the plastic parts and the metal part – at least in the Coral. The plastic knob and the cap are a little bit more pale than the barrel (metal). It is not a substantial difference, but it is visible under most light conditions (except if the light is switched off ;-).

color_difference_Heritage Coral
Slight differences in colour of the different materials visible only in the Coral. The metal part (barrel) is a little bit more vibrant then the plastic parts (cap and piston twisting turning knob).

A very nice feature is the vintage looking Montblanc logo on the cap. Also the very big but slightly beige coloured star/snow cap on the finial.

Two other objective flaws I have also to report: the threads for the cap (which are located very close to the nib at the section – usually they are located between section and barrel), is prone to collect dirt (ink remains). This is more valid for the Coral (with its matted section and threads) than for the Tropic Brown. Another not too positive thing is, both pens carry a very low amount of ink: 0,6ml that is. I find it a bit weak … In fountainpennetwork.com I found a thread where somebody was stating, these pens were no „real” piston-pens rather than converter pens (built in converter). It was demonstrated with pictures of a disassembled fountain pen. Well, ok this is something I do not care too much about. The low ink capacity bothers me more. A regular converter contains eventually up to 1ml of ink …

The pens are not postable at all and show no ink window. The plastic feed is the same as for the Meisterstück 144.

Comparisons

Here I want to show you some other fountain pens to compare the Heritage R&N with. In terms of size it is quite obvious that the R&N is a very skinny pen, on the section close to the threads it has a diameter of ca. 8mm, close to the transition to the barrel a bit less than 10mm. Due to its metal barrel and section it weighs 35g (with a bit ink) compared to a modern Meisterstück 146 with 27g (also with a bit ink). Actually the Heritage R&N Line has much in common with the Noblesse Line from Montblanc (late 70s to mid 90s). The length and the girth is comparable. Also, the nib performance (flat nib which bends up but not spreads so much).

Nib comparison
Sections and nibs of some thinner Montblanc fountain pens – from left to right: Coral, Tropic Brown, Noblesse (80s-90s of the last century) and Meisterstück 144.
Montblanc Heritage Rouge et Noir, Coral and Tropic Brown, Size Compariosn
Size comparison, capped – from ledt to right: MB Mesiterstück 146 burgundy, Platinum President, Lamy Safari, Pelikan Souverän M400, a slim Caran D’Ache 849, Montblanc Noblesse and Hertiage Rouge et Noir, Coral.
Montblanc Heritage Rouge et Noir, Coral and Tropic Brown, Size Compariosn
Size comparison, uncapped – from ledt to right: MB Mesiterstück 146 burgundy, Platinum President, Lamy Safari, Pelikan Souverän M400, a slim Caran D’Ache 849, Montblanc Noblesse and Hertiage Rouge et Noir, Coral.

Writing Samples

In terms of nib grinding, the oblique nibs of the R&N behave as expected. But one has to consider, line widths can differ very much within the same nib grade (not only because of the obliqueness).

Montblanc Heritage Rouge et Noir Tropic Brown (OB) and Coral (OM) Writing sample. Together with a couple of other fountain pens (Pelikan, Lamy ...)
Montblanc Heritage Rouge et Noir Tropic Brown (OB) and Coral (OM) writing samples. Together with a couple of other fountain pens (Pelikan, Lamy …) . Remark: wp means with applied  while writing.

 

Montblanc Heritage Rouge et Noir Coral (OM) -  Writing sample.
Montblanc Heritage Rouge et Noir Coral (OM) – writing sample.
Montblanc Heritage Rouge et Noir Tropic Brown (OB) -  Writing sample.
Montblanc Heritage Rouge et Noir Tropic Brown (OB) – writing sample.

Package

The pens come in a white sleeve covering a red-black paper-box. The pen case itself is the standard-case MB usually provides. The booklet is a bit more special. It holds the red-black (rouge et noir) colour scheme and contains some pretty illustrations (following the colour scheme). It says something about the history and the origin of the Heritage Collection. At the end there is the more or less usual part of maintanance and warranty. Quite nice, if you ask me …

heritage_package_booklet
Montblanc Heritage Rouge et Noir, Coral and Tropic Brown. Package and Booklet

Summary

Both of the pens are a joy to look at as well as a joy to write with. They are looking very special in terms of clip design and colour. Although they are very fancy they keep their elegance due to the slim and long shape. They are quite usable but on the heavy side. But if they would be much lighter it would be – at least for me – very difficult to hold them and to write with them over a longer period of time. But this is something one has to consider for themself.

Pro:

  • quite unpretentious but fancy design (at least for me) in terms of colour and colour combinations (eg. orange colour of the finial together with brown or the green gems together with the orange colour)
  • very soft nib experience (at least for 2 of 2 pens)
  • fantastic oblique grinding (for me, not for those who prefer a regular nibs)
  • heavy – in terms that one holds something in hands which is not too light for its size

Con:

  • low ink capacity
  • no ink window
  • colour inconsistancy (Coral)
  • not postable (for people who not post no problem, but for those who do, it is)
  • anything other than f or m not immediately  purchasable rather than sending it for nib exchange
  • very expensive

 

Visual impressions

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Montblanc Heritage Rouge et Noir Collection
Montblanc Heritage Rouge et Noir Collection
Fountain Pen Review

Sailor 1911 Large (Zoom nib) …

… a Japanese precious?

I assume, the Japanese brand Sailor is well known in the fountain pen world. The company was founded 1911 in Hiroshima. Quite often the namegiving number is imprinted on the nibs of several (if not all) pen collections/series from this company. This together with an anchor (may be to emphasize the nautic symbol with the company name “Sailor Pens”).

So, let’s hoist the anchor and sail away …

The 1911-Series shows a wide spectrum of sizes and colors/finishes/materials (see the following page for details: http://www.sailorpen.co.uk/1911-series.html. To summarize this, classical cigar shaped pens are available like the Large or Classic as well es more “chiseled” ones like the Young. You find finishes in black, yellow, blue, burgundy, white and even translucent ones (demonstrator). Most are cartridge/converter-pens except for the Realo, which has a piston filling system. This particular series has also an ink window which all others are lacking.

The fountain pen I demonstrate here, the 1911 Large with rhodium trims is not shown in the webpage mentioned above, may be it is meanwhile abandoned. You find a sibling which is called “1911 Silver”, so either this is a new name for the one I own, or the shop I ordered it, sold it under a wrong name. But does this matter? No, I don’t think so …

Parts_and_finnial
Top: Parts of the pen. Bottom: finial

 

Look and Size

The pen is a classical cigarr shaped pen with a screw cap (is it only my impression, that I have to turn it a bit more often than eg. a Visconti Wall Street or a Pelikan Souverän?). It hast a very regular shaped and unfancy clip, which just works as it should, a neutral finial and a blind cap separated from the barrel with a silver ring (rhodium plated). The cap has a slim and a broad ring, it says in outlined capital letters: “Sailor Japan Founded 1911”.

When you open the cap (two full turns) you get to see the section which tapers down and expands a bit at the very end (to prevent the fingers touchiung the nib and feed).

The nib is a 21kt gold nib (rhodinated). The nib is longer than those from a Montblanc Meisterstück 146, but again narrower than that from a Pelikan M800. The fountain pen itself is sizewise very comparable to the abovementioned pens (see image below). The nib of the Sailor 1911L is by no means undersized compared to the rest of the pen anatomy (as it is the case for the Graf von Faber-Castell Anello – just as an example).

The nib shows a flourish imprint, as well as the founding year (1911), the anchor, the carat number (21kt) and the corresponding permille value (875) and finally the Sailor-Logo.

Something I found interesting: the upper part oft he barrel, where the threads are located, looks almost identical to the Platinum President (see size comparison-image), although the caps are not interchangable. Also the trims of the cap look very, very similar.

Size_comparison
Size comparison (capped and uncapped). (1) Sailor 1911L, (2) Platinum President, (3) Pelikan M800, (4) MB Meisterstück 146, (5) Lamy Safari, (6) Edison Collier, (7) MB Meisterstück 149.

 

Material

The Material is a so called PMMA-resin. Well, it does not tell me too much, please feel free to read the respective Wikipedia article:

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poly(methyl_methacrylate).

Does it look different from, well, for example the “precious resin” the Montblanc pens are composed of? Yes, it does! But I cannot describe the difference, I am sorry. Is one of both harder? I don’t know, I don’t want to intentionally scratch them with a needle or so, just to prove their hardness. The biggest, “obvious” difference is that the precious resin in MB-pens is slightly translucent (you observe a dark red color under very bright light), whereas the PMMA in the Sailor is absolutely opaque.

 

Filling mechanism

Just a simple cartridge/converter system. But proprietary. “Sandard international” will not work.

 

Nib performance

The 1911-Series are delivered with EF, F, M, B MS and Z nibs). MS means Music nib and Z means Zoom nib. According to what I have learned about Japanese nib grades the general eqaulization of japaneese F corresponds to western EF (as well as M=F, B=M – so, Japanese grades are one grade thinner than western grades with the same name) applies also here.

The pen shown here is equipped with a Zoom-nib. This type of nib enables the user to produce wide lines as well as fine lines with the same nib. The stroke-width is dependent upon how you hold the pen (see image below). It is obvious that this type of writing is nothing for a regular use for a quick letter or shopping list. One would use it carefully and with intent on the purpose. Of course, the nib is absolutely usable for a regular use, anyway. When holding the pen “normally” (in the usual 40-50 degrees handholding) the stroke will be a western medium to broad stroke). When flattening the angle even stronger the stroke gets bolder. But actually not very much so. The biggest difference occurs between the upright position (very thin stroke like western F) and the normal type of pen-holding (western medium to broad grade).

Zoom_nib_synopsis
The Zoom nib in the Sailor 1911 L
zoom_Nib
This is how Zoom-nibs work

 

Well I didn’t found so far a use for the capabilities of the zoom nib. It might be very good for thin remarks on articles or any kind of book, but in this case an EF-nib or reverse writing of a broader nib does the same job). But this is only me! In the web are numerous youtube-videos available that show the purposes of this nib much better. Back then, when I bought this pen with this nib I was fascinated from it, but actually I had no use from it in practice afterwards.

The nib experience with this particular nib is also not too awsome, since it sounds like a felt pen while wiriting. The tip is very rough and quite often it accumulates fibers from the paper. However, I never experienced a hard start or skipping at all. It just writes.

The nib is quite stiff and shows no flex. The line variation is supposed to be obtained by different pen holding, anyway. Reverse writing is possible (at least with this one). I generally put not much attention to the option of reverse writing in a review, because I made the experience that this is different for each nib (even when it comes from the same manufacturer and if it is the same grade), but if it is possible with one exemplar it is most likely not generally impossible due to the specifity of the nib design.

The same applies to wettness. This is a very individual thing for each nib. This one is quite wet, but another one might be super dry …

Writing sample
Writing sample of the Sailor 1911 Large.
stroke_comparison
The broadest stroke possible with the Sailor Zoom-nib (*) compared to other broad nibs.

The bottom line

The Sailor 1911 is (in a positive way) a very classical (up to unspectacular) pen, which has shapewise much in common with a MB Meisterstück (146) and even more with the Platinum President. Also the handling is very comparable (the balance is a bit different, due the heavy brass from the piston filling mechanism in the MB 146, though). In my opinion, appart from the nib, this pen is absolutely “average” for its class. What I find very special, however ist that the ink never(!) dries out, no matter how long the pen is not in use. No other pen I know offers this (except for the Platinum 3776 … coincidence?). This pen is a reliable well performing, good workhorse.

 

Fountain Pen Review

Cleo Skribent Ebonite (Brown)

Here, I want to introduce a kind of special fountain pen to you. This one seems not to be very common (although I found out that several color variations are sold out in most shops, eg. the green and the blue variant). I purchased the brown version form Ludwig Blankenhorn (mypens.de).

Ok, what is so special? The material of the barrel, the section, the endcap and the cap is from ebonite. As I understood it, barrel and section are cut from one piece. But may be I am wrong here, and actually at least the pen shown here seem to be of two-three pieces (see images below)

The Material is very light and so is the entire pen. But the ebonite feels a bit more warm than  for example the “precious resin” of the pens with the star or the resin of Pelikan pens etc.

The company Cleo Schreibgeräte GmbH (Cleo wirting instruments) was founded in 1945 right after WWII in Bad Wilsnack (Prignitz/Brandenburg). So we are dealing with a german pen. The company delivered the whole eastern block with writing instruments until the end of the nineties of the last century. In the seventies almost 1million pens were produced every year. The company became privatized and delivered parts for other german pen producers. Since the end of the nineties they also procuce the Skribent-Series (eg. Classic or Ebonite which is shown here). The paragraph is taken and translated from a wikipedia entry.

Size and Look

Well it is a sort of normal sized pen compared to other common pens, such as the Lamy Safari or the MB 146. In detail, the Cleo is a bit longer than the MB-pens, but the biggest difference is the slimmer (and by the way very nice) concave shaped section.

bb-4
Size comparison: from the left to right: Cleo Skribent Ebonite, Cleo Skribent Tertius (same size as the Classic), Lamy Safrai, Montblanc 146, Montblanc 149.

Very stylish are actually three design elements: (a) the ring (silver colored trim) at the end of the section (b) the facetted barrel (11 faces), which are also represented by the cap. The cap has an oval cross section, by the way, the barrel is round. (C) I have to mention the very beuatiful clip. To my opinion one of the most pretty clips in the fountain pen world. Its functionality is also given: it is springy enough.

Also quite lovely is the transition from the section to the barrel: the threads look not only like usual thraeds but like very nice turnery. This impresion is supported by only two existing threads (rather than 5 or more other fountain pens feature).

The Material is of ebonite, as mentioned above and as it is the namegiving feature, of course. Well, the coloring reminds after wood. The surface is not matte but also not entirely shiny – something in between. The material offers not the same depth as some resins do, for example in the stripes of a Pelikan Souverän (see picture below).

bb-
To the left a Pelikan Tortuoise Shell. The Stripes show sort of a depth and shininess reminding after mother of pearl or something. The Cleo Skribent Ebonite (right hand side) is lacking this feature entirely.

Anyway, in the sunlight the brown color unfolds its warmness. So, there is no doubt, that this guy looks good 🙂

All trims are in silver color and rhodium coated. The ring on the cap says: “made in Germany   CLEO” The finnial of the cap shows the Cleo-logo, which looks to me as a mixture of a modern style and a style form the twenties of the last century as well (but that’s just me).

The pen has no ink window!

Filling mechanism

The pen has a sort of piston filling mechanism. A bit inconvenient is the need to remove the endcap. It looks a bit like the mechanism known from some Delta pens.

bb-7
Filling mechanism: under the endcap is the twisting turning knob of the piston located. By the way, the yellowish spot on the endcap is just a reflection – the endcap is of merely ebonite and shows no inlay or something

After removing the endcap you find the twisting turning knob. From this point, the filling mechanism works like in any other piston-filled pen.

When holding the en in hand and shaking it (strongly), the I feel a sort of wobbling. So I assume, there is built in a converter or at least something separately. No big deal. However, the official webpage claims a piston filling mechanism.

Nib

The nib is a 14 k gold nib coated with Rhodium. It shows the Ceo-logo, the comapny name, the imprint of the nib grade (here a B nib) and a sort of  ornamental “band”. The latter and the logo are in golden color. Looks very sober to me.

bb_Pelikan_Cleo
Three images of the Cleo Skribent Ebonite broad nib (to the left) and a Pelikan M800-nib (italic broad, each to the right).

For me the shape of the nib, its size as well as the feed shows strong similarities to the same items in a Pelikan M800. The nib shoulder of the Cleo is a bit more rounded whereas the nib of the Pelikan is a bit more flat.

But how does the nib perform? Well, it is a very, very smooth nib. I would say, already a bit too smooth, since it skips or has hard starts on very smooth paper such as the Rhodia ivory (90g/sqm). Quicker strokes (or backward strokes) are prone to skip. On a slightly rougher paper (e.g. the white paper from Rhodia with 80g/sqm) the nib behaves much “better” in this respect.

bb-1
Writing experience with the Cleo Skribent Ebonite.

What I really love is the grinding of the broad nib which is slightly stubbish (see image above). This gives the handwriting a bit more character. I like such things. What you not should expect ist flex by any means. The nib is quite stiff and allows not much line variation under pressure. The stiffness is comparable to other modern nibs from various brands (MB 146 or Pelikan M800). Other available nib grades are F and M (no obliques or italics).

Overall

Well, for a couple of hundred bucks you could expect something serious! And I must say, you get something serious. The nib is well tuned, not too wet. It is slightly stubbish – don’t expect this on a medium nib from this company! Technically, I have no complains, the only thing I would have liked better is the filling mechanism. The endcap which needs to be removeed is just inconvenient. Designwise I have no complain neither, but this is in the eye of the beholder. Take in mind, the section is on the slimmer side of the spectrum.