Romancing the Pen
Despite the allure of the digital, the intimacy of the written word never goes out of style
In a world where the typeface overrides the written script, where we type and text more than we write, the pen has somewhat receded from view and mind. Once invested with significance and symbolism—the coming of age, graduation and other such milestones—it has long since been passed over for trendier gadgets. But while it may have gone out of fashion, nothing quite replaces the intimacy of the written script and the romance vested in the fountain pen. And luxury pen brands like Montblanc, Visconti and Montegrappa are doing plenty to ensure that it stays that way.
Great Inspirations, Limited Editions
Although its best-known and possibly best-selling Montblanc design is the very iconic and classic Meisterstück collection launched in 1924, limited editions are what collectors and pen lovers truly indulge in, according to Montblanc Southeast Asia managing director Andreas Boesch. It’s no surprise really, given that these exquisitely crafted limited designs showcase the finest materials and exceptional craftsmanship, elevating the pen from mere writing instrument to bona fide objet d’art.
Montblanc’s Great Characters and Muses editions, for instance, are inspired by larger than life personalities, from politicians like John F. Kennedy and rock stars like John Lennon, to royalty, specifically Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco. Accordingly, the pieces are unique, artfully crafted and imbued with nostalgia. The Princess Grace de Monaco fountain pen is one such fine example. A feminine, glamorous number, it comes with the option of ivory coloured resin paired with platinum-plated fittings, or deep purple resin with champagne gold plating, with a sparkling petal-shaped pink topaz on the clip for a finishing flourish.
Montblanc’s limited edition Rita Hayworth 46, like the screen legend it pays tribute to, is another head-turner. The stunning special edition numbers just 46 (for the 1946 film Gilda that shot Hayworth to international stardom), dressed in brilliant green lacquer with a mandarin-coloured citrine on the clip referencing the actress’s fiery red hair, and diamond-studded cap top and cap ring. The handcrafted 750 gold nib even features a hole in the shape of a heart, a nod to Hayworth’s moniker as the “goddess of love”.
Italian luxury brand Montegrappa, too, has staked its reputation on producing exquisitely handcrafted limited editions featuring precious metals and festooned with rubies, sapphires and myriad gems in varying colour, shape and size to capture the imagination. Everything from Batman (its hugely popular Batman line) and Mohammad Ali (Ali 70th Birthday series, part of its Icon collection) to author Paulo Coehlo and Greek goddess Aphrodite (Aphrodite series) is fodder for inspiration.
For the Aphrodite special edition, stunning sterling silver overlay depicts the goddess and her lover Adonis in high relief against sleek inky ebonite and mother-of-pearl panels ringed with sparkling rubies. The brand’s latest My Guardian Angel limited edition continues the mythic theme with an even more elaborate design of winged angels bearing sword and shield in low-relief engravings in sterling silver or 18-karat yellow gold, inlaid with mesmerising sky blue enamel and turquoise details.
Montegrappa also recently released a fun new series inspired by DC Comics characters aptly called Heroes & Villains, which feature the likes of Wonder Woman, Superman, The Joker and Green Lantern.
One of A Kind
Typically, limited editions are produced in suitably small quantities because of the intricate skills required and for the exclusivity it bestows. For the truly one of a kind, the bespoke service beckons.
Both Montblanc and Montegrappa put their highly skilled craftsmen at the service of their clients to customise pieces. At Montegrappa, you can opt to have a portrait—or indeed, anything you fancy—engraved on the barrel of a Montegrappa silver or rose gold pen; or go for the ultra bespoke, which lets you pair your choice of engraving in precious metal with Montegrappa’s range of celluloid barrels.
Montblanc, meanwhile, encourages its clients to participate fully in the bespoke process, from concept development to following the creative process via webcam. “For most of these clients, the journey to the final result is the most enjoyable part and they love to personally come to the Montblanc ateliers as often as possible… fully indulging in the creative process,” says Boesch. Some of them, he recounts, have even brought their own supplies—including stones and other challenging material—to incorporate into the design, making it truly and extraordinarily one of a kind.
If the expense and effort involved are not for you, there is always the bespoke nib service. This special service by Montblanc goes the extra mile by analysing individual handwriting to create the precise nib to ensure a smooth, flawless script.
Putting Pen to Tablet
While it’s one thing to eulogise the fountain pen, there is really no getting around the ubiquity of the digital. To that end, it is perhaps fitting that Montblanc, one of the pioneers and best-known names in the industry, leads the way in bridging the digital. The Swiss house offers the best of both worlds for pen lovers who hanker after new technology in a major innovation developed in collaboration with Samsung. Launched in September last year, the Montblanc e-StarWalker and Pix Pen in sleek black resin feature both a traditional ink cartridge and an interchangeable stylus. The e-refill is also available for sale separately and transforms regular StarWalker fountain, fineliner and roller ball pens into a screen writer that is fully compatible with Samsung’s Galaxy Note collection. One pen, two functions; straddling the past and embracing the future.
In an age where words fade into the ether and binaries, the physicality, personality and intimacy of script on paper or screen take on new significance and permanence, however fragile. In this context, the humble pen remains the medium for the message.