My guiding philosophy on purchasing just about anything follows a pattern which involves carefully considering the need (will it be useful? is there a practical need for it?), research thoroughly, acquire slowly, buy the very best I can afford and the thing that which, when I see it, hits me squarely in the chest. This leads to acquiring quality things, which last a lifetime. The downside to being wired this way, is that something as simple as choosing a pen, “my pen”, can become quite a search.
Such has been the search over the last several years to find “my pen”, the pen which, above all others resonates with me both aesthetically and practically, with which I feel a connection, that I want to use on a daily basis for the rest of my life and hand down to one of my sons (or until I lose it at the airport next month). For most people, this level of thought over something you can pick up at the supermarket for a few cents and which will do literally the same job, never enters the equation (and fairly so). But for those of us who are so driven, a pen isn’t a pen, just as a bag isn’t a bag or suit isn’t a suit. It’s a form of self expression, often driven by a strong internal aestheticism, which doesn’t exist for the ego or status, but from a more deep-seated love of form, proportion, balance and, in many cases, quality.
A year or two ago I’d been researching pen makers, hoping to find a privately held, maybe family owned maker in Europe who made something special, but I wasn’t able to come even close to finding someone who fit that bill. In most other arena’s I’ve been fortunate enough to find makers which tick all the right boxes when it comes to suiting, shoes, leathergoods and even unique homewares i.e. Lorenzi Milano (formerly Cedes Milano), but not so for pen makers, which surprises me, as I don’t see how making a pen is any harder than leather goods or suits, but perhaps I’m missing something.
As a result I pretty much put the search on hold, thinking something or someone might surface in the years ahead, maybe during a conversation with a friend or maker somewhere else who happened to know of someone, and then I accidentally found my pen.
My reason for not wanting to choose a major brand for a pen is that they’re typically more talk and b/s than quality i.e. style over substance, relying on a vacuous public to eat up celebrity endorsements, made up of grossly over-engineered images and seemingly inspiring, though inevitably hollow quotes from people with such little sense of their own identity that they need to be paid through the nose to say how much they love wearing or using *insert generic luxury brand here* which they’d have never have worn otherwise. Secondly, they’re almost all (with the exception or Hermes and one or two others) share-held conglomerates who give precisely zero fucks about the product itself and exist exclusively to make a profit. I’d much rather endorse individuals with a connection to and passion for the product they make.
If I was going to buy a pen from a major brand, it was going to be Montblanc. Despite the inevitable cringe-worthy Hugh Jackman celebrity endorsements and cliche marketing drivel, few would argue that they make a quality product which stands and has stood the test of time. If there’s a single classic pen known the world over, it’s Montblanc’s Meisterstuck. Well made, thoughtful design, balanced proportions and, when looked after properly, will last a lifetime. That said, the heft and thickness of the classic Meisterstuck has always felt a bit too much for me. I prefer a slimmer, lighter pen, but I’ll get to that later.
The second part of this equation is that my favourite book of all time is Antoine de Saint Exupery’s “The Little Prince” it’s a story which is simple yet greatly moving and insightful in conveying what matters most in life, while displaying many of our collectively unique flaws, insecurities and virtues. Most would be familiar with a few of the books more famous quotes – “It is only with the heart that once can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye” and “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy, who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys and I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you I am nothing more than a fox, just like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world.” Feels. My children will be raised on this book and its many subtly important messages.
Last year, Montblanc, in collaboration with the estate of Antione de Saint Exupery, created a series of the Little Prince pens and the second I saw the range I knew I’d found my pen. Part of the reason I’d struggled to find a pen was that none of the typical pen colours appeal to me. Black is too austere for me, silver too light and gold too flashy. My love of anything navy wasn’t really catered for. Fortunately, the Little Prince range is centred around a beautifully rich navy, with silver and gold hardware and engraving, which is perfectly balanced visually.
I’d only wanted to consider a fountain pen, due to the beautiful way in which they write, timeless design, as well as the fact that each nib, over time, conforms to its owners writing style, leaving a unique signature of that pen being used by that individual.
The pens come in a few different styles and materials. The “Classique” should be avoided. It is, in luxury marketing speak, made from “precious resin”. When the girl in store told me this (holding the pen carefully in white cotton gloves, because luxury) I said, “right… isn’t that just a fancy word for plastic?” and she laughed politely and broke eye contact. Google was more helpful…. It’s plastic. So, thanks, but I’ll pass on spending a grand for shiny plastic that cost you 8 cents.
I chose the Meisterstuck Solitaire Doue Classique, which is slightly smaller, lighter and slimmer than the full sized Meisterstuck and, to my eye, is the perfect balance of proportions and weight. It’s also better made than their entry level options, with the main barrel being lacquer finished.
In short, it’s the end of a search which has been casually going on in the background for a number of years and, the end result is a pen which I feel a real connection with and look forward to writing with every day. It writes beautifully, even though it’s still taking some time to get used to (fountain pens write differently to rollerballs and ball-points). A lot of people use items like this sparingly, only bringing them out for special occasions or to impress people, but this will be my every day pen. It’ll get scratched and dropped, but it will be real and get a lifetime of use and appreciation. Things like this should be used and enjoyed, or else what’s the point of acquiring them in the first place?