Fountain pens are back in a big way, challenging dèclassè ball-points in the way that mechanical watches have regained the upper strata over quartz. Those who have forsaken roller balls for the bottle-filler or the cartridge know that nothing can match the flourish a fountain pen as a statement of one’s approach to life. It says that you have enough time on your hands to let the ink dry. There’s a certain joy unique to fountain pen usage: that necessary pause when waving a cheque or credit card slip so as not to allow your signature to smear.
A fountain pen is as personal as a toothbrush, and it won’t take kindly to being used by anyone other than the owner; the nib becomes ‘accustomed’ to the owner’s pressure and technique. Anyway, if you loan a fine pen to someone, the odds are…you won’t get it back.
Here are 10 to cherish:
CARAN D’ACHE – ECRIDOR RETRO (£92.50)
Swiss luxury brand Caran d’Ache looked to its past with the Ecridor Retro, delivering an exact replica of a pen launched in the early 1950s. It even comes in a period tin. Its slim, hexagonal body suits all hand sizes and both genders, and few would believe that the pen was designed around the same time as the Morris Minor.
CARTIER – LOUIS CARTIER DANDY FOUNTAIN PEN (£495)
As with fans of Hermes and Chanel, Cartier’s clients prefer to see their favourite name on everything. So, if you wear the watch, then you simply must write with a Cartier pen. The Louis Cartier Dandy Fountain Pen is a limited edition model – 1847 pieces is a tribute to the year in which the House of Cartier was founded – made from solid Mozambique ebony, trimmed in platinum and topped with the company’s trademark cabochon gem.
CROSS – ATX SPIRIT (£37.50)
Although best- known for classic pens produced over the past 150 year, the Cross company also looks to the future. Its new ATX collection features designs which ooze modernity while embodying traditional Cross values: they’re beautiful to look at, wonderful to hold, and write like a dream. The ATX Spirit is available in three finishes – Basalt Black, Matt Chrome and Pure Chrome while the ATZ Colour Spirit for another £5 adds Zirconium, Red Copper and Azurite Blue coloured barrels.
ALFRED DUNHILL – GEMLINE FOUNTAIN PEN (£185)
Dunhill could serve as a synonym for ‘Britishness’, for ‘refinement’ or for ‘taste’. While certain of the pens in its catalogue of fine accessories blend tradition and innovation – Dunhill was among the first to use carbon fibre – the ultra-slim Gemline evokes the classicism of the ancient world. Understated yet elegant, the Gemline looks right on both the desk or the dinner table.
MONTBLANC – MEISTERSTUCK (from £185)
No single pen can match the Montblanc Meisterstuck (German for ‘Masterpiece’) for iconic status. That snow-capped tip peering from a pocket – it marked the 1980s and survived beyond the yuppie era to stand alongside the Rolex Oyster and the Coca-Cola bottle. Experiment with variants if you must, but you simply can’t beat the definitive Meisterstuck in black. The size you choose is down to your hand’s dimensions.
MONTEGRAPPA – EXTRA (£415)
Among the oldest and most revered of the Italian houses, Montegrappa made the pens used by Ernest Hemingway and John Dos Passos for their W.W.I correspondence. The firm, renowned for its expertise with celluloid, that most beautiful of pen body materials, offers a vast range and collectors love the brand’s limited editions. But the definitive model has to be the Extra, first seen in 1938 and available today in blue, parchment, red or yellow celluloid, with sterling silver details.
PILOT/NAMIKI – CAPLESS (£109)
A respected Japanese brand adored for their lacquered pens made in the 1920s, Pilot/Namiki greeted the 21st Century with one of the most sensible fountain pens yet devised. Looking to the easy functionality of ball-point pens, Pilot created a fountain pen with a completely retractable nib. This is the choice of travellers in the know: now you can forget all about ink-stained hands when you fill out your landing card.
OMAS – 360 HIGH TECH (£265)
Another cherished Italian brand, Omas is known for the 12-faceted body of the Paragon, and the way it sits between the fingers. While its comfort cannot be contested, nothing quite matches the latest shape Omas has developed: the radical 360 with its triangular barrel, perfectly formed to match the grip of the writing hand.
PARKER – SONNET (£42.40)
One of the world’s great pen names, Parker was established over a century ago, became the pen of choice for Puccini, when composing La Boheme, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, for the Sherlock Holmes mysteries. Although the range is famous for its art deco period Duo-Fold and the once-radical Parker 51, it’s possible to have that world-famous arrow-shaped clip peering from your pocket with the handsome Sonnet, in stainless steel with gold trim.
WATERMAN – HEMISPHERE (£32.95)
Waterman is credited with many as the inventor of the modern fountain pen, with its own reserve of ink. The company has always managed to deliver pens which perform as if they’re ‘cost no object’ designs, yet they represent exceptional value. Try the company’s classic, the Hemisphere, which looks great in steel, or – for £10 more – metallic green or blue.
(The Independent, 2003)