Montblanc fountain pens don’t get a lot of love in the online stationery community. Traditional and conservative designs combined with expensive pen prices and a marketing program that targets buyers of luxury pens and goods can alienate fountain pen enthusiasts from even trying their pens and inks.
Are Montblanc pens just expensive accoutrements or do they justify their price by being the best writing pens?
I currently own two Montblanc fountain pens - a Classique (No. 145) and a Le Grande (No. 146). The design of each pen is classic and timeless Montblanc - each in the standard black with gold trim. Nothing too fancy, but they have a certain elegance, in the same way that a Rolex or Omega watch or a Cadillac looks like a quality piece. The design is old-school, reflecting Montblanc’s 100+ year history, and perhaps a little stuffy, but the kind of fountain pen that you can imagine using to sign large contracts, or perhaps witness politicians using to pass laws.
Both of my Montblanc pens are fantastic writers - and that is a large part of the purpose of a luxury pen. They lay down smooth, wet lines of ink, and needed no adjustment or tuning of the nibs directly from the factory. The weight and balance are very good, and Montblanc fountain pens come in a variety of sizes for every hand.
Both of the Montblanc fountain pens that I own are made from Montblanc’s famous black precious resin and feature the trademarked 6 pointed white star on the cap - a perfect place to identify your pen as a Montblanc, as it is visible even if carried in a shirt pocket. The resin is easy to maintain with a soft cloth and wears well. If you shine a light through Montblanc resin, it shows with a translucent red hue - one of the key ways that you can identify official Montblanc pens. The white star represents the snow-capped peak of Montblanc - the mountain the company is named after.
Both of my pens are trimmed in gold. The clip ring on newer pens is engraved with a serial number, though the clip is unmarked. The cap band is made up of three parts - with two trim rings and the centre cap band stamped with the brand, Montblanc, and the term MeisterStuck (translated from German as Masterpiece).
The 146, the larger of the two, is a piston filler and contains a transparent ink window. A piston filler contains all of the workings of the ink mechanism within the pen. The more slender 145 is a cartridge/converter filled pen.
Montblanc makes nibs from 14 karat gold, and both of these pens have a two-tone configuration with a rhodium-coated inlay. The smaller 145 in trimmed standard in gold while the larger146 is trimmed in a rose gold. Both nibs are marked 4810 - the height in meters of Montblanc and the trademarked 6 pointed star containing the letter M for Montblanc. The nibs are also marked 14K - Montblanc - 585 (which is a classification of gold indicating how many parts pure gold is in this metal), as well as having some decoratively swirls.
My 145 is a fine tip - which is excellent for all round use, particularly on non-fountain pen friendly-paper (as is found in most offices and workplaces). The 146 is a medium tip - which is very wet and works well on better quality papers or for those with larger handwriting. It is a fantastic signature pen and feels right being pulled out of a pocket to sign important documents!
As mentioned above, but nibs are incredibly smooth writers and lay down wet lines of ink. Such wet lines may be a challenge for lefties without a fast drying ink. While I usually tune my nibs, I haven’t needed to touch either of these pens. Yes, they are that good right from the factory!
The 146, being the larger of the two (still smaller than Montblanc flagship 149 monster pen) is a piston filler and contains a clear ink window. The more slender 145 is a cartridge/converter filled pen. Balance is good on both, even posted, and the length is similar. In my meaty paws, both feel good, but I have a slight personal preference for the thicker 146.
Detailed dimensions and weights are given in the table below:
But the real question is how do they write? A simple answer is: beautifully! Both of my Montblanc’s are wet writers, with no skipping or flow issues whatsoever. They start writing immediately, even after having been unused for months at a time and are very predictable writers.
As a German manufacturer, the nibs sizes are typical of European nib manufacturer - thicker than more common Asian pen width designations in the finer categories.
Cost is the downside of Montblanc. They are produced and marketed as a luxury pen, and their cost does reflect that market segment. The smaller 145 retails for $670 Canadian and the larger 146 is a substantial $815 Canadian. Comparatively, this is in a similar price range to some Pelikan fountain pens or approaching the beautiful Visconti territory.
However, Montblanc pens are often available on the used market, which is where I purchased both of mine. Montblanc is positioned as a luxury brand and is marketed to a particular target buyer - not necessarily fountain pen users. Both of the pens I purchased were unwanted gifts. A little time searching your local Craigslist and some patience can pay dividends to obtain a Montblanc fountain pen at a reasonable price. I purchased my 145 for just $225 Canadian, brand new in box, and my 146 for $275 Canadian, inked once but without a box.
I cannot recommend online purchases for used Montblanc fountain pens unless they come from a reputable source. eBay has many fake Montblanc’s listed and the quality and fit are questionable at best. Purchase locally where possible - you can examine the pen in person.
Montblanc does make fantastic fountain pens, which are beautiful and elegant and write very well. Their conservative designs are not for everyone, but well worth the investment, particularly if you can obtain a cost-effective, authentic used pen. I do recommend Montblanc fountain pens, even given the luxury price points.