Undoubtedly, Montblanc fountain pens are a status symbol around the world. A personal encounter with Montblanc sparked my interest in classic men’s clothing and accessories and, as such, their vintage fountain pens from the 50’s will always have a special place in my collection.
How I Came In Touch With Montblanc Fountain Pens
As a teenager, I bought my first quality fountain pen, which had an 18k gold nib.
Not knowing the special technique that one must employ to break in and write well with a nib, I was not impressed by the fountain pen’s performance and sold it on eBay. Interestingly, I received twice as much as I paid for it, and I decided that online auctions were a much easier way of making money than depositing newspapers around the neighborhood. Even with so little knowledge, I began buying and selling fountain pens with a good degree of success. Over the years, I got in touch with fellow collectors from around the world, and at one point, I had amassed a collection of 200 fountain pens, most of which were from Montblanc. Although most of their pens were not as exciting, in my opinion, as the Italian pendants from OMAS, Visconti or the American Wahl Eversharp or Parker, I always liked the sturdy telescope twist mechanism of the Montblancs, which was, in fact, made of solid brass. Early in the 20th century, fountain pen shafts were crafted of hard rubber, and later, celluloid, and the nibs were made of gold. The advantage of a gold nib is the consistency of performance over time. Once a properly crafted gold nib is ‘written in’ by its owner, it should perform with the same precision for decades.
Unlike today, vintage nibs from the 1930’s to the 1950’s often had the most magnificent flexibility. This term is not limited to the softness of the nib, but much rather it makes anyone’s handwriting look much more sophisticated and unique. For more information on the definition of a flexible nib, please watch this short video (continued on next page):
Most people think that Mont Blanc is a French company, but it is, in fact, German! Montblanc (and not Mont Blanc) was founded in 1908 by Claus-Johannes Voss, Alfred Nehemias, and August Eberstein. Two years prior, Mr. Eberstein and Mr. Nehemias learned about new fountain pens with ink tanks during a trip to the US and Great Britain. At the time, these writing instruments were not quite market ready yet, and so August Eberstein founded the Simplizissimus-Füllhalter (Simplicism Fountain Pen) company in Berlin. In 1907, the company was renamed to Simplo Filler Pen Co.GmbH and relocated to Hamburg the next year. At that time, Mr. Max Koch joined the other three owners.
Rouge et Noir
Initially, they produced private label fountain pens exclusively for other companies before they introduced their first proprietary hard rubber fountain pen named the Rouge et Noir. It had a black shaft and a red cap, hence the name. Oddly enough, it was an exact replica of the fountain pen by the American manufacturer, Moore.
In 1910, the first Montblanc pen was introduced to the public. However, at that point in time, it did not have the world famous white Montlanc star yet, but the cap tip was simply all white. Since it was impossible the acquire a trademark for a plain white cap tip, the Montblanc star was designed in 1914. Although it is referred to as a “star,” it was meant to symbolize the snow covered tip of Europe’s highest mountain. In the same year, the company was again renamed to Simplo Füllfedergesellschaft.
Meisterstück & Richemont
In the following years, Montblanc designed a piston filler with a telescope mechanism and, beginning in 1924, the flagship fountain pens were advertised as the Meisterstück (masterpiece). While these fountain pens did not have a different design as compared to their other models, they were of high quality, and soon people associated the Meisterstück branding with Montblanc. Beginning in 1930, all Meisterstück nibs were engraved with 4810, which was the official height of the Mont Blanc mountain in meters. Finally, in 1934, the company was yet again renamed to Montblanc-Simple GmbH, and remains so to the present, although it was acquired by Dunhill in 1977, and is now part of the Richemont Luxury Group.
Montblanc Meisterstück Series
The Meisterstück, likely Montblanc’s most popular pen, was introduced in 1952. It suceeded the Meisterstück 139 and had a much more streamlined shape. Although you may read, on occasion, that the Meisterstück 149 is produced in the same way since its introduction, there have been a number of modifications. Originally, it was made of a celluloid shaft, a brass telescope piston mechanism, and a gold nib. Today, it is made of resin and a plastic mechanism, but still with a gold nib. Moreover, its former shape and mass was shorter, slimmer, and heavier than current models.
As a side note, the number 149 was not chosen randomly. ‘1’ indicated that it was a Meisterstück, whereas 2 and 3 represented models of lower quality. The ‘4’ stood for the telescope piston mechanism and ‘9’ for the size of the nib (with 1 being the smallest). People with smaller hands, for example, would be better suited to the Montblanc Meisterstück 142 or 144. The 146 was a medium sized pen, and if you wanted to spend a little less, you might buy a 234.
Despite the fact that the Meisterstück 149 has deteriorated in quality over time, it is still an iconic pen that has been used by many ranging from Konrad Adenauer to Nelson Mandela, from John F. Kennedy, to the Pope.
Today, Montblanc is not just a manufacturer of fountain pens, but much rather a lifestyle brand. They produce leather goods, watches, jewelry, fragrances, and eyewear, among other things. In business settings, you would be hard pressed to carry a more timeless and gentlemanly accessory than a fine, white-starred Montblanc pen. Overall, I prefer their fountain pens from the 1950’s because I think these pens represented the peak of quality at Montblanc, although arguably, they have a number of beautifully designed fountain pens today. For example, I own several Meisterstück 149 pens from various decades, but nothing compares to the 1950’s Meisterstück nib and overall feel. Unfortunately, Montblanc does not produce that kind of pen anymore, although the mythos lives on.