I've owned this pen for quite a while (since my wife gave it to me about 7 years ago) and I hadn't thought about it for some time. However, a thread here got me thinking about it recently, so I thought I'd drag it out for a review.
As I pulled it out of my pen box I remembered why I don't use it much. The chain mail, while being incredibly awesome and a feat of engineering, is very hard to clean.
David Shafer already wrote an excellent review of this pen, but I thought I'd add my perspective and a few pictures, just for fun. One big difference between his pen and my pen is the box my pen came in was comparatively lame. My pen also doesn't seem to be quite as well finished as his. That said, there's nothing in his review that I disagree with.
Now down to rhodium tacks:
- Fit & Finish: 8/10 Again, this pen is a feat of engineering. The chain mail is awesome. It does not move around at all, which is just shocking. All the threads are extremely well machined and feels very tight and substantial. There are gaskets to slow any parts that screw together and keep them in place. The gaps on the pen all seem tight and even. However, not to nitpick or anything, but the top of the cap has a rough edge between the end-cap and the "CARAN d'ACHE" ring (see pictures). Somewhat disappointing. 2 point demerit!
- Style: 6/10 This pen is all about style. That's clearly what you're paying for. It is pretty jaw-dropping. It's sort of the opposite of the Platinum 3776 I reviewed recently where it was all about the nib. Here, it's all about the chain mail. This thing is a work of art. And it's really heavy. One of the most amazing aspects to the design is how it manages to be subtle and elegant. All the appointments are sleek and sophisticated. It's really a collector's item.
One surprise for me was how well the lil' nib fits in with the design of the pen. I think this nib may be a #4, but since the section is so small, it blends in well. The cap is also small, and the ratios of the pen overall are unusual. However (as you'll see in the comps), overall it ends up being pretty average in length.
Ok.. with all of that out of the way... here's the thing; it has this huge step down from the chain mail encrusted barrel to the section. And the barrel is heavy.... like, really heavy. I actually have a hard time finding a comfortable way to hold it. I have large hands, and I don't quite feel like I can crowd all the necessary digits on to that little, slippery section. It's such a dichotomy. Function follows form here. Another thing is, as I mentioned before, the chain mail basically cannot be cleaned. I saw this pen once where someone had gotten a little bit of cooking grease on it (don't ask), and let me tell you, that was it. So, for me, it could never be a daily carry for these two reasons. I can't hold it and I'd have to carry borax around with me and wash my hands every time I signed a receipt.
- C/C Design / Filling: 6/10 it's a standard international C/C. This one is threaded. I think a non-threaded one would also fit fine. Yawn. This definitely has an effect on the sense of quality. Here you open up this giant, heavy chain mail pen, and, oh look... a C/C. Wonderful. Well, at least I can use a syringe.
- Nib: 8/10 Smoothest nib I have. Like glass. It's really quite deceptive; it's as if you're not writing. It's a surprisingly firm nib. The embossed pattern is really classic and nice. Definitely a European medium. The feed keeps up very well too. Personally, I like something with a bit more bounce to it... this nib is surprisingly serious and business-like. It's not so much a conspirator as it is a machine. It reminds me most of a firm Delta nib I think. Even my Sailor HB is more playful and gives a bit of feedback. If that nib is like butter, this one is like ice. Cold and hard. Funny because I assume it's just another Bock, like on the Omas pictured here, but it couldn't be more different.
- Price: 5/10 How do you rate this? It's a work of art and a technological marvel. It's so incredible that they are able to make teeny chain mail and get all the links to lay just so. It's great in a display case. It also made a LOVELY gift and it's very special. I know you know where I'm going with this. Totally not worth the money in fountain pen terms.
Here's the junky threaded converter that doesn't seem to scream "luxury pen:
Here's a look at the finish problem I mentioned before. Again, it is nit-picking, but that's the point:
The nib: small but pretty:
My lackluster case. I don't know what's going on there... but anyway...
Finally, some comparisons. Pilot Limited Edition Custom Heritage 91 (read Custom 74 with flat ends), my Sailor 1911 Pro Emperor and my Omas Milord Cruise:
Man, look at the teeny section:
Couple of writing samples. Don't make fun, it's not nice.
Oh, and HOW WELL did I match the ink color to the pen?!
Sadly, I would consider this mostly a display-case pen. I would never carry it. There are those who would say, "it's not worth owning a pen if you're not going to use it, and therefore, you should use it". The problem is, I can imagine it getting stained, and not being able to get it clean, and being upset about it. Also, there's the flaw of the writing position. I just can't find a way to hold it really comfortably. If you're thinking about buying one to use, and the cleaning and section diameter don't deter you, then you better be someone who likes a heavy pen. Because this is a heavy pen. That particular aspect doesn't bother me so much. Or perhaps the C/C will annoy you; I don't mind it, except relative to the price range.
However, critical people, such as myself, tend to have a problem 'seeing the forrest for the trees'. This pen is absolutely astounding in terms of innovation and design. Any pen collector would be wise to consider purchasing one. The nib also must be pretty carefully customized after being purchased from Bock, and, though the nib is hardly the 'point' here, it is pretty amazingly smooth, right out of the box. I plan to move it from my pen box to a display case, and I think it will be right at home with other collectables.