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Montblanc 149 75th Anniversary Special Edition
Posted 05 May 2009 - 22:50
I greatly enjoyed the pen but only used it sporadically, feeling that it was not suited to everyday use, which for me was taking notes during lectures and rotating through various hospitals. I know it doesn’t make much sense now, but at the time I was too stressed to explore fountain pens further. Things began to ease up last summer and I started using my trusty Hemisphere again. And I began to wonder… what else is out there?
Anyone using the internet to explore our beloved hobby will quickly come across Montblanc, perhaps the most visible of the modern fountain pen makers. While much has been made of the company’s evolution from dedicated pen company to makers of fine luxury accessories, it’s hard to deny the legacy of their flagship Meisterstuck series. I’m not quite ready to take sides with those who either bemoan or cheer said changes, since my exposure to vintage Montblancs is so limited. So I’m approaching this review as someone relatively new to fountain pens with admittedly little knowledge of the Montblanc of yore.
First Impressions (10/10): After rekindling my interest in fountain pens last summer, I drafted a list of classic fountain pens that I hope to own someday. The Montblanc 149 was on the list, but after discovering an MSRP of $695 (now increased to $760), I figured someday wouldn’t come around anytime soon. Talk about sticker shock…
I mentioned my new interest in fountain pens to a friend, and he told me about a small store in his area that has one display case of “fancy pens,” and he thought they were selling Montblancs at a 20% discount. I was relieved to hear that discounts were possible, but even at 20% off, that’s just too much. Weeks later I went to visit him and decided to stop by this store. They sell mostly crystal and fine china, except for one isolated display case filled with Cross and Montblanc. As I approached the case, I noticed a small notecard taped to the glass that said “all Montblanc 50% off.” This is the part where I temporarily lost all sphincter control and collapsed to the floor in a happiness seizure. Seriously? 50% off? After my postictal haze subsided, I asked the saleswoman if this was true. She explained that Montblanc had canceled their account, and they were trying to get rid of their remaining inventory. I surveyed the contents of the case and noticed the 149 perched high atop the others, halogen lights trained carefully on her thick black barrel and lustrous nib. But something was different… there was something catching the light just above the clip. Is that a real diamond?
I still was not prepared to spend hundreds of dollars on a single pen, so I drooled over them for another hour and then left to give it some thought. I do have some money set aside… When will I ever find a brand new Montblanc 149 for $350? So this is actually the 75th Anniversary Special Edition 149? (Many thanks to pensinasia.com for providing valuable info on this special pen) I returned about one week later, and with trembling hands, forked out $350 for my first big budget fountain pen.
After returning home, I carefully opened the textured black box and removed the actual display box holding the pen and a beautifully written service guide. The service guide contains a series of lovely pictures chronicling the history of the 149, along with instructions for use and maintenance. While some will find the language to be nauseatingly pretentious, I think it reflects their attention to detail and gives the feeling that you are now being included in the long legacy of this pen. Yeah yeah, sometimes it’s fun to be part of the club…
The display box opens by a metal clasp to reveal folds of deep black cloth nestled against a bottle of blue-black ink and your new writing instrument. The inside of the lid says “Mont Blanc” with the famous six-point white star on display. And that’s it. Simple and elegant. All of the attention is focused on the pen. Montblanc deserves credit for designing such a wonderful unboxing experience.
And then you pick up the pen…
Appearance & Design (9/10): Bold. Traditional. Professional. Timeless. Though the pen has come to be regarded as a status symbol to many, the overall appearance is fairly minimal and suggests this pen was designed to write. The cap is adorned with the famed white star, gold clip with the word “Pix” engraved in italic font on the underside of the clip, gold clip ring with the word “GERMANY” on one side of the clip and the serial number on the other side, and three gold bands near the bottom of the cap with the center band engraved with “MONTBLANC – MEISTERSTUCK NO 149”. This 75th anniversary edition has an additional gold band above the clip ring engraved with “75 YEARS OF PASSION AND SOUL”. And yes, there is a small diamond occupying the “O” in PASSION, nicely centered above the clip.
While capped, the pen gently tapers in either direction to its rounded ends, which many describe as cigar-shaped. The end of the barrel contains one final gold ring that separates the barrel from the filler cone. The cap, barrel and section are composed of the oft-ridiculed “precious resin,” which is reportedly brittle and prone to breaking. I find the resin to be warm and smooth, and it seems to resist scratches so far, though I am perhaps extra cautious with this pen given its alleged propensity for cracking. But because it seems a bit more fragile than my other pens, I knocked one point off. One other property of the resin is a slight red glow when exposed to high intensity light, which is apparently a sign of authenticity. All in all, the design is classic and has been largely unchanged for decades.
NOTE: This pen differs from the 75th Anniversary LIMITED edition, which was made in much smaller quantities and uses rose gold rather than yellow gold.
Three half-turns later…
Nib (10/10): Follow the sleek black lines of the barrel up past the section and the pen suddenly blooms into a gorgeous three-tone 18K 750 gold medium nib with engraved platinum inlay. This 75th anniversary edition has an extra ring of platinum centered below the breather hole, engraved with “75 YEARS MEISTERSTUCK”. The nib is large, and perfectly matches the size of this oversized pen. The pictures speak for themselves…
Weight & Dimensions (10/10):
Length capped: 5 11/16 inches
Length posted: 6.5 inches
Length unposted: 5 1/8 inches
Section diameter: 0.5 inches
This pen certainly qualifies as oversized. For the uninitiated, it might seem large and imposing. In fact, my primary concern when purchasing this pen (other than cost) was its girth. Now after using it for about nine months, I find everything else to be uncomfortably small. I never thought I would describe this pen as ergonomic, but it is quite comfortable. Obviously this is user-dependent, so anyone contemplating a 149 should give it a test drive first. Some hands will inevitably be too small for this pen, but for those of us with big fat hands, this pen is a dream.
Regarding weight, I don’t have anything on hand to measure it. But I will say that it is remarkably light given its overall size. It is heavy enough to provide the feeling of solid construction, yet light enough to be nimble in the hand. I should qualify all of this by mentioning that I do not post the cap while writing, as I find this throws off the balance of the pen and makes it extremely top-heavy.
From L to R: Montblanc 149, Pelikan M805, Namiki VP, Lamy Safari, Waterman Phileas
Filling System (9/10): Ahhh, the joys of piston fillers. This pen drinks ink by the gallons, available to view through a row of transparent panels just below the threads. Montblanc found a rather clever way of including an ink window without disrupting the overall aesthetic of the pen. I wish I could be more specific regarding the actual ink capacity (“gallons” might be a slight exaggeration), but anyone accustomed to cartridges will notice an immediate difference. I deducted one point here because I’ve noticed that I have to turn the filler cone a little bit before it engages the piston mechanism, and then it seems to be less smooth compared to my Pelikan M805.
I was so nervous to ink this pen for the first time… Am I doing this right? Did it take? I think it says something about the ease of piston fillers that a complete piston newbie got it right on the first try.
Performance (9/10): Prior to using this pen, my only prior fountain pen experience was the hard steel nib of my Hemisphere, which deserves credit for being a great starter pen and enjoyable daily writer. But talk about apples and oranges… The 149 glides across paper effortlessly without being too slick while leaving behind a true medium line. It’s smoother than my Pelikan M805, but not quite as smooth as my Visconti Opera Club. And the flow is just right. It never skips or fails to start. Nor is it overly wet. Perfectly balanced with flow and touch. The threads above the section are quite discreet and do not interfere with writing in the least. And as I mentioned earlier, I am amazed that a pen this large can be so nimble while writing. This pen makes writing feel as natural as breathing.
I started off using MB black ink, which I hated tremendously for being far too gray and washed out. So I switched to MB racing green, a beautiful, dark olive green color that suits this pen perfectly and makes the nib sing. I’m sure there are so many other inks that would be great, but I have yet to move on from racing green. I’ve included a writing sample below…
Cost & Value (10/10): One of the reasons I adore this pen so much, besides its exemplary performance, is the manner in which I acquired it. It was total luck, and without such a deep discount, I would never have spent the money on this pen. So for me the value is priceless and easily warrants 10 out of 10. At full retail price (currently $760), I’d probably give it a 6 or 7, as I have since discovered many other brands that offer equally superb pens at more reasonable prices. Certainly there is some value in the history of this pen and the aura of exclusivity that Montblanc has cultivated around this pen, but everyone will put their own price on those intangibles.
Though I have not had any need for MB customer service at this point, I am led to believe that they usually provide prompt and often generous support for their products. So you might take that into consideration when deciding whether to buy.
Conclusions (57/60): A true writer’s pen. Built for high performance and decades (centuries?) of use. Perfectly suited for special occasions or daily writing. It won’t be right for everyone, but everyone should give it a try at least once. Considering its early role in my fledgling collection, and the great deal that accompanied it, I will treasure this pen for the rest of my life.
I have greatly enjoyed reliving my first FP purchase while writing this review. Thanks for reading! Hopefully I can provide more reviews as time allows...
Posted 05 May 2009 - 23:06
Great looking pen.
Posted 05 May 2009 - 23:07
I had to read this twice ...your pleasure is very infectious and very understandable.
Posted 05 May 2009 - 23:09
Posted 06 May 2009 - 00:41
Posted 06 May 2009 - 00:53
Montblanc 145, F nib
Faber Castell E-Motion in Pearwood, F nib
Montblanc 149, F nib
Visconti Divina Proporzione 1618, S nib
Montblanc Cool Blue Starwalker, EF nib
Montblanc Solitaire Silver Barley BP
Montblanc Rouge et Noir Coral, M nib
Posted 06 May 2009 - 01:46
A man who symbolizes discipline.
English is not my first language, so please correct my mistakes, if you wish.
Posted 06 May 2009 - 03:54
Well Joey, it's going to be hard to top this one, but gathering from the way you write I don't think that'll be a problem. For any review, let alone your first, it's really quite remarkable about what you've written, a fitting tribute to the venerable 149. Only $350? About a month back, I'd heard about some Montblanc sales going on. There was a MB store in Texas that had 30% off and would take Internet orders. Remembering the lofty MSRP, I almost considered it... then passed. How I wonder if there were many stores that canceled their MB accounts and put their wares up for 50% off! Given the continued economic turmoil, perhaps it may be a good idea to keep an eye peeled...
Anyway, it looks like you've secured yourself an amazing pen, one that will no doubt satisfy you for years to come. Congratulations!
(And forgive me for not saying it sooner--superb photography!)
Edited by MYU, 06 May 2009 - 03:57.
Posted 06 May 2009 - 05:59
I sense a 149 in my future...
Posted 06 May 2009 - 08:10
Posted 06 May 2009 - 11:02
Posted 06 May 2009 - 13:13
That's going to be a hard act to follow.
Posted 06 May 2009 - 13:43
Pens Actively In Use
MB 149-f; MB Solitaire SS (FP-ef,BP,MP)
MB (LE) G.B.Shaw (FP-m,BP,MP); MB LeGrand (RB,BP,MP)
Parker Duofold Presidential Esparto sol.SS (FP-f, BP)
Parker Duofold PS SS (FP-f, RB)
Parker Doufold Marbled Green (FP-f,BP,MP)
Parker Duofold Marbled Gray (FP-xf)
S.T. Dupont Orpheo XL Platinum Diamond Head (FP-m)
S.T. Dupont Orpheo XL Platinum/ChinLacquer Black (FP-f)
Posted 06 May 2009 - 15:58
Writing the review allowed me to relive all the initial excitement surrounding my first FP purchase. Thanks for reliving it with me.
Posted 07 May 2009 - 04:53
This is the very pen that I used to demonstrate the filling of a piston fountain pen on a video last year (terrible sound on this one, sorry).
I also purchased mine from a jewelry store -- which was going out of business -- back in 2000 I believe. I remember I got a good deal also, but I don't recall the actual price now. Mine came with a broad nib, which I had made into a stub. It's a lovely pen. Enjoy!!!!
Posted 07 May 2009 - 05:30
I love finding pens in strange places. I actually snatched up a black resin Starwalker with a medium nib during the same purchase. And then a few months later, I stumbled across an old style Omas Paragon in a Macy's department store, of all places. Brand new, never inked, 75% off. Maybe I've got some weird spidey sense for pens...
I too have considered sending my 149 off to be stubbed. With my first FP, the Hemisphere, I used way too much pressure out of ignorance, and over time, it essentially became a stub nib. I really enjoy the line variation. Is it possible to reverse a stub nib if you decide you don't enjoy it?
Posted 07 May 2009 - 06:24
I was drooling at envy of the price you got!!! Heck, I paid about that price for a non SE!
Posted 07 May 2009 - 06:37
That might be quite difficult, unless you have a broad stub and enough tipping material left in order to reform a round tip. More than likely it would require the addition of tipping material, unless perhaps you went for an xx-fine nib.