The Pelikan brown tortoise is a truly iconic fountain pen. The venerable German manufacturer has played its part in maintaining the mystique by limiting availability all the way back to the 1930ís. Noting the absurd prices commanded for 1950ís 400-series brown tortoises and having had bad experiences with vintage Pelikans subjected to regular use, I jumped at the chance to own this new rendition of an all-time classic.
Appearance and finish
The brown tortoise is the epitome of classic fountain pen styling; appearance-wise itís hard to believe that it isnít a vintage pen after all. The cap, blind cap and grip section are deep brown and fashioned from acrylic, while the striped barrel section (Ďbindeí) is made from cellulose acetate. The gold-plated trim parts on the cap are perfectly finished and applied. Iíve found the plating on the modern Pelikans much more hard-wearing than the vintage models too (maybe itís thicker?). Unlike the regular M400s, this model does without the metal rings on the grip section and blind cap, giving it a cleaner look thatís closer to the vintage 400.
Design and size
The M4xx series pens are smallish (125mm/4.91 inches capped) and benefit from being posted (at 148mm/5.81 inches) in larger hands. Iíve found that modern Pelikans are happy to be posted, with no signs of scratching or undue tension on the cap. Itís light in the hand at just over 14 grams and well-balanced, comfortable even after several hours use. The cap screws-on in three quarters of a turn with a smooth and secure action.
Nib design and performance
The nib is modern Pelikan at its finest. Stiffish, with a hint of flex. It strikes a perfect balance between control and character. The ink flow is smooth, wet and unerring. Pelikans work well with less saturated inks, Diamine being my ink of choice. I favour a fine Pelikan nib, which is not terribly fine at about 0.7-0.8mm. This nib is retro-styled in single-tone 14-carat solid gold, which really adds to the vintage looks. Itís otherwise identical to the typical two-tone nib more usually found on the M400 series pens. While some have reported that the tip is slightly Ďplumperí than normal, it feels identical to other modern Pelikan nibs on paper. The nib unit is interchangeable, unscrewing easily from the barrel with a light twist. Vintage 140 and 400 nib units look great in the M415 and work well.
Pelikanís legendary piston-filling mechanism is second to none. Itís easy to use, reliable and holds a whopping 1.8ml of ink. Thatís about double the capacity of a typical cartridge or converter.
I bought this pen from Singapore-based FPN regular Ďprinthardcopyí, who is a genuine Pelikan aficionado and a great person to deal with. While the M415 brown tortoise is more expensive than a regular M400, itís also a limited edition. Just how limited is anybodyís guess, but prices can be expected to appreciate as unscrupulous/resourceful dealers snap up all the stock and charge a premium.
Pelikan makes fantastic fountain pens and the brown tortoise is arguably the most timeless classic of them all. If you want a tortoise without the vintage pen headaches then this canny reissue is surely the best way to get your hands on one. If on the other hand youíre not swayed by the styling, functionally identical pens (such as the regular M400) can be had for much less dosh.
Specifications (courtesy of nibs.com)
Weight: 14.4 grams
Closed length: 125mm/4.91 inches
Posted length: 148mm/5.81 inches
Barrel length: 102mm/4 inches
Barrel width: 11.2mm/0.44 inches
Section diameter: 9.1mm/0.36 inches
Ink capacity: 1.8ml
Edited by 1000km, 19 June 2009 - 12:56.