Is it Fair to Compare?
Is it fair to compare the Bexley Americana with the Omas Milord? I thought it was fair when the pens were new to me, but I have reversed my opinion. The pens are in different classes of price, filling system, and perhaps even of intended buyer. Yet I will dare to compare them anyway. I wrote the comparative reviews below in the excitement of a new purchase, and I believe that the character of each pen will illuminate qualities of the other. Your challenge is to guess which pen I favored at first and which I favored in the end. You might be surprised! Let’s begin.
First Impressions – Americana, 10/10; Milord, 10/10.
The Omas Milord (new style, black) arrived at my door first. This piston-filler was offered for sale pre-loved at a great price. No one showed interest, and I couldn’t pass it up. The Milord came in a b i g box with a faux-leather interior. Nice, but I’m not into excessive packaging. Uncapping it, I was impressed! I am partial to black and silver as a color combination, and this pen had it! The faceted body was sleek, smooth, the facets lined up from filler knob to barrel to cap; the feed was ebonite with clear evidence of being cut by hand, and the nib - - wow. That big, beautiful, crisply-stamped and neatly-decorated 18k nib. And it was soft! I liked the pen immediately for its bold size and quality. However, I was unprepared for the thickness of the section. Hmmm ... I wasn’t sure I could get used to a pen that thick. But there will be plenty time for learning and adaptation.
The Bexley Americana in Rio Grande Red has a story behind it. I have always purchased pens on the basis of functional utility, and they tended to be black. I really wanted to satisfy an inner desire for a pretty red pen saturated with color, and the Bexley Americana was a front-runner. As I hunted prior to the Raleigh Pen Show, others became contenders. The Bexley Submariner SE in Cherry Haze, sold exclusively by Richard Binder, seemed to offer a smaller size pen with the full-size nib. Likewise, the Bexley Simplicity II in Cherry Haze was priced still lower, having a steel nib. Yet the real contender to the Americana was the Taccia Momenta in Merlot Swirl. I nearly bought one before the show, but waited until the Raleigh show in order to see all the pens in person and select one. The Simplicity II was too small. Off list. The Submariner SE was comfortable, but the Cherry Haze was made of what appeared as micro-flecks of iridescent dust in a nearly milky suspension. Off list again. Two pens left. While there were numerous Momentas to be held, the Merlot Swirl was not among them. I was disappointed, for I was secretly partial to the Momenta. Back to see the Americana again. When Barbara Binder reminded me that few were left in stock, I decided to buy it. Besides, I was impressed with its subtle cranberry / pomegranate red color carried by large flecks buried deep in the material. The color had a depth I appreciated. Perhaps the greatest surprise was its weight: the Americana was a lighter pen than I expected! Very light! And the section was narrow enough to be comfortable for those who like smaller pens. Now for the side-by-side comparison.
Appearance & Design – Americana, 10/10; Milord, 9.5/10.
The Americana’s Rio Grande Red color was not as eye-popping red as seen in many photos online. I visited the pen numerous times during the show to think about its color. Was it really red enough for me? Would I like the color later? What pleases me the most since purchase is that the colors appear quite different depending on the amount, intensity, and direction of light. The iridescence and color seem to reveal new secrets and resist predictability. I really like what Bexley did with this color. I wish the Milord came in Rio Grande Red!
In distinction from the Milord, the Americana’s facets and surfaces are not sharply defined but gently smoothed. Flats and arcs smoothly blend into one another in a way that is very comfortable to the touch, and which allow the colors to be seen without being disturbed by light flashing off sharply-defined flats.
A special feature of the Americana is the two-step gripping section. The section nearest the nib is of modest diameter, perfect for small hands. A step up from there is another gripping area of larger diameter, allowing two gripping positions depending on mood and task. This is a nice feature sure to make the pen comfortable for many writers. Another feature I liked about the Americana was the thickness of the barrel lip where it threads on to the section. This will resist cracking and chipping for years. Good design.
I thought of the Americana as the Cadillac of American pens. Classic design in modern form, the smooth springy nib offers a comfortable ride typical of American suspension.
The new Milord is a thick pen. There is very little step-down from the thickest part of the barrel near the threads to the section where fingers are placed. At first the pen felt far too thick and I wondered if I would be able to keep it in regular rotation. However, as the weeks passed I came to appreciate the thick section when my hands became tired from hours of writing with other pens. The Milord was right there, settled perfectly into my hand, and I kept writing. I began to think of the wide section as a virtue, and began to see the Americana as a narrow pen.
I was especially pleased with the Milord’s nib. Its design and imprint was crisp, clear, and very well done – an important factor for me. The nib was not quite as softly springy as the Bexley, but its size and placement atop the feed allowed me to feel closer to the work at hand. The tipping material reminded me of the narrow end of an egg. It wasn’t fat and flat on the end, but carefully shaped. With drier ink and a light touch, the nib rode higher on the paper and left a lighter line. With wetter ink and a more pressure, the line was wider.
The twelve flats of filler knob, barrel, and cap were sharp, well- executed, and lined up from one end of the pen to the other. My one concern was that careless capping might result in someone over-tightening the cap so that the flats no longer match up. This is an operator concern; not factory. I had one quibble was the cap band, however; while its imprint was crisp, it rotated ever so slightly on the cap. Its fit was not immovably tight. I could overlook this, but it should be noted.
The Milord seemed more like a European sports car than the Americana, reminding me of my VW Jetta TDI. Everything seemed tight, taught, and built to last a long time. This was one pen that would not go back on the market.
Weight & Dimensions – Americana, 10/10; Milord, 10/10.
This category is what led me to compare these pens. Set side by side, the Americana and the Milord appear remarkably similar in appearance. The Americana was longer, at 5 3/8"; the Milord at 5 1/8". The Milord was a bit thicker at mid-barrel, at 9/16"; the Americana at ½" across flats. Likewise, the Americana’s barrel tapered from end to end, while the Milord appeared to be only slightly less than a perfect cylinder. Weights were similar: Americana, filled: 23g (capped); 15g (body); 8g (cap). Milord, filled: 27g (capped); 17g (body); 10g (cap).
I found the Americana to be a very comfortable pen, one that I reached for more often than the Milord in the first weeks of ownership. However, after lengthy sessions it was the Milord’s thicker section that really brought comfort to my hand as I wrote late into the night. And I enjoyed making bold, long strokes with it during meetings. My preference began to shift from the Americana to the Milord ... an odd change I had not foreseen.
Nib & Performance – Americana, 10/10; Milord, 10/10.
The nib on each pen was medium, yet the Bexley nib was a little longer and finer than that of the Milord. I was really pleased with the Americana’s springy 18k nib at first. It offered a felt response while I wrote, perhaps felt than seen. One concern with the Americana is that flow was generous at the beginning of a page, yet slowed and began to skip at 2/3 of a written page. Since the pen was new, I flushed the bluish-black ink used at the show, then flushed with cold soapy water and filled with Aurora black, an ink that always flows very smoothly. Flow was better, yet still decreased with use. Once again I later flushed and filled with Noodler’s Eel American Blue. Flow was still better, yet a gradual decrease was noted although no skipping occurred. A week later out came the micromesh, and I was pleased to create a wonderfully smooth nib. Now both nib feel and flow were perfect.
The Milord’s nib wrote a deliciously thick medium line and was also springy, yet evidence of movement appeared most often when making a heavy descender on “g” and “y.” The nib did not feel quite as springy as the Americana during writing with ordinary pressure. The feed was ebonite and saw marks remained, showing that it had been cut by hand. It was a notably thin feed, flat on the bottom with feed slots visible only at its edges, reminding me of the Parker Vacumatic design. Feed was generous, perfect, and consistent, never diminishing even when writing quickly. The Milord lacks any opportunity for visual reference of ink level, and I learned after two fillings that flow only begins to decrease when it has about a page left in it. Some may consider this a flaw, but I learned to know the pen and had no trouble reminding myself to refill before it ran out.
I give both the Americana and the Milord a “10" for Nib and Performance, aware that they seem to have been made with different purpose in mind.
Filling System – Americana, 7/10; Milord, 10/10.
The Americana uses the international-size cartridge/converter system. I accept it while it is not my preference. I recognize the preference of many for cartridges, and I know that the absence of a piston filler kept the price of the Americana at half that of the Milord. This could mean that twice as many can afford to buy a Bexley and form loyalty to this American company.
The Milord has a piston filler whose smoothness and firm feel at the filler knob is immediately noticeable. It is easily on par with Aurora and Pelikan, if not better. Each time I filled and emptied the pen for cleaning, I was surprised at its capacity. A lot of air bubbles form in the bottle during filling, the pen writes for a long time, and a lot of colored water squirts out during cleaning. Capacity is a virtue.
Cost & Value – Americana, 10/10; Milord, 8/10.
I find it very difficult to choose one of these pens over the other. They are both exceptional, but seem to have different aims. The Americana is a classic design updated in a beautiful form that will last many years. Its nib is a distinct virtue, being both attractive and springy. The Milord is a premium pen and makes no compromise in materials, mechanism, nor in price. I would not spend $500 for one brand new, but I was very happy to find one at nearly half price and virtually new. For this reason I cannot say that the pens are truly equal. They are, however, very close in actual performance if you accept the different filling systems. Visually, the Americana’s bold red flakes of color and nib stand out as immediately gratifying. The springy nib is a nice complement to a pretty pen. Functionally, the Milord’s piston, feed, and classy nib speak for themselves ... understated, in black and silver.
Overall Assessment – Americana, 57/60 = 95%; Milord, 57.5/60 = 95.8%.
A final judgment is very difficult. I believe the Americana and the Milord are in different classes despite similar size and dimensions. If I had to choose just one, it would be the Milord. I am, regrettably, notoriously utilitarian yet self-aware of it. Happily, I don’t have to make an absolute choice. I’m keeping both!
Edited by Russ, 10 July 2009 - 14:32.