When Howard Levy told me he was making up some prototypes for a new, Nakaya inspired, model to be called the Imperial, I had to have one in ebonite, red and black mottled exhibiting a woodgrain pattern. Although some prototypes were made of various resins, they did not interest me. The first production run will be ebonite only, red/black and two new colors for which photos are not yet available. As with all ebonite pens of mottled hard rubber, no two will be exactly alike. If you think you are seeing photos of two different pens in this review, your eyes are not deceiving you as two different pens were photographed at different times.
Although I am a Bexley dealer I am also a huge Bexley collector and user and will try to be as unbiased as posisble in this review. Out of the box I was impressed with the size and design, from the material to the new gracefully arched clip.
Appearance and Finish 4.5/5
The Nakaya influence is apparant immediately. A large cigar shaped pen with minimal trim with a gold plated clip in new, a gently arched design that is springy and will grasp your shirt pocket firmly. I am a big fan of ebonite pens and this one is no exception. I make a slight deduction for the finish because while the ebonite is polished smoothly, I believe it should have a higher sheen. The section is black ebonite and I personally would prefer the section to match the barrel.
The Imperial is a large pen and is comfortable for me to use unposted. The capped length is 6" and uncapped, almost 5 1/2". The barrel does have a sharp stepdown, but that should not interfere unless you tend to grip your pns very high on the section. I don't post the caps on pens of this size, but f you do you'll end up with a pen that is about 7 1/2" long/ The cap does post securely to the barrel on my example.
Ebonite pens are quite lightweight for their size and the Imperial is no exception. The pen is well balanced even when posted as a result of this lightness.
You either like this type of design or you don't, it's all personal preference. The barrel diameter measures in at .59", a large but not obese size. My one criticsim is the sharp edge of the barrel stepdown mated against the rounded edge of the cap. No hit on performance, but it detracts a bit from the appearance in my opinion (see the first two photos above).
For comparison of size, the Imperial is shown here with a Nakaya poratble Writer's Model and an MB 146.
Nib Design and Performance 5/5
Nibs for the Imperial are the standard Bock made Bexley marked 18K two-tone nib/feed units that are interchangeable with other gold nibbed Bexley pens. Bexley cautions against users swapping nibs because of the possibility of misalignment of feed and nib. Nib swaps should always be approached with caution. My example has a Fine, my nib of choice, but Medium, Broad, and the 1.4 mm Broad Stub are also available.
I filled my pen with Private Reseve Midnight Blues, a subtle blue-black appropriate for a pen made of vintage appearing hard rubber. I found the Fine nib to be a bit soft and springy. While all these nibs are made by Bock, I have found variation in the degree of softness between nibs. The Fine nib puts down a smooth line of generous Fine width, about like that of the Medium nib in my Senior Maxima Vacumatic. Just right for my use. I've found Bock quality to be consistent in the Bexley branded nibs and all nibs and feeds are hand set by Howard Levy himself before leaving the factory.
Filling System 4/5
I'm rating the filling system as a 4/5 because I know many do not like cartridge converter pens. Raising this from a 3 ot a 4 is the capability of being filled with an eyedropper. The one piece ebonite barrel and the section without any metal make this an ideal eyedropper filler. I usually have no problem with ink flow out of the box, though there are times when a new converter needs flushing with an ammonia/water mix to remove traces of manufacuring oils.
Compared to other pens of this quality, size, and use of ebonite, an MSRP of $495 should result in a "street" price of around $$370, a reasonable price in my view. Certainly less expensive pens can be found, but I still feel this is within reason. The Imperial will likely be made in very limited numbers, certainly fewer than many so-called limited editions.
OK, I've made it clear that I like this pen and feel it is a great addition to my Bexley collection as well as being a great user. If I've missed any areas or been too gentle, please let me know. This is my first attempt at a review in this format and I may have overlooked something you feel is vital. I'll repeat that I am a Bexley dealer but have honestly tried to be as objective here as possible.