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Classic review: Rotring "Old Style" 600


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#1 GrantC

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 06:19

rOtring 600 "Old Style" Fountain Pens

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Introduction

The rOtring 600 fountain pen holds intense fascination - the industrial design and high build quality are hallmarks of the model.

I purchased my first rOtring (a ballpoint, sadly, not a fountain pen) in a shop that carried high-end Italian suits. The owners of the store were clients of mine so I became a client of theirs; after buying yet another example of Italian tailoring, they mentioned that I should have a stylish pen to go with my stylish suit. Naturally, it was a rOtring 600.

Flash forward a decade, and I decided that I needed a 600 fountain pen to go with my BP, MP, and the magnificent "Trio" pen (red and black BP plus MP in one large, heavy, intimidating package!) I eventually ended up with this pair of rOtring 600s, both of the "old" style - with the elongated, knurled section and rotating nib indicator. All of my rOtrings are of the old style, and I wanted them to match!

The chrome model is a daily-use pen, while the black one sees almost no use. I thought they made a nice contrast for the photos.

Speaking of the photos, this time I went a little more "artsy", showing the pens amongst pieces of precision machining equipment. I hope you like them!


First Impressions: Design and Appearance

One thing about the rOtring 600: you won't mistake it for anything else! The first thing people usually say when encountering an example is "gee, you could use that thing as a weapon!"

The 600 is made from machined hexagonal stock, with knurling and an austere styling that says "industrial" in capital letters. The clip - a simple folded piece of flat metal - serves to enhance the design elements without detracting from them. At the bottom end of the body you'll see a black "O"-ring; this serves to secure the cap when posted.

The finish on the silver model is a matte-finish chrome, while on the black pen it's some sort of tough, baked-on flat lacquer. At the top is the signature rOtring red band; the cap jewel on the black pen is gold plated, as this particular example is part of their "Gold Series."

You'll note that the body of the chrome pen shows wear and scuff marks; it is my "workaday" pen, the pen that I take when I know I'll be getting dirty or knocked around. I don't think many other pens would stand up to the kind of abuse that this one will!

No doubt about it: this is a "macho" pen. It would look perfectly at home perched on the hood of a Hummer H1!


Features and Construction

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The pen is what I'd call large sized - 5-1/2" long capped, 5" uncapped, and a whopping 6-3/4" when posted. The girth, however is a shade less than 7/16", making it feel smaller than it seems. Many people are surprised by the weight: for an all-metal machined pen, it's not what I'd call heavy. In fact, the similar-sized Duke 2017 is noticeably heavier than the rOtring 600.

The cap is a snap type, and seats with the feel you'd expect of a German product. The cap is machined to go on in one of eight positions and not rotate when capped - so that the flats of the body and cap always line up. The aforementioned "O"-ring on the end of the body serves to secure the cap when posted - though the inordinate length, and corresponding destruction of balance, leads me to believe that no one actually posts this pen. I certainly don't!

Of course, you'd expect all of the parts to fit together perfectly on a German pen, and they do. Rotating the pen shows no sign of wobble or run-out. The cap is very well sealed, as blowing into it reveals no pressure loss.

One of the identifying features of the "old" style 600 is the knurled top of the cap - rotating it reveals a series of letters corresponding to the nib sizes offered, so that you know which of your rOtrings has which nib!

The long, tapered section shows the other feature of the early pens: knurling, which matches that of the nib indicator. Newer models have a somewhat shorter tapered section, sans the knurling. Personally, one of the things that originally attracted me to the pen was that fine knurling, and I can't stomach the pen without it!

The pen uses the popular international-size cartridges or suitable converter.


The Nib and Writing Performance

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The nibs on these two pens differ considerably. The nib on the chrome pen is rOtring's standard steel nib, in this case of medium ("M") width. The nib on the black pen, as befits the "Gold Series" to which it belongs, is of 18k gold in an extra fine ("EF") width. Both nibs have the "rOtring slant" - the nibs slant downward slightly as they protrude from the section.

The medium nib performs admirably. It is slightly on the wet side, and quite smooth. It has an ever-so-slight "silky" feeling, as opposed to a "butter" feeling, when gliding across the paper's surface. It's not obtrusive, but does let you know where the nib is and what it's doing. Overall, I'd rank it as very good to just short of excellent.

The extra fine nib feels similar, but a bit springier - no doubt due to the softer gold construction. Its line is a bit on the dry side, with that same slightly silky feeling. Frankly, I don't usually like extra fine nibs because they just don't feel good to me; this is the best nib of such width that I've yet tried, and I actually like using it.

Both pens start immediately and with absolutely no hesitation. In fact, when I pulled the black model out of the drawer for the pictures, I uncapped it and wrote a few words; it had sat, unused, for more than a month and still started immediately!


Final Analysis

The rOtring 600 has something of a cult following. Until I tried one, I never understood the attraction. But over the past few years, the chrome model has become one of my few "regular use" pens. I grab it before many others because I know that it will start immediately, write wonderfully, and survive a direct nuclear hit. What more can you ask for?

Edited by GrantC, 10 July 2006 - 19:20.

-=[ Grant ]=-

#2 bobioden

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 13:39

Great review on 2 beautiful pens. Excellent photos also. I have never looked at the rOtring's before, after your review, I will definatly give them a look.

B)


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#3 maia

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 13:49

Nice review. Ohh, and lovely photos. Worth reading!

#4 bdngrd

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 14:04

Nice review, I have the newer version FP, and thought I'd take the oppurtunity to tell how my rotring 600 saved my life not just once but 3 times in one day. While driving in Florida, I swerved to avoid a collision and found myself off the road, into a river and sinking quickly. As my door would not open, I realized I would have to break out the winshield. I grabbed my Rotring 600 and used it to break the winshield, kicked it out, and began to swim towards the surface. Just as I broke the surface and gasped for air, I felt a sudden and furious attack of an alligator as it clamped down on one of my thrashing legs. As the Rotring 600 was still in my hand, I uncapped it and used the M steel nib to poke at the terrifing reptile's eyes. It released me and I made my way to the shore. Once there, I needed to stop the bleeding, so I applied a tourniquet. Once again, the Rotring 600 saved the day. Now capped, the pen made a perfect tension turning rod to twist the tourniquet. I owe my life to my rotring 600. I shudder to thing what would have happened if I had chosen a celuloid as my user for the day!
When the EMT arrived, he said "What is that? A fountain pen? Don't they leak and stain your pocket? Can I borrow it?"

;)
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#5 maia

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 14:48

Nice review, I have the newer version FP, and thought I'd take the oppurtunity to tell how my rotring 600 saved my life not just once but 3 times in one day. While driving in Florida, I swerved to avoid a collision and found myself off the road, into a river and sinking quickly. As my door would not open, I realized I would have to break out the winshield. I grabbed my Rotring 600 and used it to break the winshield, kicked it out, and began to swim towards the surface. Just as I broke the surface and gasped for air, I felt a sudden and furious attack of an alligator as it clamped down on one of my thrashing legs. As the Rotring 600 was still in my hand, I uncapped it and used the M steel nib to poke at the terrifing reptile's eyes. It released me and I made my way to the shore. Once there, I needed to stop the bleeding, so I applied a tourniquet. Once again, the Rotring 600 saved the day. Now capped, the pen made a perfect tension turning rod to twist the tourniquet. I owe my life to my rotring 600. I shudder to thing what would have happened if I had chosen a celuloid as my user for the day!
When the EMT arrived, he said "What is that? A fountain pen? Don't they leak and stain your pocket? Can I borrow it?"

;)

WOW? :ltcapd:

#6 thewolfgang

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 14:49

Just another day in the rOtring office!

#7 Leigh R

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 15:43

Nice review, I have the newer version FP, and thought I'd take the oppurtunity to tell how my rotring 600 saved my life not just once but 3 times in one day. While driving in Florida, I swerved to avoid a collision and found myself off the road, into a river and sinking quickly. As my door would not open, I realized I would have to break out the winshield. I grabbed my Rotring 600 and used it to break the winshield, kicked it out, and began to swim towards the surface. Just as I broke the surface and gasped for air, I felt a sudden and furious attack of an alligator as it clamped down on one of my thrashing legs. As the Rotring 600 was still in my hand, I uncapped it and used the M steel nib to poke at the terrifing reptile's eyes. It released me and I made my way to the shore. Once there, I needed to stop the bleeding, so I applied a tourniquet. Once again, the Rotring 600 saved the day. Now capped, the pen made a perfect tension turning rod to twist the tourniquet. I owe my life to my rotring 600. I shudder to thing what would have happened if I had chosen a celuloid as my user for the day!
When the EMT arrived, he said "What is that? A fountain pen? Don't they leak and stain your pocket? Can I borrow it?"

;)

Dang! The same thing happened to me just the other day!

:roflmho:

#8 *david*

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 17:13

I don't write with my Rotring 600 anymore. I had to use it to replace the rear axle on my old truck.

Only problem is the back of the truck is too heavy now. :rolleyes:

#9 bdngrd

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 23:33

Didn't mean to get too off topic, Grant, that was a well written review. I liked the pictures with the caliper and engineering stuff, Rotrings are certainly tools of the trade. My Rotring also has been a steady starter, and all kidding aside, I really like the feel and heft of it. I always write unposted, it is very strange to try and use it otherwise. It is too bad that the 600 is out of production, the initial and other models don't have the same look or feel, the retirement of the 600 leaves a gap in the fountain pen world, at least in my view.
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#10 zorroflores

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Posted 11 July 2006 - 05:16

Nice pictures, I like the look with the precision measuring instruments, kind of retro isn't it?, I 'm a technician by profession and the pens calls for me...

#11 cmeisenzahl

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Posted 13 July 2006 - 00:44

Great review, thanks very much Grant!

#12 cmeisenzahl

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Posted 13 July 2006 - 00:55

Nice pictures, I like the look with the precision measuring instruments, kind of retro isn't it?, I 'm a technician by profession and the pens calls for me...

Could have used a slide rule as a prop too! ;-)

#13 Bernie0104

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Posted 15 October 2006 - 11:44

Great review! I thought I was alone in hankering after these pens! Your black one is a beautiful thing! I have an original 600 in matte chrome, as well as the matching pencil - truly wonderful things! I love the 'industrial' look and feel of these pens - they are sadly missed. The later 600 Newton just didn't cut it for me... a definite drop quality wise. One day I shall buy another, if I can find one!

#14 jackoguit

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Posted 15 October 2006 - 12:29

Wonderful review.

This past February I was becoming interested in FPs and my bro-in-law loaned me his chrome matte 600. Initially I liked it and picked up an old style blackie on e-bay with Levinger's imprint as my 2nd FP. I'm an "outside" sales rep so I carry my pen in my shirt pocket. After a couple of weeks, the pleasure of writing with an FP became offset with annoyance at the saggy shirt front caused by the stone-like weight of the 600.
I snagged a Sheaffer Craftsman on e-bay for $5 and found that the FP writing experience didn't necessairily involve the pulled pocket syndrome that the 600 induced. I gave both 600's to my bro-in-law, who is an "inside" rep, and we're both happy now.

I now have 40+ vintage FPs and can look back fondly on my experience with the 600.

The Hummer/600 analogy is very good.
But now I'm living the XKE/Vacumatic thang. cool.gif

Jack
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We just let him slip away
Out of kindness, I suppose.'"

#15 jsonewald

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Posted 15 October 2006 - 12:33

I have a pair also, chrome and black. They are an acquired taste, but once acquired, there is nothing else like them.

Does anyone know where to get replacement O rings for the tail end? Both of mine have worn down or shrunk enough so the cap wobbles when posted.

#16 Bernie0104

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Posted 15 October 2006 - 12:40

Hummer comment very good, but I like to think of the 600 being an Audi TT type of pen!

#17 Arkanabar

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Posted 15 October 2006 - 23:24

No, it's a Hummer H1.

Steve Leveen boasted about putting his under the FL wheel of his Volvo 240 and running it over 10 times, leaving only a few surface scratches.

I have no doubt that the Audi TT is a very capable car, but in stock trim, it does not have the sturdiness, resilience, durability, and resistance to abuse that the H1 did.

#18 Bernie0104

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Posted 16 October 2006 - 01:45

QUOTE(Arkanabar @ Oct 15 2006, 11:24 PM)
No, it's a Hummer H1.

Steve Leveen boasted about putting his under the FL wheel of his Volvo 240 and running it over 10 times, leaving only a few surface scratches.

I have no doubt that the Audi TT is a very capable car, but in stock trim, it does not have the sturdiness, resilience, durability, and resistance to abuse that the H1 did.

Point taken! I wasn't commenting on the pen's durability though (which is indisputible), I was likening the 600 to the TT since both are iconic examples of good German design IMHO. The Hummer analogy is just as valid though! The 600 is built like a tank! Great pens - no one makes anything like them any more, which is very sad, as I'm sure you'll agree. They may not be everyone's cup of tea, but they will be sadly missed by those of us who appreciated these truly unique pens.

Bernie.

#19 wolfmonk

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Posted 16 October 2006 - 11:19

Good review! It makes me miss my Rotring 600. I had the black model with a steel fine nib. I lost it... Baaaad me. Shame shame. :doh:
Bona Na Croin

#20 Samovar

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Posted 16 October 2006 - 16:37

I really enjoy my Rotring 600 black with F nib.
Last week, a co-worker picked it up and said :

-Oh my God, did you bring a weapon at work ????

He also told me that it looks like one of those high end tactical Surefire flashlight. Might try to get one to match my 600

wink.gif
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