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Montblanc 146 - the icon that one can't overlook


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36 replies to this topic

#1 dandelion

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Posted 17 March 2010 - 16:36

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Intro
This Montblanc 146 was made in the 1980s. It has a single tone, 14 k, gold nib that originally was an extra fine nib, but I had it customized into a cursive italic by the FPN member Oxonian, who I really recommend. The ink window is light grey-blue instead of the big, clear square shaped (or striped - depending how one sees it) ink windows of the contemporary 146. I actually didn't intend to write a review of the Montblanc 146. My idea was to take a few photos of it and then sell it. I've bought too many pens lately and am having a hard time choosing which pens that have to go and I thought that a MB 146 is more easy to replace than the other candidates. What was intended as a short photo session taking a few photos instead made me realize that I probably can't let go of this pen and I also started to browse through the bunch of photos I've taken of it during the time I've had it - of which some are posted here - an eclectic mix from different sessions. It is generic and less "original" than many of my other pens. Black/gold and very traditional design is not my usual preference, but there is something about it that makes it very hard to let it go. I've thus postponed the decision.

Design 10/10 (objective) 8/10 (subjective)
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Some people would disagree when I call this - and the whole Meisterstück series - iconic and instead claim that it is the Montblanc 149 - the corpulent cigar - that is the icon. For me all of the more or less fat, cigar shaped fountain pens - 144, 145, 146, 147 (despite its cartridge filling system) and 149 - in the traditional black/gold Meisterstück series are icons . This series is by many people - far beyond the fountain pen community - seen as the ultimate, first class, fountain pen. There is no other pen model with as many knock offs and copies, and there are only a few pen makers that don't have their own cigar shaped, high brow pen - more or less obviously inspired by the Meisterstück. Especially among non-German pen makers, it almost seems mandatory to have at least one pen in the higher price ranges that is modelled upon the Meisterstück - just look at Sailor, Pilot and Platignum.
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Since the design has become an icon I find it hard to keep a distance to it and rate it. I don't think I have or have had nearly as mixed feelings towards any other pen model as I have towards the classic Meisterstück. It is to some degree personal. The Meisterstück was the first "real" fountain pen that I bought (a 144 when I still lived at my parents in my late teens) . I had wanted it for so long and used some of the money that I had earned by working weekends and parts of the summer vacation. I didn't dare to tell my mother how much I spent on it. I actually bought a used computer at the same time as well and in the long run the Meisterstück kept its value a lot better than the computer - since long sent to the graveyard of electronics. When I sold the 144 I almost got as much as I initially paid for it (if one doesn't count the devaluation). A great part of why I choose a Meisterstück was that it was the classy fountain pen incarnated - the pen. I guess this teenage love for it contributes to my love/hate relationship to the Meisterstück. A part of me see it as an immature, shallow love for an icon - for the pen and all the (PR created) mystique that surrounds it. Another part of me has a sweet spot for this über classic pen - the original - and think that if one shall have one cigarshaped pen in black and gold it must be the real thing - the original. So, there I am - attracted and repelled by the very same features.

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The iconic thing makes it feel generic and replacable. Icon status in exchange for originality and uniqueness. On the other hand it is precisely the iconic thing - that this is the original - that contributes to its attractiveness. All other pens based on it - even first class pens - are merely knock offs (even if they can be very expensive and well made). The Meisterstück in its modern version - this cigar shaped model created in the 50s - must be one of the most successful and long lived brandings one can find. Based on the success, the iconic status and timelessness it would be unfair to give less than maximum points design wise.

On the other hand - it is the original, but lacks originality. Montblanc succeeded in creating a timeless model of the fountain pen. A representative. On these grounds I'd say that it is impossible to give the classic black/gold Meisterstück in its different sizes one single verdict. It is a not only a pen - it is a phenomenon. What I do like about this design is that it is elegant without exaggerated bling, that it is exclusive and understated in a way none of the special versions or LEs or WEs are. Still something of a writing instrument that is made to be used. Sometimes I find it too elegant - a bit stiff and dusty - but it is a timeless design where all elements - barrel, cap and nib - are very well balanced and in harmony with each other. Out of the three standard sizes 144/145 and 146 and 149 I prefer the 146. Its lenght is almost the same as the 149, but it is more slender without being meagre - I find the 144 and 145 a tad to meagre - and it is still thicker than a Pelikan M800.

The few ornaments that it carries is very well made - the fat cap band with the Meisterstück inscription is meticulously well made with an air of craftsmanship. That is one of the details that I like in particular. Another thing I prefer with this pen compared with the contemporary version is that the nib is more simple - monotone and not so much bling on it. But, the most beautiful nib version is the one from the 50's with a similar design as this, but in duotone. Simple and yet refined. And - lastly - I am a little fond of the snow flake on the cap.

Objective grade : 10/10 - based on its status as THE fountain pen and that the design has survived in over 50 years. It is the original and icon.


Subjective grade: 8/10 I both consider the iconic status, the understaded stylishness, but add my own ambivalence and that the cigar shape is not my favourite shape. The contemporary would have a point knocked off becuase of the clumsy nib, but here I am rating my own, older version. But this is a good grade as well.

Function & Writing Experience 8/10
Despite being a design icon - this is a pen and should thus be of superior quality with regard to its reputation and price. Itis - doubtlessly - a well built pen. But it is not extraordinary. It is very comfortable to write with - the gripping section is designed for writing and it doesn't have any step bewteen barrel and gripping section, which makes it suitable to many. It posts very well and secure, which I find very important since I prefer posting my pens. The cap unscrews a little bit to easily, though, and should not be carried clipped to a pocket. In all it is one of the most comfortable writers I've used. With the flaws weighed in: 8/10 - a very good grade.

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Filling system 7/10
The Montblanc 146 sports - of course - a traditional piston filler. The piston moves easily and it is - as all well functioning pistons - easy to fill and flush. One drawback with it is that, out of the two 146 I've had, one developed a leak from the piston knob (a rather new pen) and I had to send it for repair. I've read in the MB forum at FPN that there are others who have had this problem with both the MB 146 and the MB 149, so it might be a construction weakness. I've owned and used several piston fillers and actually never had any problems with a leaking piston knob before - this is the first one. As with the cap that easily unscrews - this is something that shouldn't be common among pens with this reputation and at this price level. This one functions as it should, though, and when it functions it has a great ink capacity and is easy and nice to use. 7/10 - based on the problems I've experience with ink behind the piston with this model. When it works (like this pen) it gets 10/10, but I wanted to weigh in the potential problem here.

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Nib 7.5/10
As stated above: I definitely prefer this monotone nib to the contemporary more blingy and clumsy duotone. The contemporary nib in one of the photos is a MB 146 with a M size nib that I had for a while before I bought this. But, the most beautiful of the MB 146 nibs are, in my (not so humble opinion) the ones from the fifties- a sleek, elegantly shaped two tone nib. You can view a photo of it here and I can warmly recommend www.fountainpen.de for Montblanc references and photos.

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Anyhow - aesthetics aside - the nib I have on my 146 is customized by the FPN member Oxonian. It originally was an extra fine nib - that put down a rather thick line so I had it customized into a lovely narrow italic (see writing samples) with a width of about 0.4 mm. My experience with original, untampered, Montblanc nibs are that they are generally very pleasant to write with and that the broader nib widths often show some line variation. I shouldn't call this nib flexible, but it has a little hint of spring that adds character to the writing. One thing that all the MBs I've tried have in common is that they seem to run wide. In all very good and well made nibs. It is a pity that MB doesn't offer a broader range of nib sizes, though. I'd love factory made stubs and italics. If I were to rate the original nib I'd give it around 7.5/10, and if I am to rate this customized nib I'd give it 9/10. The parsimonious grade for the original is due to the fact that I wanted to customize it and that I didn't find it smooth enough. A good nib, but not excellent. To rate the customized nib becomes a bit off, since I am not rating the MB nib, but I warmly recommend Oxonian - a pleasure to deal with.

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In all 31.5/40 ~7.9/10
As stated in the title - the Meisterstück 146 is a model that is almost impossible to neglect. Even if you don't like it you have an opinion of it. I think my ambivalence is a rather good illustration of this position. The negative pole partly stems from its über classic design and partly from the transformation MB has went through the last decades - from being a pen manufacturer with quality pens in different price ranges, like Pelikan, to a luxury brandputting its label on a lot of different products - where pens are sold more as accessoires and status symbols than pens. They still have something special, though, but I am not convinced that a new MB is worth the premium price, but a used one in good condition can often be had for a lot less. But I am more and more feeling that vintage Montblancs are more interesting than the contemporary Montblancs. If I would have a little trunk of money to spend on a MB I'd spend it on a 139 in good condition and use it every day...

I've previously published this review on my blog. The text is the same (except that I've added grades to conform to the guidelines here), but I've changed some of the photos. So, if you'd like to see more/other photos you can visit a post on my blog here.

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Edited by dandelion, 17 March 2010 - 16:52.

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#2 jar

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Posted 17 March 2010 - 17:28

Nice review of a nice pen.

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#3 dedalian

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Posted 17 March 2010 - 18:28

"So, there I am - attracted and repelled by the very same features."
Exactly the same way I ve always felt about almost all MBs and why I generally end up buying pelikans while wistfully looking at the MB in the next shelf.
Great review, almost felt you wrote my mind.

#4 Brian

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Posted 17 March 2010 - 23:18

Thanks for a great review full of experiences and some interesting observations. The predecessor of the MB torpedo would be the Sheaffer Balance. That design, when first introduced was groundbreaking in its departure from the flat top.

This model 146 is a great design and actually is different from the current offerings. Try holding the current 146 next to this older model and you will see this.

BTW, I would probably be in the minority to wish that MB would revise the present design of the 144 (now called something else?) so that it too could benefit from an integrated piston filler.

#5 goodguy

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Posted 18 March 2010 - 02:39

Very nice review.
I had to sacrefice twice my 146, I sure miss it but I take comfort with its bigger sibling the 149.

Thank you for sharing your impression of the pen and I love your pictures.
Respect to all

#6 J English Smith

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Posted 18 March 2010 - 03:39

I recently sold my 1977 146 to a fellow FPNer - great nib, but I just had moved beyond feeling comfortable with even this much "bling" of a pen. I am much happier using a Parker 51, old Aurora 88 or Lamy 2000, among others. But it did have a very sweet nib, I must say. I am not a fan of MB LEs and all of the pens that are $500 and up. But the 146/149 is a pen that has definitely stood the test of time, and it really is an individual choice, what one likes and doesn't like. For me, at age 20, the 146 was an amazing pen to own, particularly at a price of $90...
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#7 mikebee

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Posted 18 March 2010 - 04:26

very informative review.....thanks

#8 shaqin93

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Posted 18 March 2010 - 10:48

Thanks for the great review.

#9 Ondina

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Posted 18 March 2010 - 11:21

Very good review, interesting opinions and he usual great pictures, Dandelion, many thanks. The nib looks lovely.

#10 richardandtracy

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Posted 18 March 2010 - 11:42

Thankyou for the nice & thoughtful review.
It's nice to see someone admitting to slightly ambivilent feelings over an expensive pen. I've never had a pen where there hasn't been a 'but...' in my feelings toward it, yet many reviews of high end pens are wholly positive, something I find hard to believe from my own experience.

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#11 rroossinck

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Posted 18 March 2010 - 11:58

But it did have a very sweet nib, I must say...

Truer words ne'er spoken, Joe. That IS a really sweet nib. :) Dan really enjoys it, too!

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#12 Ed Ronax

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Posted 18 March 2010 - 12:05

Excellent review of this iconic pen, thanks.
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#13 PinarelloOnly

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Posted 18 March 2010 - 12:44

I like it when people take time to photograph their pens for reviews.

Well done Dandelion!

#14 hari317

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Posted 18 March 2010 - 13:49

Nice review, your review mirrors many emotions that I associate with the Meisterstuck line and amazing photography.

I believe your pen is earlier than 80s, from the square feeder case lip and 14C marking on the nib, I would think this will be from the early production of the resin 146s in the 70s.
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#15 mgepark

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Posted 18 March 2010 - 20:05

A great review for this classic pen, great reading. Thanks.

#16 SamCapote

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Posted 19 March 2010 - 07:11

Really superb review. Makes me want to get one.
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#17 shrinknib

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Posted 19 March 2010 - 12:09

A lovely review of a lovely pen.
the photos are lovely and certainly do justice to the pen and your ambivalence.

I agree with Hari about this most likely being a 1970's 146 and have a pen quite similar to this myself. It is outstanding and alongside Hari's 149 I recently purchased this pen sits most proudly.
I don't know if I will always keep my 146 but if I move it on, it will be for an even better replacement!

Fountain pens have not really improved much overall in design or function ( in my very humble opinion) since this pen was introduced.
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#18 dandelion

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 00:37

Thanks for overwhelming positive response! Posted Image

"So, there I am - attracted and repelled by the very same features."
Exactly the same way I ve always felt about almost all MBs and why I generally end up buying pelikans while wistfully looking at the MB in the next shelf.
Great review, almost felt you wrote my mind.


Happy to hear that someone else has this strange relation to MBs. I must admit that while I basically like Pelikans I seem to end up buying Stipulas and other Italians...and a Pilot or three. :)


Thankyou for the nice & thoughtful review.
It's nice to see someone admitting to slightly ambivilent feelings over an expensive pen. I've never had a pen where there hasn't been a 'but...' in my feelings toward it, yet many reviews of high end pens are wholly positive, something I find hard to believe from my own experience.

Regards,

Richard.


Thanks - I almost always have ambivalent feelings towards expensive pens - and I demand quite a lot more of an expensive pen than a cheaper pen. If a pen costs a lot of money it shall work flawlessly. I don't believe that a $500 is ten times better than a $50 pen, but such an expensive pen doesn't have the privilege of being allowed quality flaws.

Nice review, your review mirrors many emotions that I associate with the Meisterstuck line and amazing photography.

I believe your pen is earlier than 80s, from the square feeder case lip and 14C marking on the nib, I would think this will be from the early production of the resin 146s in the 70s.



Thanks for the kind words and for the help to date my pen - I am so impressed by this kind of skill. Did they make 146s in the 70's? I didn't think they made 146s in the 70's.

A lovely review of a lovely pen.
the photos are lovely and certainly do justice to the pen and your ambivalence.

I agree with Hari about this most likely being a 1970's 146 and have a pen quite similar to this myself. It is outstanding and alongside Hari's 149 I recently purchased this pen sits most proudly.
I don't know if I will always keep my 146 but if I move it on, it will be for an even better replacement!

Fountain pens have not really improved much overall in design or function ( in my very humble opinion) since this pen was introduced.


Thanks and for confirming Hari's estimation on when it was made.
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#19 bphollin

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 03:18

Dandelion, thanks for a thoughtful and critical review. It's made me reconsider the Montblanc brand in general and the 146 in particular. Wonderful job with the review.

#20 hari317

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 10:11

Thanks for the kind words and for the help to date my pen - I am so impressed by this kind of skill. Did they make 146s in the 70's? I didn't think they made 146s in the 70's.


IIRC, the 146 production was halted in the 60's decade. Enjoy your pen!

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Hari
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