That's what I kept thinking as I walked back to my office from the new pen store, Ink, that just opened up in my building in downtown Minneapolis.
But when I got to my desk and opened the (huge) box and pulled out the pen -- and, more importantly, when I filled it with ink and began writing with it -- all doubts went away. The new Omas Paragon is, without a doubt, the finest writing pen I own. Period. It is expensive, and there's no use denying it. The retail price for the pen is $650, and with a 20% discount, the cost is still an astounding $520. However, after living with the pen for a while now, I can say I think the build quality of the pen and, most importantly, its fantastic writing characteristics, make it well worth the cost.
The new Paragon is an absolutely huge pen -- the biggest pen I own. It is larger, in both weight and girth, than the Pelikan 1000 or the MB 149, my other big pens. Mine is the black resin version with high tech trim. The pen has a silver metal section stamped "925," which I assume means it's made of sterling silver. It has a simple trim ring at the back end, near the blind cap, and a larger engraved band at the lip of the cap engraved "Omas" on the front and "The Paragon Italy" on the back. Finally, there is a silver "O" inlaid into the top of the cap. The part of the pen that you either love or hate is the huge bow-shaped clip with the wheel at the end. (There was a post on the Writing Instruments page a few days ago in which our friend Richard Binder shared his very negative opinion about the look of the new Paragon.) Here are some pictures of the pen with my old-style Paragon for comparison:
Frankly, the size is what kept me from even considering the new Paragon when I first read about it late last year. (There was also apparently a problem with leaking at the section joint in the first version of the pen. All pens shipped after January of this year have the reengineered inner sleeve that has eliminated this problem. See the article on the new Paragon at www.nibs.com for more information and a description of the technical issues.) I just couldn't imagine a pen that large being comfortable to write with.
When I saw the pen in person at Ink and actually held it in my hand, I found, to my suprise, that the pen feels nearly perfect in my hand. It is comfortable to grip, and the length is just right in my hand without the cap posted. The weight is not a problem for me, like I imagined it would be. The nib is so smooth and the flow so perfect (more on this below) that the pen glides across the paper under its own weight, making the writing experience almost effortless. The additional mass makes the pen strangely easier to control, even if you write with a light touch.
The biggest technical improvement in the new Paragon versus the previous (smaller) version is the piston filling system. If you have ever owned or used the previous version of the Paragon, you know that its filling mechanism is notoriously sticky. The piston is difficult to turn, which makes filling the pen a less-than-satisfying experience. The new Paragon has none of these problems. The internal parts of the filling mechanism are made of metal (not plastic) and, as a result, the knob now turns quite easily. In addition, because the diameter of the knob is larger, it is easier to rotate while holding the pen in the bottle. For that reason alone, the new Paragon can be viewed as a real improvement, as opposed to a mere visual redesign, of the previous version.
The only complaint I have with the pen is that the silver section always shows fingerprints. If you can't learn to live with the smudges, you'll find yourself wiping the section a lot.
The Writing Experience
The build quality and size of the pen -- the feel of the pen in my hand -- certainly play a role in the exemplary writing performance of this pen. However, it is the fantastic nib and feed combination that, for me, make this pen such a wonder. I have the medium nib, and it writes a nice, rather fat, medium line. The nib is quite firm, which I prefer, and as smooth as smooth can be. I am a sucker for smoothness and write with a very light touch. That's one of the reasons I love writing with fountain pens: I love the feeling of the nib effortlessly gliding across the paper. This pen just begs to be written with. I find myself drafting letters longhand and coming up with excuses to write memos and notes to my secretary just so I can write with the pen. I even look forward to long meetings.
The nib is fairly large-sized and has a two-tone mask. In my opinion, the new look of the nibs is not quite as elegant as the old ones. The nib is also mounted on the same hand-cut ebonite (hard rubber) feed as is found on other Omas pens I own. The flow of ink to the nib and the smoothness of the tipping is, quite simply, perfect. Looking at the tipping with a 10X loupe reveals perfectly balanced tines and a perfectly round ball at the end. That is one reason for this nib's exemplary performance, which starts up immediately and exhibits no skipping with my favorite ink, Aurora Blue.
One problem I have found with many modern pens is something John Mottishaw refers to as "baby's bottom" -- when you look at the tipping straight-on under magnification, there is a slight valley or indentation where the slit runs through the ball tip, making the tipping look like a baby's butt. This gap leads to a problem called "railroading" on the downstroke of letters like "l" -- there are narrow lines on the left and right and a gap in the middle, making straight up-and-down lines look like railroad tracks. I hate this. It can be cured by polishing the tipping by drawing large cursive L's, using light pressure, on a piece of mylar polishing paper (I bought mine from Richard Binder's website, and I believe he sources it from Tryhpon). I say light pressure because if you push hard enough to splay the tines, you will only make the problem worse. The point is to wear down the tipping just enough to eliminate the baby's bottom shape and make the ball tip perfectly round. You don't want to wear a smooth, flat spot into the ball (making the nib "flat-footed" and therefore very position-sensitive), so be careful to polish in such a way that you keep the ball round. If you don't feel comfortable doing this, send your pen to John Mottishaw or Richard Binder (or another nibmeister) and ask them to remove the baby's bottom. If you are interested in learning more about this, you might want to read the excellent article on John Mottishaw's website on this topic: Nib Smoothing.
I love Omas pens. I have five of them, and they are among my absolute favorites, both for looks and for the overall writing experience. When everything is working right, they are absolute magic. The nib and feed combination and the wonderful piston filling system justify Omas's reputation as one of the finest fountain pen manufacturers today. The pride of ownership and pleasure I get from using these wonderful pens justifies the price of admission.
For me, however, the new Omas Paragon has set a new standard for performance. I find this pen mysteriously making its way to the front of the rotation and can (almost) imagine being happy with this one pen for the rest of my life. Almost, I said.
Edited by Mike S., 22 October 2006 - 21:12.