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Montblanc Bohéme Big Size, Another Review

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16 replies to this topic

#1 fpupulin


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Posted 20 October 2011 - 02:19

A few years ago I gifted my wife with a Bohéme Marron fountain pen, and it is still one of the most eye-catching pens in our tray. It is not only the wonderful combination of the shiny black resin and the rose gold, together with the discrete maroon stone, which make this pen specially attractive, but also its shape and its balanced proportions, as well as the intricate mechanism at the bottom of the barrel. By the way, the fine nib of my wife's Bohéme Marron is probably one of the best Montblanc nibs I never tested, very elastic and responsive and a pleasure to write with.
The regular size Bohéme, with retractable nib (there were also a midsize Bohéme with fixed nib, now discontinued, which is a bit longer when closed, and almost the same size as the retractable model when posted), is however a really small pen. When closed, it is just 10.9 cm (4.3") long, which transform into 13.5 cm (5.3") when posted with the nib exposed. The smallest model in the Meisterstück series, the 114 Mozart, is longer when closed (11.3 cm; 4.4"), but shorter (11.9 cm; 4.7") when posted. I do not want to discuss here if the regular Bohéme is a pen designed for women or men, but in my case, it is just to small for me to be really comfortable. I really like the pen, and I find it more harmoniously shaped and proportioned than its larger sister (the Big Size), and when regularly posted I can write quite fluently with it, but I am used to larger pens (149s), and the beautiful Marron is too short for me.
While the old fashioned look of the large, black and gold 149s, is probably my preferred, the choices of other large, regular series Montblanc in platinum finish are greatly reduced.

The Bohéme Platinum Line Big Size was produced for quite a short time beginning in 2002, and discontinued I think at least since 2008, even though some pens are probably still available here and there as new old stock in Montblanc authorized dealers shops. Until quite recently, Montblanc website still had it as a current model, but in the new webpage of the brand at www.montblanc.com, the Big Size is not more listed. Considering the enormous success of the Bohéme series, surely one of the most successful pen lines of Montblanc, one has to believe that the reasons to discontinue the Big Size were due to a lack of appropriate target. Simply, the pens were probably difficult to sold. Too large and massive (IMO) for a feminine hand on one side, too similar in size to the flagship 149 (and priced a bit more) on the other, the pens does not found its niche.
Due to its limited availability, and the few pieces I ever saw in person, I consider the Bohéme Big Size a rare pen today, almost in the range of some limited edition Montblancs. If you check for this model over the net, it is quite rare, and then it is offered at a very high price (often higher than 850 $ and up to 1150 $!). The price requested for this model means, apparently, that it is still in demand, and the fact that it has been discontinued by Montblanc probably pulled out the trigger also for specialist pen collectors.
I had the luck of finding a Bohéme Big Size at a very, very fair price. The pen had a thin crack at the base of the barrel, in-influent under any point of views, but I had it changed by MB. Apart from a Meisterstück Mozart I received as a gift, this is the only non-149 Montblanc fountain pen that I own. It is a gorgeous pen, and I have to resist the temptation to buy another one, as they are difficult to find. If not because it had the same M nib as mine, I was really tempted from one Bryant recently offered through FPN classified at the very reasonable price of 550 $. For my next one, I would like an EF, or a B...

I do not know if some of you here is also fond in photography, but I guess that the answer will be yes. If that is the case, you certainly have to know Hasselblad cameras. I am not speaking of the new, autofocus cameras of the H series, but of the old, mechanical, squared, unbeatable cameras of the V-series, those used by Ansel Adams and the astronauts on the Moon, and by thousands of pro and would-be-pro (like me…) photographers around the world. You can became photographically quite fluent with a Hasselblad camera. They have something special (apart from the exquisite sharpness of the Zeiss lenses), the precise yet noisy sound of the mechanical parts, the size that oblige you to take your time, the flawlessly operation, the absolute reliability, and the feeling that they are indestructible.

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In my mind, this is also the portrait of the Bohéme Big Size, of its impeccable mix of art and mechanics. It looks oversized, but yet this is an intimate part of its appeal; it has a somewhat old design, but then it beautifully contrasts with the shiny resin and platinum-plated rings; there is a black, metal thread towards the end of the pen, that will show some signs of use with time, but it contributes giving the pen its functional and "industrial" beauty; it is complicated to operate, but you will love to take the time to open the pen and to expose the nib; it is heavy, but it transmits a feeling of durability; it only takes cartridges, but it is the first choice when traveling, and it has that particular and unique Neogothic aspect that reminds of Batman's Gotham City. My younger brother, who owns a 149, told me that on a desk my Big Size looks more impressive than a 149, and I think he is right. It is a massive and stylish object.
Now, unscrew the cap, screw it on the back of the pen, open the waist-level finder, pull out the dark slide from the back, continue screwing the cap until the nib is completely out, make a complete turn of the winding crank, feel the precise "click" at the end of the nib fine stroke, the "rrr-clack" that tell you the shutter is cocked, and now your instrument is ready to serve you, smooth and solid and perfect. Take your shot, write your text.

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The Bohéme Big Size is a large pen, with no compromise. Do not think at it as a Bohéme, just a bit larger: it looks like the double of a normal Bohéme with retractable nib. It measures 1.4 cm in diameter on the thicker point of the barrel, which has a slight curvature and it's broader toward the end, and 1.7 cm at the widest portion of the cap.

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While closed it is a bit shorter than a 149, but when open and posted it has the same length of a posted 149. Even though anybody can use whichever pen he wants, nonetheless the Big Size is a pen intended for men, in my opinion. It is a bit heavier than a 149, ca. 54 gr. vs. ca. 50 gr. when both are empty. Considering that it only takes small cartridges, and the barrel of a 149 a good quantity of ink, it is possible that the two pens weight more or less the same when inked.

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As any other Bohéme, the Big Size has a flat dome cap, with a white star. It is obvious that a ivory-colored star would have been a much better choice for this model. Around the star, where the flat cap ends, there is a platinum-plated ring. It remember me the logotype Montblanc is using in his leather accessories, and I find it particularly nice. The clip has a thick ring (same size as a 149 ring) which bears the individual serial number and the word "Germany" engraved with laser.

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The clip itself is one of my preferred in all Montblanc series. The flat, rectangular, slightly larger and embossed end, and the upper, double-pleated, car-like curve, are simply masterpieces.

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The clip has no stones, like some discontinued, small size Bohémes, which make it an austere choice for men. At the base of the cap there is the large, bevelled ring that is so typical of the Bohéme series. In the Big Size it is too massive and showy, in my opinion, and I strongly prefer the shape and proportions of the regular size ring (there are fantastic photos by Michael R. comparing the two models at http://www.fountainp...oheme-big-size/). I can not imagine such a large ring in gold finish…

It takes two and half turns to unscrew the cap, that it is quite a long operation. Once unscrewed the cap, you will see the grip section, without nib. The transition between the barrel and the grip is smooth, with no steps, a detail that I consider particularly important in fountain pens and that make them more comfortable to write with. The section of the grip itself is the same size as a 146. On the upper part of the grip there are three platinum-plated rings, the external ones very thin, and the central one, slightly rounded, embossed with "MONTBLANC • BOHEME". While other FPNers prefer the oldest version of the Bohéme (without the rings on the grip), I find that the rings, which are hidden when the pen is capped, add light to the body of the pen when it is in use.

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The collar of the grip, in resin, is slightly thicker than the rest. When the nib is completely exposed, the end of the grip is completed by a metal cylinder that protrudes beyond the rim, like a thick ring. I understand that between the inner part of the barrel and the cylinder there is a somewhat viscous substance that reduces friction but at the same time prevents ink to flow through the cavity wall. For this reason Montblanc (and several FPNers) recommends not to rinse the barrel with water to clean any remains of ink, but using the apposite MB cleaning cartridge (discontinued, he he…). Apparently, the moisture that remains within the barrel if cleaning it with water is also detrimental to the cylinder, causing the exposed ring to rust. However, before to know that, I cleaned my Big Size several times under water, with no signal of rust until now.

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On the rear of the barrel, before the terminal cone, there is a thread where you have to screw the cap; this requires one and half turn. With a little less than one and half turn more, you will extend the nib from the front of the barrel. In my particular pen, the clip is not aligned with the nib once the cap is completely screwed, but I have no idea if this is normal or a defect. I do not bother, anyway. The Bohéme Big Size is big enough to be used without posting it (in this case you just have to turn the rear conical body until the nib is exposed), but I do not suggest to use it this way; if you forget to retract the nib before closing the pen you may damage the nib with the cap. Using the pen regularly posted, you must retract the nib in order to unscrew the cap from the rear of the body, and when the cap is free in your hand the nib is completely retracted. If you have to interrupt frequently your writing session, the Bohéme (any Bohéme fountain pen) may be quite annoying, as you will need to unscrew the cap from the rear before to screw it and close the pen, and to unscrew it and then screw it on the rear in order to write. I personally like the mechanism, but you are warned.
As the other Bohémes, the Big Size is strictly a cartridge filler, with no converter available. It takes standard international cartridges, so there is quite a choice of inks, if you do not want to manually refill your cartridges with your preferred bottled ink. Inserting the cartridge is another enjoying operation with the Bohéme. At the end of the barrel, beyond the threads, there is a conical body that flip opens and serves as a cap. It is separate from the barrel by a thin platinum-ring, which follows the rectangular contours of the hinge and of the catch on the other side. This is one on my preferred details in the Bohéme, something very graphic and technical. Even though it is very small, the hinge is solid, and the cap snaps firmly when closed. It is a well done device, and a fascinating precision mechanism.

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At the end of the cone, which is flat topped, there is another ring similar to the one on the cap's top. Once the conical body is flip over, you have to turn it counterclockwise until the end of the stroke, then insert the cartridge, turn it clockwise, and snap it to the barrel. Et voila…
The nib of the Big Size is 6 in size, the same used for the 146. Even not as gorgeous as a 149 nib, it is still a respectable nib. It is a 18 K gold nib, full rhodium plated, a quite uncommon detail in regular series Montblancs. Mine is a smooth medium nib, with a pleasant feedback and just a bit of flex (not hardly stiff). It is by no way as wet as my 149 medium nib, but it is not a dry nib, and I find it a good writer, even if not so good as that of my wife's small Bohéme.

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I will not give a vote to the Bohéme Big Size, as I do not understand votes unless you can compare your tested pen with an "ideal" pen that I do not know. My experience with fountain pens is limited to a number of Montblanc 149 and a Mozart. When young, I had a Aurora Hastil in silver, which I adored. Not enough, however, to give you a "compared" opinion. My simple opinion is that the Bohéme Big Size is a good, honest writing instrument, and that its simplistic design has the charm of a technical, fine, perfectly made device. It has a honorable place in my small collection next to my revered 149s.

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#2 watch_art


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Posted 20 October 2011 - 02:44

wow. amazing review and gorgeous pictures. I've never thought of the boheme as an attractive pen until now. Thank you.

fpn_1432247667__cropped-20150427_0641231 sigpic14481_1.gif vanness.jpg?t=1321916122

#3 stacybean


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Posted 20 October 2011 - 02:51

Thank you for your this review and the stunning photographs. I admit that when I purchased this pen in 2004 I knew so very little about it including how to install the cartridges! I use it now with great pleasure and appreciation for it's unique features, design and wonderful nib. Best wishes, Stacy

#4 efftee



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Posted 20 October 2011 - 03:56

Montblanc and Hasselblad; very difficult to go wrong with that combination. Be nice to see some writing samples but great review, excellent pictures, nonetheless. :)

#5 shl



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Posted 20 October 2011 - 04:56

Thank you for the review. I have read the entire thing thrice. I like to challenge myself.

#6 Preetham



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Posted 20 October 2011 - 05:43

Thanks for the amazing review. The close-ups are excellent! MB Boheme + Hasselblad = :puddle:

#7 Michael R.

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Posted 20 October 2011 - 19:13

What a wonderful review!

I really like the Boheme series of pens and the Big Size is a great but underated pen.

Many thanks for sharing your detailed thoughts and amazing photographs.



#8 breaker



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Posted 21 October 2011 - 10:46

nice review and great pics!
Cogito ergo sum

#9 saketb



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Posted 21 October 2011 - 14:50

Oh! great review and love those pictures, especially the close-up of the nibs.

Thanks for showing them.
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#10 kaisede



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Posted 22 October 2011 - 14:59

that is a nice review and nice pictures.

The only downside about the large Boheme is the cartridge fill. I know MB also made an fixed nib boheme that would take an convertor. Those are also getting hard to come by. The downside on the convertor fill pen is that it is actually smaller than the large size boheme you have, it is the same size as the roller ball version of the current boheme line.

If you have the time you should get the MB cartridge FP cleaner from MB. It saves a lot of time to flush out inks.

enjoy your pen,


#11 georges zaslavsky

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Posted 01 November 2011 - 21:57

very interesting pen :thumbup: thanks for sharing
Pens are like watches , once you start a collection, you can hardly go back. And pens like all fine luxury items do improve with time

#12 Bluefinntuna



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Posted 02 November 2011 - 02:56

Beautiful photos of beautiful pens. Thanks for sharing. Too bad I can't afford one.

#13 krokens



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Posted 03 November 2011 - 22:02

Impressive photos. Thanks for sharing. Wonderful and unaffordable pens. :puddle: :puddle:

#14 Pen Nut

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Posted 03 November 2011 - 22:28

Good Lord !! What a fantastic review backed up by some stunning pictures. Excellent work :thumbup:

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#15 greencobra



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Posted 04 November 2011 - 17:47

This review is spot on. Fantastic job on this, can't really add anything here.

I had Bry locate one for me maybe 2 years ago, never get tired of looking at the design and working it. Ya gotta love the mechanics of the thing, typical German engineering, solid, tight, and just an overall great pen. And as stated, pretty rare to find as new.

Again, well done on this review.

#16 Skeet


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Posted 11 December 2011 - 08:49

I'm not sure if I'm more impressed with the Boheme or your excellent photography. All I can say is wow!

#17 EenyBear



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Posted 11 November 2013 - 00:57

Beautiful pen.  Some may not like the visible threads at the end of the body but I see them as an invitation:

"uncap me, post me, write with me..."  LOL


I, too, am somewhat frustrated when the clip does not align with the nib.  Such a small thing yet, for a few of us, troublesome.


If you have not already read it, let me direct you to a very helpful, later post:



Best regards.

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