I've always wanted a Yard-O-Led but have, historically, baulked at paying the full price for one. However I recently managed to pick one up for about half the Manufacturer's Recommended Retail Price. The fact that the pen had to travel from Birmingham to California and back in order for me to do so goes against all my environmentalist principles - but I figured that wasn't so bad for a 0.5 oz item, even in its box and packaging. What really riled me was the idea that the pen retails for about the same in GBP as in USD and that, as I write, is near enough double.
But enough moaning...
The Company blurb describes this pen as 'based on an original 1950s model'. Now, I'm no expert - especially in FPN company - but, to me, this doesn't look, or feel, like a 1950s pen. The 50s were all about aerodynamics and the promise of manned space-flight; this pen, with its squared-off ends, chased black hard rubber, peculiar clip and silver trim, looks to me far more 1910s or 1920s. Putting that aside, this is a great looking little pen. I say 'little' because this review is for the 'standard' YOL Retro - the pen comes in three sizes: 'Pocket', 'Retro' (with no further qualification) and 'Grand'. The Retro, standard size, is certainly not a pen for giant fingers. While the barrel may be a whole centimetre in diameter, at its widest point, the section tapers from just below a centimetre down to 7.5 millimetres at the nib - quite small for those who enjoy a chunkier 'hold' to their pen. If your current rotation pen is a Montblanc 149, for instance, this kid will appear shockingly slender. If that is the case, you could perhaps try the Retro's bigger brother, the 'Grand'.
The chased 'black hard rubber' is, in fact, made from a 'durable black resin compound' - which sounds to me like a fancy term for 'plastic'. Whatever the material, it has a warm, matte feel in the hand, which is indeed quite reminiscent of hard rubber. The barrel tapers at the end, where you would post the cap, to a little silver 'stop' - a nice touch, mirroring the tapering at the 'business' end.
The cap is made of the same material. The hallmarked, solid silver, clip is pure 1900s - the era just before fixed clips became the norm and one had to make do with detachable pocket clips. From a distance, it could be an Edward Todd or a Conway Stewart. The cap is topped with a silver 'Y'. Closing mechanism is of the 'push' variety. Unlike MBs, which go 'ping' as you push home the cap, this pen has a pronounced 'click' to the action. Again this feels very solid - so much so, in fact, that opening the pen initially requires quite a pull - but one gets the impression that this will become easier over time. Closed, the pen looks very pretty and 'nicely old-fashioned'.
This pen fills either by converter or cartridges - presumably of the 'standard' variety (I don't really know what this means, by the way, as I've never bought a 'standard cartridge'). The converter fills easily enough and holds a decent amount of ink.
The section is of 925/1000 parts Sterling Silver and, as I mentioned earlier, tapers from 9mm to 7.5mm. While this may not be to everyone's taste, what it does do is afford the writer a lot of control - hold the pen higher on the section for normal writing, lower for more intricate detail.
The nib is 18k white gold [Edit: please see entries below for more on this]. The feed appears to be plastic. The pen in front of me is fitted with a medium nib which, subjectively, writes just on the broad side of medium. Ink flow is slightly on the 'wet' side and consistent, with no 'skipping'. There is no 'tooth' at all to this nib and a bit more softness than is usual these days - it's certainly not flex, but it's not a nail either. What I have noticed, is that the nib encourages you to write softly, making it effortless and untiring to use. In short, I would say that in ordinary hands this nib would write much as you should expect from an instrument of this price; however, it would also afford some pleasing line variation to the more advanced stylographer.
Well, I suppose we must have the stuff... For the first 30 seconds of your ownership of this pen, you will find that it comes in a nice, solid box. Good. Now you can put the box in the attic with the rest of your junk. Your pen will be much more at home in your pen case or, better still, your bag or jacket pocket.
Impressions are always going to be subjective. Personally, I really like this pen. If it had a flexy nib, I would probably use it in preference to any other that I own. In the absence of true flex, it still writes beautifully and looks and feels terrific. It's one of those pens that sort of inspires and that, for me, is what a pen is all about.
I like the idea that this instrument is a descendant of a great Pen Maker. These days Yard-O-Led may be nothing more than a junior province of the Filofax empire; but I understand it was once the child of Sampson Mordan. 'Yard-O-Led' was the name given by Mordan to their brand of propelling pencil which held twelve, three-inch leads. Mordan, in turn, became the Yard-O-Led Company, founded in Birmingham in 1934.
Yard-O-Led Retro - Dimensions
L Capped 14 cm 5 1/2 in
L Posted 16.2 cm 6 3/8 in
L Unposted 12.3 cm 4 7/8 in
Cap Length 5.9 cm 2 3/8 in
Barrel Diameter max 1 cm 3/8 in
Barrel Diameter min 0.8 cm 5/16 in
(the barrel tapers)
Section Diameter max 0.9 cm 7/16 in
Section Diameter min 0.75 cm 1/4 in
(the section tapers)
Cap Diameter 1 cm 3/8 in
Weight 14 gm 0.5 oz
MRRP UK 220 GBP US 295 USD*
* With the dollar at 1.90, as of today, try to figure that one out!
I am not an employee of Filofax, Yard-O-Led or any company connected to this product, nor do I work for any marketing or publicity company. I have never, to this day, sold a pen (though I may do in the future). I am, however, a great fan of FPN and hope this review, if it does nothing else, will add something to its wonderful knowledge base. There are bound to be mistakes in the article. If you spot one, please email or PM me and I will do further research and, if necessary, edit the piece.
NB - 3 December 2006
Edited: fixed 'cap diameter' dimension.
Edited by doctorcornelius, 06 December 2006 - 00:22.