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Omas 555F


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4 replies to this topic

#1 marcomillions

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Posted 10 December 2012 - 16:14

Omas 555f Fountain Pen
Ink: Rohrer & Klingner 2012 LE Blue-Black
Paper: Clairfontaine "Papier Velouté" 90 g/sm

(I apologize for the poor quality of the photos. I'm just not set up for serious photography.)

Introduction

My motive in doing this review was to be helpful to someone who found him/herself in the situation I found myself in a few weeks ago: very much wanting to pick up an Omas pen, yet not sure whether this was the pen I should buy. Here's the problem: Omas pens are beautiful and expensive, The retail price on a new Omas Paragon or Milord pen can start at close to $700 dollars and keep going up. If you're lucky, a sale price may bring it down to $500, maybe even $450. But I didn't have those kind of dollars to spend.

If you spend some time looking, however, you can find older Omas pens, discontinued models, used or NOS, at significantly lower prices. The Omas 355 I bought is one of the models you're most likely to run into. These are not beautiful, elegant pens like the ones whose photographs you can find in the thread "A Study in Scarlet" that Rick Propas started on the "Penne Stilografiche della Bella Italia" section of this site. Those pens will make you weep with longing. But, unlike those classics or modern Paragons and Milords, you will find the 555 for sale in the range of $125 to $250 from American and overseas sellers on eBay and sometimes directly. The question: if you jump at it as I did, will you be happy or disappointed with your purchase?

The 355 series of pens was brought out by Omas in the immediate post-WWII years, and continued in production, with changes and improvements, until perhaps as late as the 1980s. The pen sometimes appeared with rounded barrels and caps, other times with the more familiar and characteristic Omas 12-faceted barrel and cap. The standard color was a flat red, but special editions could come in smoke and translucent colors, The 555 was the smallest format of three otherwise related pens, the next two larger sizes being designated by numbers 556 and 557. In the most commonly available versions, the pen has a 14k nib and a piston-fill system.

pen-in-hand-web.jpg

Look and Feel

The single most important fact about this pen is one you can see from the first photo: this is a very very small pen. I have small hands, which is why I wasn't put off from buying this pen when I read it was the smallest in its family. But even I was surprised by how small it is. Unposted, the barrel of the Omas barely reaches the base of my thumb. If your hands are larger than mine, as they're very likely to be, you'll probably have trouble holding the pen. It is proportionately narrow, too. And proportionately light, too. That is, it weighs close to nothing.

The 555f is 121 mm long (capped; 110 mm uncapped) and 37 mm in diameter. (Added: as Uncle Red points out, I measured the circumference. The diameter is under 12 mm.) By contrast, my Sailor Pro Gear (one of the smaller Sailor models) measures 136 mm in length (capped; 120 mm uncapped) and 44 mm 14 mm (Corrected for same reason) in diameter.

The xxx-f model pens are faceted (the distinctive Omas 12-faceted barrel and cap), a design chacteristic that is a convenience in terms of preventing pen roll as well as being attractive in itself. Color, however, is hardly inspiring. This is the standard Omas flat orangy-red, a far cry from the translucent and tortioise-shell stylings of the more expensive and elegant Omas models. For all this, I wouldn't say, as one might about other pens, that this wisp of a pen feels "cheap." There's something about it that still seems "convincing." This is a tiny, but serious pen.

Nib and Performance

The seriousness is clear in its dependability and performance. It has a 14k nib. Mine is an F nib, though it should be remembered it's a European F, and therefore writing not as fine a line as would be produced by a Japanese pen. (See its line, in the writing sample, compared to lines produced by my Pilot Vanishing Point and Sailor Pro Gear. The fine nib I have that writes a line most like the line produced by this Omas is on a Waterman pen.)

nib-comparison-web.jpg

One of the nice characteristics of this older model--it is a NOS, so it has its original older style nib--is that this nib is rather springier than a modern nib is likely to be. And so, though I'm not very good at doing it, ou can produce strokes of different weights even from this F nib.

I've had no problems with the nib drying out or being hard to start. It is true that I've been giving it a lot of use, so it's scarcely had time to dry out.

This model of the 555 is a piston-fill, and the mechanism seems depencdable, though of course the capacity of the pen is limited by its size.

Conclusion

The conclusion--and answer to the practical question I posed at the outset: "Should you buy this pen?"--is going to depend on circumstances.

Pros: An Omas pen at a pretty much affordable price. A flexible nib with the opportunity to write lines of different weights. Dependable quality.

Cons: Its small size may be a problem for some writers. It is not a beautiful pen.

Recommendation: I was not disappointed with my purchase. Surprised, maybe, at how small this pen is, but I'm happy to have it. It writes quite a beautiful line, to my eyes, and it was for the line that I'd wanted an Omas. If you can find it at a price point you're happy with, you needn't hesitate to go for it.

But if you've got big hands, I think I'd have to advise you to pass on this model. Keep your eyes out for a 557f (the largest pen in this style) of even the 556f. If you find one of them at a price you like, snap it up.


[Edited to correct diameter to reflect Uncle Red's conclusion about my mistake. See next message.]

Edited by marcomillions, 10 December 2012 - 17:58.

When you say "black" to a printer in "big business" the word is almost meaningless, so innumerable are its meanings. To the craftsman, on the other hand, black is simply the black he makes --- the word is crammed with meaning: he knows the stuff as well as he knows his own hand. --- Eric Gill

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#2 Uncle Red

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Posted 10 December 2012 - 17:01

Thanks for the review, I'll be keeping an eye out for this pen in the future. BTW, it think the diameter measurements in your review got garbled, there's no way the diameter of the 555f is over an inch. Did you mean the circumfrence?

#3 marcomillions

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Posted 10 December 2012 - 17:51

Thanks for the review, I'll be keeping an eye out for this pen in the future. BTW, it think the diameter measurements in your review got garbled, there's no way the diameter of the 555f is over an inch. Did you mean the circumfrence?

Thanks, Uncle Red. What a doofus I am. Of course I measured the circumference. I'll change the numbers in the original post. Thanks for pointing it out.

Marc
When you say "black" to a printer in "big business" the word is almost meaningless, so innumerable are its meanings. To the craftsman, on the other hand, black is simply the black he makes --- the word is crammed with meaning: he knows the stuff as well as he knows his own hand. --- Eric Gill

#4 ele

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Posted 22 December 2012 - 22:53

It is beyond me how you call these ugly but nice review anyway!

#5 eric47

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Posted 06 January 2013 - 22:39

If you spend some time looking, however, you can find older Omas pens, discontinued models, used or NOS, at significantly lower prices. The Omas 355 I bought is one of the models you're most likely to run into...

The 355 series of pens was brought out by Omas in the immediate post-WWII years, and continued in production, with changes and improvements, until perhaps as late as the 1980s. The pen sometimes appeared with rounded barrels and caps, other times with the more familiar and characteristic Omas 12-faceted barrel and cap. The standard color was a flat red, but special editions could come in smoke and translucent colors, The 555 was the smallest format of three otherwise related pens, the next two larger sizes being designated by numbers 556 and 557. In the most commonly available versions, the pen has a 14k nib and a piston-fill system.

Pros: An Omas pen at a pretty much affordable price. A flexible nib with the opportunity to write lines of different weights. Dependable quality.

Cons: Its small size may be a problem for some writers. It is not a beautiful pen.


First, nice review.

Actually my first Omas was a black 555/F (1930) with 18K nib I got on closeout because it had the old diamond clip when Omas switched everything to the roller clip. I still have it.

That's actually a bit of catch with the 14K nib, which were used on the early "Arte Italiana" pens launched in the 80s. As you've found the old 14K can be flexible unlike the later 18K nibs. They come quite close to vintage Omas semi-flex/flex nibs; so much so that I find them the only modern nibs* that come close to vintage semi-flex/flex. (*Maybe the only others are the 80s Pelikan 14Ks but I prefer the Omas nibs.)

They switched all pens to 18K around 1990+. Then around the time Omas was sold to LMVH in 2000, they started outsourcing their nibs from Bock which run wider than the Omas ones. Although your F runs wider than the two Japanese pens in your writing sample, it represents the historic Omas F until the switchover to Bock.

The rub however with these early production 1980s pens is that the vegetal resin used often shrinks. Took Omas some time to get a more stable formula.

I'm not why you reference the pen and series as the 355 on occasions when the series is often referred to as the 55x, with 'x' standing as a placeholder for 5,6,7 to indicate size. 'F' and 'S' are stuck at the end to designate faceted or round respectively. So just as you've indicated you have the smallest faceted pen, the 555/F. The faceted pens have alternative common names:
555/F - Dama, 1930
556/F - Milord
557/F - Gentleman, Paragon
These names appear on vintage pens from the 1960s. Omas used the names interchangeably in their catalogs from the 1980s; and some modern have the common names, some have the 55x/F names on them. At the beginning of modern Arte Italiana series, the standard color is actually black with second choice of bordeaux/burgundy, which sounds like what you have. Black is actually much more prevalent compared to bordeaux for pens of the period. In the 1990s Omas began making the 55x pens in other colors like blue, red, gray, brown, etc. on non LE pens.

Most sources indicate that the first Omas piston-fillers emerge after WWII, but on the round pre-Ogiva pens. I think the faceted piston fillers emerge in the late 40s-early 50s. But Omas faceted pens go further back to the 30s with the Extra lever-filler and the later Extra Lucen multi-shot plunger.

The basic design and form of the 55x/F holds fairly stable until 2004-2005. Under the ownership of LVMH, Omas radically restyles their pens and changes their product mix. Faceted pens remain in their catalog but they're much larger compared to the pens pre-2005 -- leaving aside for the moment the current retro movement at Omas of releasing pens based on the pre-2005 old-style designs.

The modern 555/F (1930) is a small pen. But the modern celluloid version (the Dama) is a wee bit shorter. And if you think either of those is small, the vintage 555/Fs (Damas) are actually shorter. Back in the day, they were probably consider vest pens. Not sure why you don't think it's a beautiful pen; it has classic Omas faceted styling. Not everything needs to be made of celluloid to be a beautiful pen. ;)

Here are those post-war (late 40s-50s) early 55x/F piston fillers. The 555/F at the bottom is about 5 mm shorter than your resin 555/F, and there's another variant (probably an earlier version) that's even shorter than that by about 1 cm, although it's fatter.

Posted Image

Edited by eric47, 06 January 2013 - 23:08.

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