The pen has a nice-looking and physically large medium nib (the website states that it is 18K gold with a platinum mask) that is surprisingly flexible and lays down would I would consider a true medium line -- not so fat as some other mediums and a perfect match for my handwriting. A look at the underside of the nib reveals an ebonite (hard rubber) feed, which is a nice touch compared to the plastic feeds in so many other pens (including some fairly expensive pens). The inkflow in my example is perfect -- not too wet, and not too dry -- and the nib was perfectly aligned and quite smooth right out of the box. I have been using it with Private Reserve Chocolat ink, which seems to be a perfect match for the dark brown streaks in the celluloid. I initially considered using P.R. Copper Burst, as I have found it to be an extremely good performer in many different pens and I like the subtle line variation you get with less-saturated inks, but it was the wrong color and didn't really match the pen, to my eye. (As an aside, the most fun color of this variety that I've come across is Noodler's Habanero, which is a free-flowing pale orange that exhibits a great deal of color variation depending on how wet or dry the line is. It's not the best business correspondence color, however.)
The balance and weight of the pen are as close to perfect for my medium-sized hand as I have tried. It's not too heavy, and not too light, with a balance that keeps just the right amount of weight on the tip to keep the pen under control with light pressure but not so heavy that it gets fatiguing. I preferred to use the pen without posting the cap.
The finish and fine detail work on this pen are impressive. The pen itself is built to perfection, with perfectly-fitted silver appointments. There is an inlaid symbol in the top of the cap that says "1912," which according to the firm's website is the year the company was founded as a fountain pen and nib manufacturer. The trim ring around the bottom cap lip contains a beautifully-executed Greek key pattern. The curve of the clip is soft and graceful and it has a little wheel at the bottom to hold it firmly in your shirtpocket without tearing at the fabric (Omas and Delta have this as well, and I think it's a nice touch). There is also a silver ring separating the body of the pen from the blind cap, and a silver disk inlaid into the end of the blind cap. Everywhere you look on this pen, you see a new detail. The pen has a classic bullet shape (actually, sort of a cigar shape with the ends cut off), and though the diameter of the cap is quite large, it does not feel overly fat in the hand. The pen fills via an internal converter (more on this in a minute), and the blind cap turns easily, though it's not loose. The pen comes in a huge (I would guess 8" x 8" square and 5" tall) wooden presentation box containing a cushion for the pen, a silver polishing cloth, and a bottle of Montegrappa ink.
I said in the tag line at the top that this pen has a couple of quirks. They are not fatal flaws, but they are worth pointing out because they are not obvious from a picture or even casual testing at a pen store.
Quirk #1 -- the cap threads. This is the single most annoying thing about this pen in actual use. It takes at least 8 turns to get the cap off this pen (believe me, when you're working to get the cap off this pen, you'll have plenty of time to count the number of turns). It is nearly impossible for me to imagine that there is a sound design reason behind this. If someone calls you and you want to jot down their phone number quickly, you'd better have a Namiki Vanishing Point handy or you'll never get the cap off in time to write it down before you've forgotten it. If Montegrappa wanted to improve this pen, from this user's point of view, they should cut the number of turns it takes to get the cap off in half. (Pelikan has this nailed, in my experience -- it takes barely a quarter turn to get the cap off a Pelikan.)
Quirk #2 -- the internal converter. This pen fills like a piston filler, but I don't think it is a real piston filler, I think it's just a converter that's permanently mounted inside the pen and actuated by turning the blind cap on the back end. The first clue is that when you turn the blind cap to fill the pen, it doesn't screw out and away from the body of the pen like my Pelikan or Omas piston fillers do -- the blind cap stays in place and merely rotates. This doesn't make much of a practical difference, in my mind. The second clue, however, does make a practical difference: the pen does not hold nearly as much ink as a true piston filler would. It holds about the same amount of ink you would expect to get into a pen with a converter. I am enough of a pen snob that I prefer real piston fillers to cartridge/converter filling pens. However, at least pens with removable converters can be more easily flushed out and offer the option of using a cartridge in a pinch (for example, when traveling or at a meeting outside the office). Being stuck with a captive internal converter, you get all of the disadvantages of a converter filler with none of the advantages. As I said, this is not really a flaw, in my view, but it is rather annoying. (For the record, Montegrappa's website suggests that the version of this pen with gold trim is a piston filler. I have not seen the gold trim version and prefer the look of the sterling trim to the gold; if given the choice, I think I might still choose the silver trim version with an internal converter to the gold trim version with a real piston filler.)
With a MSRP of $1,050, this is not an inexpensive pen -- it's in the same price class, for example, as the new Omas Bronze Arco celluloid, the gorgeous new Visconti Divina in orange and blue celluloid, or the black and gold Cartier Python, to name a few -- but the high-quality celluloid with solid sterling silver trim, the build quality and finish of the pen, and its exemplary writing characteristics make it a worthwhile contender in what I would call the high-end user pen market (this is not a limited edition or a collector's pen -- though expensive, in my view, this pen is meant to be used, not kept in a vault or on display in a cabinet). It is more costly, for example, than the regular Omas Paragon or the soon-to-be-discontinued Bologna, the DuPont Orpheo, or that benchmark high-end user pen, the Montblanc 149. In fact, for the same price, you could probably buy two Pelikan M1000s, 3 Pelikan M800s, or 4 Pelikan 600s if Pelikans are your pen of choice. For your money, you get a solid performer, but you also get beautiful, high-end Italian design and sterling silver trim that will make you want to pick up this pen and admire (dare I say fondle?) it. As much as I like my Pelikans, I have never felt the slightest urge to fondle one.
In my book, the first $200 to $300 of the cost of a pen is for the performance (for me, the benchmarks in this price class are the Pelikan M600 or M800, the Sailor 1911, or the Aurora 88 before the recent spate of quality-control issues started cropping up). Most of my pens fall into this price range (Bexley Submariner Grande and America the Beautiful, Delta Dolce Vita, Sailor 1911, Pelikan 600 and 800, Pilot Custom 823). Anything you pay above $300, in this user's opinion, is for looks, design, materials, packaging, brand name, marketing costs, exclusivity, and je ne sais qua. I have a few pens in this $300 to $1,000 category, including the Omas Paragon (new style), the Omas Bronze Arco (old style), the Visconti Wall Street LE and Divina, the DuPont Orpheo, and the Waterman Edson. With the exception of the Omas pens, I would not say that these more expensive pens are better writers than their less-expensive brethren (the new Omas Paragon is the best writing pen I own, bar none). I would say, however, that I derive more pleasure and experience more of a sense of pride of ownership when I use the pens in the latter group. I look forward to the days when it's their turn to be up in the rotation more than the others. Is that worth paying for? Only you can answer that question. All I can say is I would buy them again without hesitation.
If you are willing to spend this much money on a beautiful, high-end user pen, I think the 1930 Extra is worth a look.
For more information on the pen and the company, here's a link to Montegrappa's website
Montegrappa 1930 Extra
Edited by Mike S., 24 February 2007 - 20:35.