The origin of this pen is still a mystery to me. My mum found a MB box amongst her old clothes, and gave it to me. She doesn’t recall exactly where she got it, but assumed that it was some of the things left behind by my grandmother after she passed away. Nobody’s sure where it came from, but regardless it performs very well and I’m glad my mum decided to throw out some old clothes!
Note: When there are 2 rating, the top is for my satisfaction, while the lower is for how much it could do, for that particular category. For example, I might be extremely satisfied with a stiff nib (5/5) but the lower rating would be (1/5) since it couldn’t flex at all. The ratings are not included in the final score.
Box and Instructions (7/10)
The box is a plastic clamshell type, and opens and closes with a firm snap. The lining is quite light, with a flexible fabric covering a plastic piece to keep the pen in place. It does not feel very solid, and although it hasn’t broke yet, it does not feel very high quality. I am assuming the pen and packaging was near mint, since there was no sign of regular usage.
I loved how thick the instruction booklet was. Unsurprisingly, quite a lot of the content was irrelevant, although fun to read. There were separate instructions for the piston filling pens, as well as the C/C pens that they also offered.
The pen is extremely authoritative due to its impressive girth. I would usually be quite disappointed by a shiny black and gold colour scheme, but considering that MB kind of created that stereotype, you can’t really fault the pen. It’s a classic design that looks timeless, especially with the knowledge that this is the real thing and not an “homage” or “inspired by-“ pen.
The nib is 18K and two-toned, which dates this to the early 90s. As it’s a #9 nib, the size is definitely appropriate for the rest of the pen. Detailing on the nib is nothing too gaudy, and contains the signature “4810” surrounded by subtle patterns.
Towards the end of the grip “section” there is an ink window. I appreciate how the black is broken up by lengthwise lines of transparent material that shows the ink level clearly, yet does not distract or subtract away from the main feature, which is the shiny plastic of the pen. All of the plating is top-notch, and the white star is an unmistakable touch.
Initial Feel (10/10)
The pen screamed of high quality the first time I lay my hands on it. The plastic was impeccably polished, and the whole thing fit perfectly into my hands. I knew that writing with this would never cause a cramp, or be of any discomfort.
Holding and writing with the pen was a dream. The threads, which I thought would be annoying, couldn’t detract from the fact that the entire pen was so comfortable to grip and use. It’s size alone would have done that, but moreover the balance was just perfect unposted. Posted (when it actually posts) the balance was just as great, but made the pen comically oversized.
This pen is a piston filler. The operation is smooth and the pen can hold a lot of ink which has proven useful for longer writing sessions. An ink window helps the user judge the level of ink inside the pen and is subtly concealed by its striped nature.
The pen is by no means scratchy, but more tooth was encountered that one would expect. I suspect this may have to do with the fact that it sat unused, in a drawer, for at least 10 years, but even after servicing it couldn’t really compare with a lot of other pens which had a much smoother nib.
This was disappointing, since it seemed as if the general consensus was that MBs are one of the best pens available, irrespective of their price. I brought it in to get a diagnosis due to its initial flow issues, and assumed that the technician would do something about the nib. Alas, that didn’t happen, and I had to cautiously make a few figure-eights on a 1000-grit abrasive paper which was the finest grade I could find. The nib was much smoother after, but still with a lot of feedback.
Whilst the nib wasn’t “soft”, per se, it can do a decent bit of line variation. The nib is stiff, but can spread a little to make a wider line. The flow keeps up (although it isn’t THAT demanding) and it performs well when adding a little flourish to my regular handwriting.
The nib and feed on the 149 is wet and has a healthy flow. Initially, the pen skipped and could barely start due to the fact that the old feed had to be replaced, since it was apparently broken or blocked. After this, the pen works flawlessly and can keep up with fast writing for long periods of time.
General reliability (19/20)
Apart from the old age issues, this pen is amongst the best for daily use. Its capacity is huge, and the pen will empty this without issue. This was among the pens I chose to bring into exams with me, and it accounted for my sanity at the end of a 2-and-a-half hour history writing exam with essay style questions. When I got home, I realised that I had barely made a dent in the ink reservoir even after writing over 10 pages.
Construction and Ergonomics
The pen’s components fit together flawlessly. The nib and feed are perfectly aligned, as is the piston knob that closes definitely and opens when needed. The cap, when closed, has a little bit of wiggle room, although it hasn’t unscrewed on its own for me yet. Overall, a very well made pen, which of course is expected from something that costs this much,
The clip works well. It supports the pen’s own weight, but isn’t over-stiff. From far away, the design seems classic, and frankly, boring. But up close, you can see the ridges on the side, as well as the subtle curvature of the clip. These small design features are what gives the clip substance and complements the pen, as opposed to detracting from the rest of the design.
This pen does not post very well. The cap goes on, but falls off at the slightest provocation. Not to mention, I was scolded by a clerk (oops) when I brought it in to replace the old, broken feed, who said that their “precious resin” would be scratched.
Miscellaneous (Extra thoughts)
Value for money (5/10)
Although this is a great pen since I got it for free, I would not be too impressed with it given the retail price. I can think of another hundred ways to spend the money, and still end up with more satisfaction than I have had with this one pen. For a second-hand price of about $400, this pen is a great addition to any collection and would be worth the price.
It’s hard to comment on a 90-year old design, but seeing as it’s still being made to this day, something was done right. The piston filler feels almost like an “innovation” amongst all these proprietary C/C designs nowadays.
Image and Advertising (5/5)
This is probably the most recognised pen around. I knew of it even before I got into fountain pens at all. Montblanc’s marketing department did a spectacular job, and it’s the most commented-upon pen when people do see me using it.
Buying experience (4/5)
Although I didn’t buy this, I went to the boutique in order to get it looked at. The staff was very professional and helpful, and didn’t try to sell me anything once I told them my purpose. They knew exactly what was wrong with the pen after filling and trying it, and I only needed to wait a short amount of time for the technician to replace the parts at a reasonable cost.
The 149 is an iconic pen which, despite my cynicism about the brand, performed well above expectations. The story behind this pen is one that makes me feel very lucky, and I have no regrets trying it out. Naturally, I would have been more cynical if I paid the full retail price for it, but I never expected to be this impressed by a brand I thought had become a commercialised business (to be fair, it has, but at least it can still make a decent pen).
I am fully satisfied with the pen’s performance and design, even if the nib isn’t as flawless as I’d have liked it to. Despite its issues, of which I’m nit-picking, the entire experience is extremely pleasant, not in the least due to how I came around to acquiring the pen in the first place.