This is only my second review, so please excuse any mistakes or anything important that gets left out. This review is of the Stipula Orient Express Special Edition. I saw this pen on ebay not very long ago. It was in my watch list and I have no idea why, but I decided to chance an impulse buy (something I rarely do) even though I knew nothing of Stipula.
As far as I know, Stipula are relatively new to the market, having only begun in 1973 in Italy. This pen is the Orient Express SE and was limited to 500, of which this one is pen 221. It is a piston filler with a T-flex titanium nib (one size fits all!). It came in a slightly naff red box with a cheap looking red cardboard sleeve. I've since looked at other Stipula pens, but their design doesn't really appeal to me much - I'm vain and stupid and I like shiny.
The pen has a deep and very rich celluloid in black and a reddish brown, a little like a tortoiseshell effect in flakes and it is very highly polished. It is very pleasing to the eye and the colour sets off the silver mounts very well. It has a vintage look to it which is carried through into the titanium nib which has dulled and tarnished - but I quite like the look. It reminds me of nibs on an old flex pen and it seems to me to work with the overall look of the pen.
The pen barrel has almost tubular double silver mounts at the cap and then again at the cleverly concealed piston nob, and these double mounts are meant to represent the railway tracks. Set into the barrel of the pen is an enamelled escutcheon of the faux coat of arms associated with the Orient Express. It is two lions holding an 'O' with an "E' inside it and surrounded by a tied cloth swag. On the pen cap, opposite the clip is a smaller enamel escutcheon with a small suitcase with a "V' shape on it (for 'voiture' possibly?). The clip is firm with a tightness to the spring and is in silver with an inlaid foiled enamel in imperial blue - which is also the inlaid colour on the other two silver escutcheons. The escutcheons are just ever so slightly raised (almost completely flush inset) on the cap and barrel, making this a very tactile pen.
The pen is in a torpedo shape, looking very like an unclipped cigar, and although to the eye in pictures it looks very thin and small, it is actually quite a large pen at just a touch under six inches capped, five and a quarter inches uncapped and at six and a half inches posted (it's posts reasonably securely). The piston filler is a marvel. It is sooooo smooth and it feels like it has been very well made. There is no rattling or looseness to it at all and the pen holds a seriously good fill of ink.
When you look at it at first the grip section looks like it might be a bit difficult. The pen is actually very heavy, but quite well balanced (both posted and unposted, although I prefer posted). The grip looks very thin and tapers off quite dramatically towards the nib and at first I thought the threads would be an issue (it''s a screw cap). But here is the clever bit, the screw threads to place the cap are right at the very end of the grip, so where you hold the pen your fingers are not near them, unless of course you have a slightly unusual grip. It also means that when the pen is closed you have this little squished cushion of celluloid between the railway tracks that keeps the pen body looking tidy and neat. I find the grip surprisingly comfortable and can write holding at the silver mount or slightly further down the grip and both positions are very comfortable.
The nib on this pen is a T-Flex titanium nib. I knew nothing of these nibs and still have no idea what the advantage of a titanium nib is, but it does tarnish - a lot - so if you like bright shiny nibs, this is not for you. The nib is nicely engraved with six arrow head leaves and the brand name Stipula and the words 'titanio' and 't-flex'. These nibs don't come in sizes; they are a one size fits all. First thing to say about this is that it totally blew me away. I had read a few reviews of Stipula that suggested the nibs were slightly temperamental and I think someone on here felt it wasn't a great writers pen. Maybe I got lucky, but this pen writes like an absolute dream. The Pilot Custom 823 is the...scratch that, was the most butter smooth nib I had ever used, but this Stipula only requires the very lightest of touch to write. It glides across the page with no effort at all. Now a note on the T-Flex and its capabilities (or lack thereof).
The T-Flex has a video on youtube that I watched (after I had bought the pen ) that demonstrates the extent of flex in the nib. When you write lightly the line is nice and thin, but with only a tiny bit of pressure it deepens and thickens; but only slightly. It doesn't have the same capabilities as the Ahab for instance, but it is a much more refined nib. It is truly a thing of wonder - I have never experienced anything so damn smooth. With normal writing - dependent on the lightness of touch - I would guess that the nib writes close to an F or an EF, so if you like big fat B's and BB's, this is definitely not a pen you will enjoy. If you like to be able to glide across a page with super thin lines with not even a hint of a scratch, then you will likely enjoy this very much. With a shading ink you can get some very beautiful results.
I have absolutely no notion what this pen normally retails for or what price should be paid for a second hand version, but I bought this on a whim on ebay for €130 and on the basis of how much I like this pen, the surprising aspects of it and the build quality I think I probably paid a fair price. I do hope I haven't been ripped off and I am really hoping that someone doesn't come and tell me that you can buy one for €50 elsewhere. If that is the case, just don't tell me!
Overall this pen is a bit surprising and very pleasing as it has very quickly become one of my favourite pens. I doubt that it will ever be left uninked. It's a big, weighty, yet beautiful and refined pen with very well thought out design touches. Despite all the imperial blue on fancy and florid escutcheons it still feels like quite a 'male' pen (if there is such a thing), but perhaps I only think that because when I look at it the pen reminds me of a cigar. It is also a very tactile pen with a nice weight; the celluloid is not cold to the touch and I find it hard to put it down and stop rubbing my thumb on the almost flush insets. A very dangerous thing to say I know, but I couldn't recommend it enough.
There are very few pens I own that get this score (I can count them on one hand) and after a very long time pondering what I could possibly dislike about this pen to knock off a point and make this review look a little more realistic (and not make me look like a kid with a sugar rush in a candy store every time I get a new pen) I have to confess I struggled. I just love it, so it gets a 10/10 in my book.