I received my first Visconti yesterday, a beautiful new-old-stock Titanium Skeleton from 2002. I shall preface this thread by confessing that I have never reviewed a pen before, and that I have only been 'into' fountain pens for four or five months, so please consider my opinions as entirely uninformed, wholly subjective, and possibly slightly starry-eyed at my first Very Fancy Pen!
I've just started blogging about fountain pens and such so have a post online here about my first impressions with the pen, but here I shall try to be a little more analytical and follow the established guidelines. A quick apology for my photos - my camera is at work and I've been off sick, so am using le iPotato to capture shots and, despite trying in vain to smarten them up in Ps, they do remain somewhat grainy.
Golly! The pen has its original box, case, paperwork, and even arrived in the original plastic sheath. The priciest pen I have owned until new is the Conid Bulkfiller, which is a marvellous pen but obviously aimed at a different aesthetic than Visconti's Italiluxe stylings, so the fancy packaging is a new experience to me. Being new-old-stock and never used it is all in great condition for its age, given that this pen is now thirteen years old.
The pen itself was just as I expected - not a gleaming gem for my first true luxury brand item, but a matte titanium over resin instrument that would probably be one of the most anti-bling pens Visconti has created. The first impression of the pen itself therefore wasn't one of those moments therefore where you gingerly and with trembling hands open the box, whereupon gold light immediately pours out and angels chorus above, as with pupillary dialation your retinas finally alight upon your gleaming grail pen.. but then for a pen that I have nicknamed Skeletor this is all as it should be!
Appearance & design: 9.5
Made of matte titanium filigree laid over a clear resin barrel, this pen is subdued in tone and does not immediately blind with conventional beauty. Take a closer look however and the matte titanium is perfectly smooth with a faintly speckled appearance, which doesn't shine but does add depth, it isn't a flat colour. I understand that Ti is very difficult to work and cannot be shined to a gleam, so the matte finish really is the nature of the metal itself and that as such this stealth grey appearance is intrinsically part of the final look.
I absolutely love the appearance, but were I to describe the aesthetic theme of my pen collection in three words, those would be stealth, demonstrator, and raw (as in raw metals, raw wood one day). I don't go for brights and despite my adoration for the Pilot 823, the goldtone metal grated enough that I set out in search of a quality silvertone demonstrator that lead me to Conid's doors. So for me this marriage of such the delicate, traditionally beautiful & intricate art of filigree, with the unapologetically matte, industrial appearance and feel of titanium metal is one made in heaven!
The shape of the pen overall is simple; a straight tube with tapered blind cap, rounded cap, and just the swoop of the clip to add some curve and echo that of the filigree design. This is perfect and permits the pattern of the filigree to show off, whilst remaining true to the minimalist grey tone of the filigree metal. There is a band of clear resin at the base of the cap that adds a touch of light between these two sections, and this is echoed at the bottom of the barrel by the space between the plunger and the blind cap. The blind cap is just a slightly lighter-toned metal than the filigree body, but it is barely noticeable and probably accentuated anyway by the angle of this piece.
Construction & quality: 8.5
The titanium metal bears no lines from machining, and each of the filigree cutouts is perfect. I spy one tiny notch upon the side of one cutout that is a wee piece of metal, but that was after a good few minutes' survey. Perfectly even, with smoothed edges, and it appears to have been laser cut from a titanium tube, rather than cut out as a sheet and then wrapped around the pen, as there is no joint line to be seen. The cap does not post; well, it kind of can sit there, but does not feel that you can push it on to seat securely and I do not wish to try.
The Visconti logo upon the cap is aligned to the clip, and both cap and blind cap screw on and off smoothly and without hesitation. The only fault I could point out is that when the lid is closed to a full stop, the filigree does not quite align; it is only just off though, and I didn't even notice this yesterday when posting my first impressions upon my blog. There are four threads to the cap, and no matter which you enter to begin attaching the cap it always ends up about 1mm too far around for the pattern to continue perfectly. I've deducted a full point for that, it seems an important thing and whilst it's only just missed the mark, said mark was still missed.
Weight & dimensions: 9
The pen is a good 15g heavier than those capped big-filling pens I am most used to - Conid Bulkfiller & Pilot 823 - but hardly surprising given the construction of this pen. For the record I am female, fine boned but 168cm tall so kind of a middling-sized human, and to me this pen feels just fine for use. I do notice that it is heavier than my aforementioned workhorse staples, but it is a nice heft, and really, really well balanced. I feel the weight more significantly resting against my hand rather than held within the grip of my fingers, if that makes sense, but then the pen is a touch longer than others I own, holds a gallon of ink, and has the titanium blind cap on the end.
Length closed: 141mm
Length uncapped: 135mm
Length posted: Does not post.
Grip diameter: 12.1mm
Barrel diameter: 14mm
Weight cap: 15g
Body weight empty: 29g
Body weight full: 33g (compare: Conid = 20g; Vanishing Point Stealth = 31g[!]; 823 = 20g;)
Capped weight empty: 44g
Capped weight full: 48g
The length of the pen is nice, as is the overall barrel and grip dimensions. I spent a couple of hours last night playing around, writing out quotes and song lyrics, and did not feel undue fatigue. It is worth noting however that my daily notemaker and diariser is the Stealth Vanishing Point, a hefty 31g in itself and of course without a removable cap! I suspect that for very long writing sessions I'd use the 823 or Bulkfiller as usual, which is also the case for the Vanishing Point.
Nib & performance: 6
This pen has a 18kt 750 two-tone nib, size medium. It is a stunning nib, beautifully proportioned against the pen, and distractingly beautiful to use. A quick caveat here: I am used to extra-fine nibs, mostly Japanese, so basically spend most of my days writing with a giant sewing needle attached to an ink reserve. My handwriting is small and I knew that this nib would, to me, be a giant in width and wetness, so thusly entered the world of Visconti knowing that I shall need to adjust my script to accommodate the width. Okay, onwards.
The legends of Visconti nibs had preceded the arrival of mine own in this pen, and I was thusly prepared for what I encountered upon use. Smooth, delicious, silky buttery smoothy-smoothness. And a great big baby's bum. The flow is consistent and perfect I think for the nib (though of course wetter than I am used to - adjusting my own perspectives here!), and shading is even across a page during use. It is beautiful; however, should I raise the nib for a moment, I must double-stroke due to skipping every second time I begin another sentence, or even the second half of a word. When I wrote the first passage posted here I didn't really experience much trouble, but then this was a flowing ramble of writing; when later writing out song lyrics however, with constant pauses to confirm spelling and such, the skipping was significant and annoying.
Had I bought this pen from the shop I'd have requested an extra-fine, but on the reseller market of course one is at the mercy of availability. I received the pen with an open mind to play around with the medium for a while anyway before deciding whether to have it ground down or switched out, just to gain more experience with other nibs. I have only been collecting a few months, after all. Now that I see the extent of the baby's bum on this nib I feel that the decision will need to be made soon, as it really does impede normal use of the pen. Given that this nib is essentially brand new, yet 13 years old, I doubt any nib exchange program will swap it for me; I shall decide whether to either purchase an EF new, or second-hand, or perhaps engage in a straight swap.
So a lot of points lost here despite the beauty of this nib. Yes it is smooth to use, but this is because of the baby's bottom that makes it periodically unusable!
Filling system & maintenance: 10
The powerfiller is magnificent! It was very very stiff when I first opened the box, as well it should be; if you'd sat in a cage for 13 years without moving, you'd be a little bit tinman yourself. It would barely move at first, only in short jolts, so I spent the drive home (in the passenger seat, lol) working the piston gently, and it had loosened up some by the time we arrived home. I didn't do this constantly as I figured that inky lubrication was what it really needed, just got it moving a bit so that I could fill it easily.
When it came time to fill I did need to pause halfway through to add another thumb to the piston pusherdownerer, which I suspect is partly due to the disuse and stiffness, but largely due to the gigantic vacuum it generates. That first inhalation of ink, my goodness - it filled the pen straight up to 3/4 full! Then I inverted it nib-upwards, the anterior chamber drained back down into the main chamber, to my surprise adding at least an extra cm or so and completing the fill. Absolutely staggered - there had seemed a good amount of air left in there until I tipped it upright. I am used to the Pilot 823, wherein one must give the process a couple of goes to completely fill the main chamber, and the small reservoir holds just a wee amount of ink that when drained adds little to the main chamber.
At this point I had a full main chamber with just a touch of air space left, and an empty anterior chamber, but being the wildchild that I am - and wanting a wholly full pen for my photos - I disregarded the leaflet's instructions and pushed the air out before dunking into the inkpot again for a second fill. This time the piston slipped down smoothly and both chambers are full to the brim. This is unnecessary for normal use of course, and means that one cannot drain the anterior chamber for travel as is the entire point of this system, but I have since left the blind cap closed and am curious to see just how much writing I can get out of that full small chamber. The 823 will give a couple of A4 pages with an EF nib, so I have a comparison; come to think of it, I haven't tried this with the Bulkfiller yet.
Now given my gigantic wealth of experience with this pen, a sum total of one fill, I cannot yet speak much to ongoing maintenance and such, but a massive thumbs-up for that filling power. I mean, gosh. I don't believe one is meant to disassemble this baby for cleaning, so I guess other than general care and whatever Visconti might recommend in terms of service treatments there is not much maintenance to speak of?
Cost & value: 10
Original retail for the Titanium Skeleton Demonstrator was, I believe, around USD$1095 c2002. Please correct me if wrong.
I found mine on an ebay auction from a lovely seller at the buyer's market time of year: WINNING! Every fricking year I go through Christmas weeping into my wine glass at all the wonderful auctions and classifieds that sell for a song because nobody has any money left; well, this time I was ready, and really do feel rather smug about it all, even despite the current 'value' of the Australian dollar. Mine is new-old-stock, never-used, and came with original box, case, papers, & Visconti card (though the latter is from the number 02 Skeleton, not my number 40! Whoops. Who knows where / when those got mixed up). I never dreamt I'd own this pen, let alone for this price, so would give 100/10 on this score if only logic permitted!
For those in the market, contemporaries of my Titanium Skeleton Demonstrator are available from Chatterley's Luxuries (second-hand, USD$795), and on sale in the classifieds here by our Mccanel (near-mint, USD$650, and the best deal beyond mine I've seen).
Alternative and more expensive versions include the Alutex aluminium version, with a printed texture; the Carbon Fibre version, rendered unsurprisngly in carbon fibre, such as on FPN by Mkim (near-mint, USD$1000); a silver version such as this on FPN by Classics (http://www.fountainp...fp-13-wet-stub/); and a gold. I think I've seen also an orange one on Chatterley's over a demonstrator barrel, but am uncertain of the composition.
Alternative and less expensive versions featured titanium filigree over coloured resin barrels, such as this one for sale on FPN by Lavendrie (black resin, brand-new, USD$375). These are available in a range of different bodies, and using cartridge/converter systems are far more affordable than the demonstrator power-fillers.
Final score: 53/60
The only downside about this pen, to my mind, is that the nib is not perfect straight out of the box. Sure, everyone wants a smooth nib, but going too far with this and creating a baby's bottom just to ensure that it is insanely smooth surely misses the point! I was always needing to do something about this nib anyway as it is a medium and thusly too fat for me, but for someone who bought a medium because he or she wanted a medium, it would be even more disappointing that a pen retailing for so much money should require servicing from a third-party nibmonster for optimisation.
For me, however, that cannot sour this sweet, sweet purchase. I am over the moon. Yes, this review is based upon mere hours of playing and I do not have experience with high-end pens such as this for added context, but I hope that I have explained my perspective well enough to at least provide some value in my comments despite these factors. I will use this pen for journalling, writing out quotes, letters, and should it end up with a nib fine enough, for shorter periods of writing at work. I'm not keen quite frankly to take this beauty into work with me, but I do have flexibility to work from home and it will reside here for such sessions.
I would absolutely recommend this pen to others, albeit with due warning about the nib. I have read that it can take just a few wee figure-8's upon the finest grade finishing paper to rectify a nib's infantile posterior, but I neither own as yet any nor am game to try. (I do have mylar & micromesh on order along with some cheap nibs to gain experience for the future.) So for me I need to decide sooner than anticipated what to do with this nib: find a replacement and sell this one, or have it ground down. Frankly I don't want to buy a replacement from Visconti as I expect that I'll gain a beautiful new nib.. with a baby's bottom! I just need to speak with a grinder for advice on the best approach for my needs.
It's unused, stunning, rare, the perfect styling for me, and I bought it for a song. Finish is superb and the powerfiller makes Schwarzenegger in his prime look like Peewee Herman. The nib is beautiful and beautifully smooth, but has a terrible baby's bottom. I'll probably send it to a nibmonster for grinding and use it for journalling, letters, and short amounts of work.
Edited by Hypocaffeinic, 19 January 2016 - 10:55.