FILCAO Atlantica, a Chilton-type pneumatic filler
I'll save you some time. The FILCAO Atlantica writes smoothly, feels balanced in the hand, and is carefully constructed from an elegant material. These are fine qualities, but they aren't the reason you should write with one, if you get the opportunity, because they aren't made any more. You should write with one because it's interesting, and it's interesting for three reasons.
First, this particular Atlantica uses a filling system you've probably never heard of, and it's slick, quirky, and makes a lot of sense. It's called a Chilton pneumatic filler, and you can read about it in one of Richard Binder's authoritative pen encyclopedia entries. To fill the pen, you remove a blind cap, pull out a chrome rod, place your finger over the hole, immerse the nib in ink, push the rod in, and take your finger off the hole. Then you replace the cap. The system holds a lot of ink, maybe 1.2 milliliters, though I haven't measured, and because it takes me a week or so of regular writing before the ink gets depleted, I'm not planning on measuring it.
Second, the material used in the pen isn't just elegant. It is mahogany-paneled-private-library elegant, and could serve as a dictionary illustration for what the Italians call catarifrangente and the French call chatoyant. The material is deep, shimmering, and glowing, and it looks like a lucky day for an amateur geologist/pen collector hiking in the Alps west of Torino. Finding a boulder of gray-green granite laced with mother of pearl and curly black mica flakes, illuminated from the inside by fading candlelight, the collector made a mental note--"that rock will do very nicely.” Then it was made into a Goldilocks-sized, understated pen for people who need to mark up contracts, describe the inner thoughts of characters, write prescriptions, draw circuit diagrams, or correct the improper grammar of students, and who actually enjoy the tactile quality of the writing process.
Last, the pen was made by a Torinese pen designer who combined two uniquely Italian qualities – the genius that sometimes stems from economy -- as anyone who has eaten fettuccine alla Genovese could tell you. Pesto is made from basil leaves, a few stray pieces of cheese, some olive oil, and pine nuts that require considerable amounts of labor to dehusk. Combined in a sauce, these ingredients are sublime and satisfying, but one has the feeling that, on one very bleak day, they were what was in the pantry of a brilliant grandmother who needed to feed her family. Necessity ignites invention.
As Italian-American pen distributor Giovanni Abrate tells the story, the late founder of FILCAO, Francesco Grisolia, built relationships with the Italian manufacturers of resin used in pens and eyeglasses. In comparison to the market for eyeglass frames, pens are a tiny market, so if you're a boutique pen manufacturer trying to make handsome but reasonable products for stationery stores throughout Italy, occasionally your business relationships need to score gorgeous material at a good price. In the late 1990s, Grisolia found some material in northern Italy that had been evaluated for Montblanc special editions. Montblanc appears to have used a slightly different version for the Oscar Wilde. Grisolia used what he found to create the Atlantica, this eccentric Chilton pneumatic filler.
I am fairly certain that the Oscar Wilde is a gorgeous pen. For $1,500, give or take a few hundred, it ought to be. But I am absolutely certain that the Atlantica is as satisfying and delicious as a plate of fettuccine alla Genovese, served with a deep red Nebbiolo, on a table with a white linen tablecloth.
Now that I've saved you some time, you can choose. For $1,500, you can have an Oscar Wilde, or an Atlantica and a flight to Milano. Buon viaggio.
Chilton-type pneumatic filler
Medium steel nib
Dictionary illustration for what the Italians call catarifrangente and the French call chatoyant.
Writing Sample. First poem in Italian by a female writer, attributed to "Compiuta."
Rough English translation
Photograph of writing sample, Sailor Jentle doyou ink