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Hermes Nautilus Review

hermes nautilus fountain pen ballpoint

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30 replies to this topic

#1 Maxim

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Posted 29 July 2016 - 11:57

Introduction

 

I'm no great reviewer, but since I so wanted to read more information about this pen before buying it, have decided I should at least post something for others now I have one.

 

The pen is the Hermes Nautilus. It was designed by fellow Sydney-sider Marc Newson, was his first fountain pen (before the Montblanc M) and it's my love of his design that drew me to it.

 

The pen is available as a ballpoint and a fountain pen, with much the same look, feel and casing. Both styles are available in blue, 'Hermes' red, black and aluminium/silver. Pictured below is the ballpoint version in black and the fountain pen in blue.

 

fpn_1469791313__hermesnautilus_-_2.jpg

 

The reason I actually have two is the cost, strangely enough. Because I'm not a natural fountain pen user and because the fountain pen version of the pen is 30% dearer, I initially told myself that I could live with just the ballpoint. I picked up the ballpoint from Hermes Germany (online), having it on-shipped to Australia. The price for the fountain pen is 1150 Euro, which is about 1250USD and 1700AUD. The ballpoint is 'only' 950 Euro.

 

I loved the ballpoint and therefore subsequently snagged the next fountain pen that came on eBay used for about half the new price. This would be a good idea if you are looking to pick up this pen, except for the fact that I've had an eBay search for 'hermes nautilus' for about a year now and only two have come onto the market in that time.

 

Anyway, the pen is expensive and also hard to get, unless you walk into a Hermes shop or live in the US. I believe Australia only stocks the silver model and the only place online with all four colours in stock is the US Hermes site (which sells the fountain pen for 1670USD -- a 25% mark-up on European on-line prices).

 

 

Build and Quality

 

I don't know quite what to say. The Nautilus satisfies. It satisfies like a solid, but not heavy, metal pen should. I just bought a Lamy Joy this morning and could scarcely bring myself to even use it for a few lines because it just felt cheap and plasticky in comparison to what I'm now used to.

 

fpn_1469791593__hermesnautilus_-_3.jpg

 

I had already bought the Montblanc M fountain pen and, while I like it, picking it up to compare and the first thing that hits me is that it doesn't feel well balanced -- the nib end has much more metal and heft to it, while the butt doesn't feel cheap, but is nevertheless all a bit too 'hollow' somehow. If I'm generally to compare Marc Newson's two attempts at the genre and the Nautilus is much more satisfying: two other issues with the Montblanc M are the ridges at the grip which can be a bit grating and the lack of any satisfactory way of inking it up without cartridges. Neither are a problem for the Nautilus.

 

 

fpn_1469791671__hermesnautilus_-_4.jpg

 

The other pens I should compare the Nautilus to are Pilot vanishing points, Lamy Dialogs and all others with retractable nibs. Because, if you didn't already know, that's the main 'gimmick' of the Nautilus too. Except, I can't really call it a 'gimmick' because it is such a fundamental part of this pen.

 

The magnet on the Montblanc M is a gimmick. It is slightly fun, but has little practical use and isn't even dual use to allow posting (the M can't). The retractable nib on the Nautilus is integral. This is the first and only 'minimalist' pen I have come across that pulls it off. I simply can't persuade myself to try any others having bought the Nautilus, because the others do it worse -- at least from an aesthetic point of view.

 

I don't want a clip in my way when I'm writing. I don't want a Frankenstein's monster pen where the nib emerges from the 'wrong end'. I don't actually want a clip at all. The retractable nib is there, for me, as a design decision by a designer wanting a pen that takes all excess away. Lamy haven't done that and Pilot haven't either. The Nautilus has.

 

When you turn the butt of the pen 360 degrees to start writing, there is no cap to post. There is no clip to worry about. There is the nib to write and the shaft to grip and nothing else. The only thing more satisfying in a way than knowing this is when you have finished writing. To make the nib (or ballpoint tip, for the other model) protrude you have to complete a full turn of the mechanism, but retracting and you just need a slight anti-clockwise nudge for the butt to seamlessly complete its turn and align again perfectly. It is slightly magical in the sense that it's never entirely clear where the potential energy comes for this process, but it works every time and has the solidness that it will be working just as well in fifty years time -- there is no complex mechanism that is prone to failure, just a well-engineered design.

 

One final comment on the build and that is the shape. The pen's cross-section is halfway between a rounded triangle and an oval cut in half. While I'm not a natural writer and grew up with a non-standard pen grip (I didn't use a triangle grip), I therefore thought I might struggle to even hold the nautilus correctly as the body isn't round. Well, I've had no problems there. I find it immensely satisfying and comfortable to write with.

 

fpn_1469791745__hermesnautilus_-_5.jpg

 

Nib and Writing

 

I don't actually propose to go into this. There's a picture of a fine medium above. Hermes use Pilot's vanishing point nibs and even sell them separately (with a Hermes mark-up built in). I normally go for a medium, but the fine-medium pictured is just great. I think Hermes sell 6 different nibs from XF to B, but really these are interchangeable with Pilot and won't write any differently to Pilot.

 

One thing I can say, again to eulogise this pen, is that I picked up just the nib apparatus by itself before buying the Nautilus. I tried writing with it on its own and was distinctly underwhelmed -- not because it was a bad nib, but because without the heft and glory of a beautiful pen, the nib on its own is robbed of any chance to shine.

 

fpn_1469791869__hermesnautilus_-_7.jpg

 

Final Comments

 

I can write more, but not for now, so will post this as a rather stream-of-consciousness review. One last note for those of you thinking of maybe buying the ballpoint version, a Pilot nib and saving a bit of money -- don't. You can't.

 

I haven't posted it here, but the interiors of the two pens are slightly different -- the fountain pen has room in the butt for the cartridge or converter (I use a CON-40 at the moment) and a 'notch' in the front section to take any Pilot (or Hermes) vanishing point nib unit. The ballpoint is different for both sections, so the two pens are not interchangeable. They are, as pictured, exactly the same size and will take the same leather sheaths though.

 

I mainly posted this all because I wanted anyone in a similar position to have a bit more information on this fine pen. So, feel free to ask questions or for any more specific pictures and I'll try to come to the party.

 

fpn_1469791216__hermesnautilus_-_1.jpg


Edited by Maxim, 29 July 2016 - 12:07.


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#2 visvamitra

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Posted 29 July 2016 - 12:09

Thank you for informative review. The pen looks really nice but the price is rather high :)



#3 Old_Inkyhand

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Posted 29 July 2016 - 12:25

Thank you very much, it's the first time I read about this interesting pen. The review is brilliant.  :)



#4 dennis_f

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Posted 29 July 2016 - 15:21

Thanks for a great review, and thanks for the comparison with the MB.  I've been curious about the Hermes since I first heard about it, but haven't seen one live. I have, however, tried the M, so the comparison really helps to get a feel for the Hermes.

 



#5 dr saleem ali

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Posted 29 July 2016 - 17:06

Thanks for  a nice review and pics .The pen is a different (stroke ) in retractile nib type fp ,but very pricey !



#6 gmax

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Posted 29 July 2016 - 20:42

Thank you for this interesting and informative review. Aesthetically, it seems a pity that the nib is dwarfed by the pen body/casing. The leather cases are the perfect finishing touch  :)



#7 Maxim

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Posted 29 July 2016 - 22:06

Thank you for this interesting and informative review. Aesthetically, it seems a pity that the nib is dwarfed by the pen body/casing. The leather cases are the perfect finishing touch  :)

You might have a point about the nib, but it doesn't seem particularly out of scale and the pen is just the right size. It's for the best that Newson didn't try to design a new retractable nib unit, as he wouldn't have done as good a job as a Pilot did.

 

One more picture of the nib:

 

fpn_1469835766__hermesnautilus_-_8.jpg

The leather cases are nice, but again too expensive for what they are - it's a bit surprising to me that no-one else has tried another pen like the Nautilus, but cheaper: the Rams/Newson/I've/iPhone design aesthetic is in its ascendancy. It's probably mainly down to FP enthusiasts generally having quite conservative tastes.


Edited by Maxim, 29 July 2016 - 23:43.


#8 Sabin

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Posted 30 July 2016 - 01:13

I don't like pens with hooded nibs or retractable. I think , the manufacturers of such pens are missing the point that many fountain pen enthusiast love to see that big nice nib, and if gold, with the intricate engraving and plating. Just my two cents..



#9 Maxim

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Posted 30 July 2016 - 03:01

Sure. But a standard pen has its nib under a cap rather than inside the barrel when not in use anyway.

The Nautilus isn't a pen for those that want a large nib with a lot of carving though.

#10 Calabria

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Posted 30 July 2016 - 22:36

I don't like pens with hooded nibs or retractable. I think , the manufacturers of such pens are missing the point that many fountain pen enthusiast love to see that big nice nib, and if gold, with the intricate engraving and plating. Just my two cents..

I've had problems with my Pilot VP leaking on airplanes. To me, retractable designs try to make fountain pens "almost as good as" a ballpoint pen, which somehow reverses my perception that ballpoints are inferior to fountain pens.

I'd like to try out the Hermes, though. On the (close-up) photos it looks like a toaster, but I expect the shape and finish to be quite tactile in the hand.

Nice review!
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#11 Maxim

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Posted 31 July 2016 - 00:14

8761ba38c8fe764ea2ea22e75df043b3.jpg

 

No doubt we'll have to agree to disagree here, but for me a great number of fountain pens just have too much 'going on', are too much of a pastiche of random design elements and are just about conspicuous consumption and gaudy tastes rather than writing.

 

Take the above pen, from a random Google Image search. It's relatively nice as fountain pens go, but the grip section just doesn't look that pleasant, there's a somewhat weird combo of wood and a not-quite-silver metal, there's a (fake?) gem stone on the clip and a bunch of other things going on. The pen doesn't neatly fit into any historical movement or design aesthetic.

 

I suppose I'm a fan of Dieter Rams' ten principles of good design and I believe that the Nautilus lives up to these. It doesn't tack on weird extra things just to show off or because it can. It doesn't stick a diamond on the end just to indicate 'I can afford an expensive pen'. It retracts because this solves two problems -- it helps to pare back the design and simplify things even further, while at the same time preventing the pen from drying out and leaving no cap to wonder what to do with.

 

Anyway, I'm probably coming across as a bit too defensive and I'm sure that, psychologically, I want to justify to myself what is a rather extravagant purchase in many respects. But *I* like then Nautilus.



#12 Aramchek

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Posted 31 July 2016 - 04:08

It's a cool design and with Pilot VP internals it should write well, but the price is astonishingly high. I'm looking forward to more pens from this designer - I also really like the looks of the MB pen he designed, alas it too is really expensive and to make things worse cartridge only.

 

What I'm curious about is, does Pilot manufacture the rest of the pen as well, or does it just supply the nib unit? If the latter, who makes it?


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#13 da vinci

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Posted 31 July 2016 - 07:00

Great review thanks :thumbup:

#14 Maxim

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Posted 31 July 2016 - 12:05

 

What I'm curious about is, does Pilot manufacture the rest of the pen as well, or does it just supply the nib unit? If the latter, who makes it?

 

 

I don't know who makes it or where, but they do so in Hermes' name, like all Hermes products.

 

The nib unit is a Pilot one, but even it has an 'H' for Hermes engraved on it, so is branded differently to the other Pilots. There are no markings on the rest of the pen, save the Hermes on the outside and I also noticed a four digit number deep in the butt where the internals go to either make it fit for fountain pen or ballpoint use.

 

I suppose it is therefore more Hermes than the Hermes Apple Watch, which simply uses a Hermes leather band and one different watch face, but is otherwise exactly the same as Apple's own.

 

Oh - and the Montblanc M will work with a converter and I've indeed used it with one (after some searching - from memory, the standard Cross converters fit). It's also under $500US which is less than most MB fountain pens.



#15 Calabria

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Posted 31 July 2016 - 22:05

8761ba38c8fe764ea2ea22e75df043b3.jpg
 
No doubt we'll have to agree to disagree here, but for me a great number of fountain pens just have too much 'going on', are too much of a pastiche of random design elements and are just about conspicuous consumption and gaudy tastes rather than writing.
 
Take the above pen, from a random Google Image search. It's relatively nice as fountain pens go, but the grip section just doesn't look that pleasant, there's a somewhat weird combo of wood and a not-quite-silver metal, there's a (fake?) gem stone on the clip and a bunch of other things going on. The pen doesn't neatly fit into any historical movement or design aesthetic.
 
I suppose I'm a fan of Dieter Rams' ten principles of good design and I believe that the Nautilus lives up to these. It doesn't tack on weird extra things just to show off or because it can. It doesn't stick a diamond on the end just to indicate 'I can afford an expensive pen'. It retracts because this solves two problems -- it helps to pare back the design and simplify things even further, while at the same time preventing the pen from drying out and leaving no cap to wonder what to do with.
 
Anyway, I'm probably coming across as a bit too defensive and I'm sure that, psychologically, I want to justify to myself what is a rather extravagant purchase in many respects. But *I* like then Nautilus.

I actually like your thoughts about design. I also agree with your critique of the Montblanc M. Very few people think deeply about design. I do.

Again, I'd have to have the pen in hand to make up my mind. As to Rams, I think Gerd Müller's Lamy 2000 perfectly captures the HfG Ulm's "concrete" sensibility - in a price range that is within reach for most people.

Design has moved on, as Lamy's anniversary of the 2000 attests. I think the Hermes looks like an interesting proposition that probably reflects on a different social context of the fountain pen.
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#16 ehemem

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Posted 31 July 2016 - 22:14

It's a cool design and with Pilot VP internals it should write well, but the price is astonishingly high. I'm looking forward to more pens from this designer - I also really like the looks of the MB pen he designed, alas it too is really expensive and to make things worse cartridge only.

 

What I'm curious about is, does Pilot manufacture the rest of the pen as well, or does it just supply the nib unit? If the latter, who makes it?

 

 

I suspect that Pilot manufactures the pens for Hermes.



#17 LuckyKate

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Posted 31 July 2016 - 22:16

Thanks for the  review. I think this is a beautiful pen and love its minimalist aesthetic--way too expensive for me, but I like it very much anyway.



#18 EclecticCollector

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Posted 31 July 2016 - 23:38

Thank you for the review, I too have been on the fence about this pen and have been searching for one secondhand without much luck. Your high praise has pushed me ever so slightly closer to taking the plunge.

#19 gerigo

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Posted 01 August 2016 - 02:10

Thanks Maxim for the lovely review. You have captured a lot of the nuance of the Nautilus that would otherwise escape notice.

 

I also have one of the pens and have found it a pleasure and a delight to use. It is one of the most understated pens of the price bracket out there. It's also one of the very few that does not shout out the owners are rich. Rather it's an understated object of exquisite fabrication and mechanics. The way you nudge the cap to do it's magic to draw up the nib never gets old.

 

In that price bracket, which is between $1500 to $2000, you're just breaking into Montblanc's more limited editions. You're also getting into the Japanese urushi and maki-e pens and also the more limited Italian celluloid. It's definitely not pocket change and not something everyday folk would buy at the drop of a hat. But I also think for what it is, it's not crazy in it's pricing. If you're into trick and unique mechanisms in this price bracket, it's about the only one I can think of. That's because a lot of the other competition focuses on decoration and handicraft.

 

Yes it does have internals of the Pilot Vanishing Point, but we have to remember this system is bullet proof. Also the way it works is so much better than even the Fermo. The mechanism of the Fermo pales in comparison.


Edited by gerigo, 01 August 2016 - 02:15.


#20 DrDebG

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Posted 01 August 2016 - 02:31

Great review! I really like the minimalist look to this pen. But truthfully, I have had difficulties with all of my Pilot VPs, and have sent them off to Mike Matsuyama to fix for me - which I hope he will finish soon. Who knows? Maybe I can find the body of this pen somewhere and use my new Matsuyama modified Pilot nibs in it.

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