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