Reviewing a limited edition pen may be thought a little out of the mainstream. So to me is buying one. I had persuaded myself to commemorate a fairly significant change of affairs by purchasing a more expensive than usual pen. I selected this S T Dupont Orient Express over other likely candidates based on some personal preferences about pens, not on speculation about future value. My modest experiences with Dupont pens have been excellent to date in keeping with their apparently strong reputation. I prefer laid lacquer to plastic or “precious resin”, and survey of my current pens confirms I prefer flat ends to cigar shapes although not exclusively. I like gold nibs especially in 18K. I will not try to justify any of those preferences; they are some things that went in to my choice.
Appearance & Design
Please nobody fall about with amazement when I tell you the pen comes well packaged. An outer white slip box (discarded) houses a lidded box which opens to reveal a snap-action hinged case inside which one finds the pen and its paraphernalia. These include a converter and a pack of six Royal Blue ink cartridges.
The pen is a long cylinder, flat ended with an elaborated clip intended to hint at a steam cylinder and piston rod. The end of the cap has a mother-of-pearl jewel, like an old train’s central headlight. The body of pen and cap are traced with patterns in palladium over the deep blue lacquer. The clip itself is hinged on the cap for ease of use, yet the cylinder effect on the end of the clip helps to retain the pen if it should accidentally reach the seam of a picket.
On the top of the pen, aligned with the nib, are the words S T Dupont Paris. On the underside from that is Orient Express. I would have preferred they were the other way about. It was the only thing that slowed down my purchase.
The entire design and blue and palladium effect shows up with more restraint than might appear in the photos, although not too much restraint!.
Attempting to score design of a limited edition pen seems fairly pointless to me. Obviously I like it, and you will have your own preferences.
Construction & Quality
Build quality is impeccable. Examination under a 3x loupe finds no flaws or unevenness, and no ill-fitting parts or stray substances from manufacture. Everything fits as it should and works smoothly. This has to score top marks.
The only engraving on the pen is on one side of the clip, saying “Made in France 1585/1883”. It seems 1883 was the first year of the Orient Express train, chosen to justify the number of pens manufactured. This one is of course number 1585 in that series.
The clip cap slides smoothly on a polished ring inside the cap until a final click. I know not the source of that click. It may be an interior hood clicking on to the ring above the nib.
Weight & Dimensions
This is one big rod for writing. Length is 153 mm capped, 137 mm uncapped. Girth is 12 mm for the cylindrical barrel, 9 to 11 mm for the tapered section There is no dimension for the pen when posted because, as you can see from instructions in an earlier photo, you do not post it.
Capped, this is the longest pen I own. The nearest is an Onoto 3000 at 148 mm. Uncapped, the pencil-thin and light Onoto wins at a cool 145 mm but the Orient Express is way up in the weight stakes. Capped, it is my second heaviest pen of all, at 54.4g just short of a 56.7g Lamy Dialog 3 which of course has no removeable cap. The cap itself is the single heaviest one at 24.4 g so uncapped the pen itself comes in at 30g which is rather similar to other modern pens, heavier than a Montblanc 149 but lighter than a Lamy Imporium, Waterman Exception or Man 100 Patrician.
There is another reason not to post the cap. Doing so would make it a top-heavy monster rather than a large but balanced pen.
Out of curiosity while I had these weight tables handy, for all my pens I regressed weight against price to come up with the amusing conclusion that what you buy for your extra dollars in expensive pens is weight!*
* r2=77%, p<0.001. Please do not write to me about the sampling or causal holes in that analysis.
Nib & Performance
I have read that S T Dupont commission their nibs from Bock. This one is a stately 18k white gold nib, meaning here an alloy of gold and palladium. Size on this pen is ‘M’ which is marked on the underside of the feed while on top of the nib it has the Orient Express symbol and 18k 750 close to the section.
What it is like to write with? Knowing I was paying for the “Limited Edition” part of the description, I had no special expectations beyond my other top writers, so was a little surprised and pleased to find it extraordinarily smooth even in that company. See the writing examples for how it compares with some other favoured writers I happened to have inked at the time. The only possible drawback is a slightly smaller sweet spot than some other pens, close to that of a Lamy 2000.
Beyond that, the pen plonks itself on the paper under its own substantial weight so all you have to do is wiggle it in legible directions (something at which I am not good). The length and weight sit comfortably in the hand, better than a Dialog 3 but with more inertia than the other pens shown here, owing to the weight being spread along a large pen rather than concentrated near the centre of action. Contrast the length of the Imporium, which is heavier (writing uncapped) but a little more wieldy. It is a huge contrast to the featherweight 0552. I enjoy both experiences although I presume lighter pens are better suited to writing for a great length of time. In the following picture, the pens are aligned on the right so you can see relative lengths (top down, Waterman Le Man 100 Patrician and 0552, Orient Express, Lamy Imporium).
Filling System & Maintenance
S T Dupont Paris is engraved on the converter. Apart from that engraving it is a Schmidt K5, so replacements are readily available at a reasonable price, and very little more for the official engraved version. The pen comes apart conventionally, unscrewing the barrel from the section to reach the converter.
Cost & Value
The price I paid was getting on for 60% off nominal retail. This could be a dreadful sign of future value, with the only recompense being that I have not overpaid as much as an early adopter. Alternatively, this may be a price nadir with investment joy to come. . It is all speculation. I invest elsewhere.
I find the Orient Express is nice to write with, beautiful to behold, and very finely made, so its possible current or future value causes me no pain. It is rather unlikely to drop to nil while the pen market lasts, which is more than one can say of one’s last extravagant restaurant meal and champagne.
There is no doubt the Orient Express is designed as a statement pen, and it does that quite well without looking over the top (my view of course). It also has exquisite build quality and writes exceptionally well, so will reward its purchaser functionally as well as aesthetically for a very long time.