Up for review is a brand-new 2017 Onoto Magna Classic Tortoiseshell fountain pen. In almost every way, this pen significantly impresses me. Onoto is certainly back, and they are not messing around. Onotos inception took place in England in 1905, and the company had a good run through 1958 when they had to shut their doors. About 50 years later, a British man purchased the brand and re-launched the storied and quality Onoto name. Retail price for this pen as equipped was $581 after currency conversion on the Onoto website, where one can pay in CNY, USD, Euros, or GBP. There is a price range on these pens as one can select a gold or steel nib, custom ground nibs, an interchangeable rollerball kit, and an optional brass-weighting insert. I selected the 18kt gold medium nib by Bock and a weighted barrel insert. More on this to come. In short, this pen has become one of my favorites; and, its not merely I just got it! syndrome. I have recently acquired other quality and long-sought-after pens (some highly rare!) that are still un-inked and shelved because this new addition to my collection has captured my time and attention.
My assessment of this pen is as follows:
Disclaimer: I deeply enjoy all things tortoiseshell. If you dont, this may be an even more subjective category than usual. I am also somewhat subconsciously scoring the unprecedentedly beautiful display box into this unusually high score. Its a package deal that emotes fun! The box solicits my attention from across the room every time it catches my eye. Then, I typically open the box just to look. Then, the opened box yields the beauty of the pen and I just have to hold it. And then, I just have to write with it. Schedule ruined.
Not all shiny things easily sway me. For example, I store this pen next to a far more expensive and stereotypically over-the-top Montegrappa luxury pen with its bright red lacquered oversized box. Thats beautiful, too, but I havent paid any attention to it since I got this Onoto pen. When I am not busy playing with the Onoto pen and box, I find myself reading the included literature and pamphlets; this pen came with the most fun stuff to read I have ever received with a new purchaselet alone just a pen!
The engraved barrel is a very nice touch that reminds me of the engraving on my Conway Stewart Wellington. Some may resent brand-engraved barrels and see them as an unwelcomed conquest into your pens lines. However, Omas has legend status and they did it on a lot of their precious celluloid pens. Just saying. The Onoto engraving reads: ONOTO THE PEN MADE IN ENGLAND. They are not hiding that their longstanding roots with this marquee.
There are three gold cap bands that are evenly spaced and laid flush with care. These are a really nice touch because it carries the gold through the design from the cap to the finial rather seamlessly. The top of the cap displays proudly the Onoto logo in a beautiful and truly eye-catching way. Whoever designed the logo should be complimented, often. It reminds me of BMWs propeller logo (since BMW used to be more known for plane engines). I like that its not just a boring O like on some of my Visconti pens that have just a V on the top. This is again appreciated on the functionally-tight clip, where the full logo is displayed again and not just an O. I also really, really like that there is a flat gold-plated metal surface on the finial instead of a boring rounded or flat plastic surface. This is a somewhat unique feature (not rare, but unexpected). The solitary reason I did not score this pen an even 10 is that Onoto failed to polish the finial on my pen prior to shipping. This was their only lack of attention to detail. Very minor, but unfortunate. Photo included. By the way, when looking at the finial micro-scratches, please also note that no engraved numbering is present. Internet searches revealed that some of these pens have a number out of 100 engraved on the finial. Mine does not have this; however, there is a marking on my paperwork that indicates I have number 4 out of an edition of 200. Does this mean Onoto will make (or has made and/or sold) another 196 of these? How many of these pens exist and how many editions of the same pen have been made or will be made? Whats the point of having a numbering system just to start over and use the numbers again in another edition of the same pen? Perhaps Onoto did this, or perhaps it didnt. Its altogether a mystery to me. I am not unhappy about it, but I am perplexed.
I was going to score this pen a 6, not because there is anything wrong with it, but simply because if pens are shaped a certain way and of a functional size and weight for writing they are all somewhat the same and underserving of higher than average scores. Unless there is something new or innovative involved, like how the Kaweco Supra allows the user to quickly change the length of the pen barrel, I dont think pen designs are generally groundbreaking very often these days (Conid bulkfiller excluded?). Average is not a bad thing. Side note: We might consider teaching our kids this instead of giving them a trophy for walking across the room without tripping. Its fine to be average!
However, I ended up giving this pen an 8 because of how impressed I was by five things: 1) The effortlessly customizable nature involved in the ordering process allows numerous options at varying price ranges (including an interchangeable rollerball kit for $100). 2) The weighted option is really wonderful. I chose the 7g weight addition and it makes for an awesome feel in the hand. The rolled brass shank is firmly nestled and secure in the barrel and I think it was custom made when I placed my order. I say this because there was a very small amount of water on the brass inside the barrel, like the metal work was just done before shipping (in a good way). 3) The acrylic material is wonderfully thick and hefty in my opinion (as can be seen in the brass-shank barrel photo and the side-by-side photo with the Platinum pen). 4) The tortoiseshell materials were wisely chosen for appearance. Also included for reference in this regard are some preliminary photos of a brand new Platinum Tortoiseshell Celluloid pen. The Platinum pen was about $325so considerably cheaper. And, though a steal for a new celluloid pen from a Japanese big three manufacturer, the Platinum i¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬s far lighter (in a negative way), uses less material, feels overall weaker, and has an inferio¬¬r finish to the Onoto. Am I bashing the Platinum? No. I just got it. I may do a review. It deserves its chance, and I like the gold ring on the end of the section by the nib unitOnoto should do this! But from a head-to-head first impression standpoint, the photos tell the story pretty well on why the Platinum is less expensive and less impressive than the Onoto. 5) The flat gold-plated metal finial is cool.
I have no reservations scoring this a 9.5. I will come back and blast this pen if the rings get loose or if the cap breaks, etc. I find this to be the easiest category to score as something is either well-made or not well-made. The thick material was a big factor here as Onto didnt skimp on material. According to Onoto (who I contacted directly for some of the technical information relayed in this review), they source the raw high density acrylic sheets (not starting with rods) from Italy and then process and turn them into pens in England.
I was informed that all silver plated items (clips, bands, and other aesthetic metal pieces) are currently being phased out in favor of solid sterling silver pieces (which in the case of my pen are then 23kt gold-plated). I wanted to score this pen a 10 but I am still annoyed that the finial was not polished. There is nothing loose on this pen and it posts and closes securely. The nib has not dried up after sitting unused (finally) for three weeks. The nib is another big quality factor, but this category is yet to come.
Sourced from the Onoto Website:
Capped (closed): 139mm
Uncapped including nib: 122mm
Posted including nib: 161mm
Barrel diameter: 11 13.2mm
Cap diameter: 14 15.8mm
Cap length: 67mm
Weight: 25gms or 32gms (if you select the optional weight addition)
I, too, am shocked that I am scoring a usually plug and play canned medium Bock nib as a 9. After my initial Wow, this nib is nice moment, my very next thought was, Why does Visconti keeps sending me mediocre Bock nibs when this glorious Onoto experience is possible? This pen came with one of the best nibs I have ever used or even seen directly coming from a seller (retailer and manufacturer alike). The tines were 100% perfectly aligned, something I have never seen on a Visconti (or any other new pen!). The slit is neither too wide nor too small. There is no babys bottom. There is zero scratch when writing, just the slightest hint of feedback as it glides across paper. The pen writes smoothly and with an extra fine line upside-down. There is a small around of spring to the nib, but not enough to warrant a label like semi-flex. In this sense the nib performed just as expected for a Bock nib. I like big and buttery nibs with some flex (not that this #7 nib is small and nail-like) so its not a 10 for me, but for many people this pen would be a 10.
But seriously, I have quality nibs from every major brand, and some local artisans, too. Only my factory-direct Sailor King Eagle nib is more enjoyable than this nib. I am completely befuddled. I had to investigate.
My investigation revealed somewhat conflicting information, but all positive. Onoto first said they rely on Schmitt to assemble, test, and service their nib units from Bock before they arrive at Onoto. Later, Onoto told me they also inspect and align nibs in-house before shipping them. Regardless of if its one or both, its working! KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK, ONOTO! I hope they hear me. Dont skimp on the processes that make sure the end user actually gets a great product from start to finish. Well done, Onoto.
On a tangent, it is perplexing that we in the pen community have come to generally accept that really expensive pens may arrive with mediocre-writing nibs right from the manufacturers and retailers. So many of us love our pens only after seeing the nibmeister. We should not be buying luxury Rolex watches that look pretty but dont tell time, so to speak. Better to buy a $0.49 Bic pen and have it work properly than to endure the nibmeister malarkey we have grown accustomed to on oh-so-many occasions with our brand new pens (specialty grinds excluded). We deserve and must demand proper behavior from all sellers and makers of fine pens when it comes to functional nibs! Rant over.
The feed appears to be ebonite and iswell, a feed. It flows normally and doesnt clog or drip. Im not sure how much the feed is helping with the overall great writing experience; it appears to be a normal feed that encourages great capillary action.
Filling System/Maintenance: 6.5
In 1905 Onotos claim to fame was their plunger-filled fountain pen that was guaranteed not to leak. In 1923 they released a lever-filler. In 2017, my pen has a boring cartridge converter. I wish Onoto had returned to its roots in this regard. If this pen had a piston filler it would probably be my favorite pen. I am 50-50 on converter pens, only liking them 1) when I need to clean them, or 2) when I need to draw ink from those dreadful 30ml Diamine ink bottles that most nibs wont fit into (come on Diamine!). I probably should score this category a 5 for being average, but it works well and smoothly and I like how snugly the converter fits. There is a missed opportunity here by Onoto, but theres nothing negative to speak of functionally with the converter. The pen also takes a standard European cartridge per their website.
This pen is a good value. Fully equipped it gets a little pricey, but one can have this pen $155 cheaper without a gold nib, and another $23 cheaper without the extra weights. Factor that in and this beauty can be had for about $400. Bear in mind there are other Magna color options in the line beside the tortoise if you hate turtles, lol. There is a blue one I have my eye on, too, but budget-wise I may have to pass. Side note: After I purchased the tortoise pen it appears to have disappeared from their website altogether, leading me to believe they may have discontinued it or simply make one at a time? I suggest emailing them if youd like one to see if they can whip one up for you, or perhaps they will post it again. This is as of 6/9/17.
This pen is a very good value for the quality provided. I initially planned to score this pens value at an 8 because it is still somewhat pricey for not being made of silver or celluloid, but then I went with a 9 because the buyer can basically pick his or her price range and features. Onotos excellent customer service rounded off the great experience. They write back quickly for being on the other side of the pond from the U.S. I consider good service to truly be part of the value category.
I truly enjoy this pen. I cannot imagine selling it. I am thrilled that Onoto is back! I wish I didnt wait 12 years to try their new offerings. I must also give a shout-out to the customer service team who answered my questions quickly and accurately. Shipping time is acceptable as well from the (previously? Brexit?) United Kingdom. If this pen were celluloid and a piston filler it would be a 10 and my favorite pen most likely. Be that as it may, I do think this pen actually earned its solid score. I came in quite skeptical because this is my first Onoto pen and there was no brand affinity affording them mercy points. Well done, Onoto.
Enjoy the photos! A few of them are not posting with the proper orientation despite an identical process for each. I also would like to respectfully gripe that I had 30 photos and FPN wouldn't let me post them all. So I had to scale back.
A nifty chemical-treated polishing cloth was included sporting the Onoto logo. I might have preferred no chemicals, but it's very cool!
I would have enjoyed a more crisp and legible stamping here for the precious metal indicators, etc.
Below is a photograph of the unnumbered and unpolished finial mentioned in the review.
The alignment of the tines is spot on!
The optional weighted brass insert can be seen inside the barrel in the photograph below:
Here are some photos of the Onoto Tortoiseshell next to a Platinum Celluloid Tortoiseshell Fountain Pen:
Side-by-side, one can really see the difference in the amount/thickness of materials used by each company. The Onoto, on the left, scores bonus points here in my book.
Left To Right: Danitrio Tame-Nuri Genkai, Visconti Homo Sapiens Maxi Size Lava Steel 25th Anniversary, Onoto Magna Classic Tortoiseshell, Mont Blanc 149, Stipula Etruria Titanium Flex, Faber-Castell Ondoro Wood.
Edited by Ebonite And Ivory, 09 June 2017 - 21:49.