Granada; once the great province of the Nazrid dynasty which still houses the magnificent Alhambra palaces and the royal chapel and grave of the warrior queen Isabella and her side-kick, Ferdinand along with many other treasures, has, in a street covered with stone arches a small and unassuming Montblanc store which houses many treasures waiting to snare the unwary traveler. In forty degrees heat and after far, far too many coffees in a deli that had at least thirty pigs worth of cured hams hanging off the ceiling, I must surely have been suffering heat stroke when I drooled over a choice of two pens. The odd thing was, one wasn't originally on the menu, but became a surprising little addition. By the end of the summer of 2018 I had in my possession two pens ready for a great grail face-off! They were the Montblanc Blue Hour with a double broad nib and the Montblanc Petit Prince Special Edition with a fine nib.
There are very subtle differences to these pens which makes them an interesting comparison, and I don't mean by way of the obvious appearance. To my eye both are very beautifully made pens. At the time of purchase I had intended only to nab the Blue Hour, but the pretty sales lady batted her eyelids and kept showing me the Petit Prince SE and spoke in a lilting, llispy Spanish until all my defences crumbled before me. I'd seen pictures online of the Petit Prince SE and the yellow star on the clip really put me off it. On the normal edition, even in the flesh, it sits uncomfortably to my eye and detracts from the pen. On the SE, in the flesh, it works significantly better, but as they say - your mileage may vary. Seeing it in the flesh revealed it to be a very beautiful, yet also a kind of fun pen. I'll go through some of the comparisons. the technical specs and hopefully some manner of conclusion at the end.
To the eye both pens appear to be the same model with different finishes. The Blue Hour has a faceted deep blue (ever so slightly green) colour. It's somewhat difficult to describe, but to the eye it gives the appearance of lots of little angled triangles under a resin lacquer that catch the light giving the pen a curious sparkling appearance of deep blue mixed with light blue in a regimented pattern. Oddly, side by side, the pattern on the Blue Hour gives it the appearance of being slightly fatter that the Petit Prince, but I think this is merely an optical illusion (having no way to measure this accurately). The Petit Prince has a really rich blue lacquer with engraved fox heads (from the book illustrations) running up the barrel and cap in gold outline. The blue is actually over a brushed metal and you can see this when you look very closely. the brushed metal creates a very vivid sheen in parallel lines which is almost impossible to photograph but it makes for a very attractive effect. Both pens have a white metal grip (which I haven't found to be slippery), piston nob and housing for the standard snow peak. It's a shame these pens don't sport the mother of pearl stars as they both deserve them. The yellow star on the clip of the Petit Prince is enameled in yellow and again, also from the original drawings. Montblanc must have paid an king's ransom for the rights.
Both pens have nibs that are engraved. In the case of the Blue Hour the nib is monotone white metal over gold engraved with a diamond pattern. The Petit Prince is a gold dual toned nib to highlight the Little Prince standing beside the fox curled at his feet and all with stars around them. It's a very pretty nib. My nib preferences are at two extremes; extra-fine and fine and stubs and double broads. In this instance the Blue Hour has a double broad nib and the Petit Prince has a fine nib. I have no complaints about either. They are both perfectly smooth, perfect flow and while firm nibs they don't feel like nails - exactly what I've come to expect from Montblanc.
Both pens are piston fillers.
Both pens post securely and have screw caps and posting will not mark or scratch the piston nob.
Both caps have a double ring that looks like ceramic (I was told elsewhere that this is a Montblanc anti-forgery thing and it certainly seems to work as I haven't seen the usual fakes that appear out of the east of pens that have this) but is some kind of treated or sandblasted metal. The usual Montblanc engraving is on the cap rings
The two notable differences with the Petit Prince SE are the enameled star on the clip and the engraving at the top of the cap near the snow peak which reads, 'To me, you are the most precious thing in all the world', in French.....or some-such as my French isn't honestly up to much. It's a quote from the book.
Both pens have engraved nibs but the Petit Prince is dual toned.
Both are metal bodied pens. The Petit Prince SE weighs 68g (filled) and the Blue Hour weighs 64g (filled)
The Petit Prince is 5.75 inches capped, 6.25 inches posted and 5 inches unposted.
The Blue Hour is 5.75 inches capped, 6.45 inches posted and 5 inches unposted.
Both have quite long grips of around an inch, maybe a touch more. Pictures often given the impression of a somewhat severe step. In reality, it's a trick of the light as the very slight step is angled. It's where my fingers rest when I write with it and neither it nor the threads bother me. the threads aren't sharp.
The Great Grail Face-Off Conclusion!
It's hard to choose a favourite between two pens, one of which I knew I had to have the moment it was released and the other of which surprised me enough in the flesh to buy even though I disliked it from the online pictures. Both are very good to write with and both are pretty stunning to look at. The attention to detail is nothing short of remarkable and even though I would normally steer clear of heavy metal bodied pens, I've found writing with these over the last four months to be an absolute joy. So, in essence it comes down to very small nit-picky things that probably wouldn't bother a normal, sane individual, but I guess it must be done. Both pens stumble over two similar issues. the first relates to the white metal grip on both pens. It's a real finger print magnet and your finger prints become very easily visible when using it. If that kind of thing bothers you, I guess it might be a factor to consider - these aren't exactly cheap pens after all, so when you shell out so much, some expect perfection and a match to all their various whims and wishes. The second thing is related to it's piston mechanism. It works perfectly well and is remarkably smooth. It's so smooth and so easily turned you might think the pen hasn't filled. That might sound like an odd thing to say, but it's fooled me more than once. For some I guess it might be a minor irritation, so perhaps worth mentioning.
For me, it comes down to one thing, which edges the Blue Hour out in front as the more satisfactory grail buy. I guess you could make an argument that the overall design of the Petit Prince SE is a little frivilous for such an expensive pen, but I'm kind of endeared by it and it still does have a classic element of design that steers it well away from the realms of expensive gee-gaw and gaudiness. The strange thing is that the extended length of the Blue Hour when posted along with the expunging of four grammes somewhere in the design makes the Blue Hour nudge into first place as the better writer. It feels like it has a much better balance, while the Petit Prince (posted) feels like the cap is just a tiny, tiny touch heavy.
Just as I finish up, winter's brief blue hour has descended. Seems fitting.