Following the discussion if someone's best pens are also their favourite pens I decided to compare my highest-pricepoint* pens:
-Montblanc 146 EF ('90s pen and feed with a much earlier 14C EF nib); retails for appr. 550 euros
-Pelikan M800 F ('80s pen with 18C nib); retails for appr. 500 euros
-Visconti Homo Sapiens Lava Steel Midi F (23k Pd dreamtouch nib); retails for appr. 450 euros
-Pilot Justus 95 M (14k nib); retails for appr. 300 euros
I bought the MB146 from a local collector at a very attractive price. The M800 was a gracious gift from a friend who bought it new in the '80s and who stopped using the pen some years ago. The Homo Sapiens and the Justus were bought new in local brick and mortar stores, but with appreciable discounts.
As a "challenger pen" that retails for 1/3rd to 1/2 of these pens, I added the Sailor Pro Gear Slim 'Ocean' 14k H-MF to the comparison.
^--From large to small: Justus, 146, M800, Homo Sapiens, Pro Gear Slim. Totally different design philosophies.
The 146, the M800 and the Homo Sapiens are staples of pen design, the 146 and the M800 being established classics, each with its own legacy, and the Homo Sapiens already being a modern classic. The Justus and the Pro Gear Slim are more utilitarian pens where the focus is on the nib, feed and quality of writing and not so much on eye-catching design or high-end materials.
^--Uncapped size comparison.
^--Posted size comparison.
The different philosophies behind these pens are also reflected in their business ends: the nibs and feeds.
The 146 and the Pro Gear Slim are relatively rigid (but certainly not nails), the Homo Sapiens and the Justus are soft (but certainly not flex) and the M800 is somewhere in between.
^--Writing sample (apologies for darkness of image). A 1cm scale is included for reference. The 146 downstrokes are 0.25mm wide.
As writing instruments, obviously these five pens are objectively of very high quality. All five are top-notch pens and I'd be lucky to own just one of them. Each pen does have certain positive aspects that make it unique compared to the others:
-the Justus has a soft nib with variable softness control which also controls its wetness; the Justus is the largest pen in this group and it houses the much-liked CON70 converter.
-the 146 EF is an architect, which was common for MB 146 EF nibs during a certain period of time.
-like most Pelikan pens, the M800 has a removable nib/feed unit making it super easy to change nibs or to clean the pen.
-the Homo Sapiens is made of the unique basaltic lava material from Mount Etna, which feels fantastic, and the soft 23k Palladium nib is also a distinctive element of this pen. I deliberately chose the Midi version which is still a fair-sized pen which can be used posted or unposted and fits in shirt pockets.
-the Pro Gear Slim offers the unique Sailor feedback and outstanding nib/feed quality.
If I were to look for objective negatives, then the following comes to mind:
-my Justus had a nib that needed serious after-care, but to be fair I knew that beforehand, it explains the discount and it allowed me to tune the nib exactly to my liking;
-the architect nib of the 146 isn't for everyone, nor for every style of writing: with cursive italic, the result is far, far removed from an EF line and is actually on the B-side of M.
-my M800 suffers from slight baby's bottom which sometimes leads to skipping, especially on the lower half of the page (due to hand oils);
-my Homo Sapiens Midi is quite sensitive to which inks it likes (and it dislikes some very common and well-behaved inks); you cannot unscrew the nib unit, nor the piston unit (at least not easily) so cleaning the pen can be cumbersome. Last but not least the ridges of the cap lock mechanism rub against my fingers sometimes.
-the smallish Pro Gear Slim needs to be posted.
Personal (subjective) pros and cons
The M800 is my least-favourite pen in this group. There is no objective reason for this; I simply do not feel any emotion with this pen (apart that it was graciously given to me by a friend). The striped Pelikan design is not something that revs my engine, it's not my cup of tea. The nib is very smooth but devoid of character and the writing experience strikes me as somewhat clinical and sterile.
Next-up is the 146 EF, which is delightful under controlled circumstances (such as journaling or correspondence) but unsuited to circumstances where you might change the writing angle (such as quick notes at work). That's how it is with architects. I like the 146 much more than the M800, I admire it as a quality pen with a timeless design and I adore the old 14C nib. But I do not grab it all that often.
Next-up is the Pro Gear Slim. It was perfect out of the box and it is still perfect to this day. Spot-on, constant flow. Consistent, spot-on performance. No fuss, no maintenance. I don't care much for how it looks and the MF writes a very fine line by western standards, which makes it less suitable for quick jots at work - I need to concentrate a bit, slow down a bit, to prevent wavering and sloppiness. Fantastic pen that puts a smile on my face every time I use it.
The Visconti and the Justus are so close that it's hard to pick a favourite. If you put a gun to my head then I'd pick the Visconti because its design and materials are totally unique, it writes like a dream and offers almost the same softness and line variation as the Justus. If the house burned down, the Visconti is the one I'd save. Having said that, the Justus is much lighter and fits into the hand much better.
Best vs favourite
The M800 is top-tier pen that I just don't care for as a writing instrument (apart from how it came to me; I'll always cherish it for that). The Visconti has some drawbacks, as mentioned, but I'm extremely attached to it. And given its price point, it's hard not to declare the Sailor as the "winner".
*I have about 20 pens, the remaining 15 being in lower price brackets. Some of those I love as well, such as my Leonardos or trusty Kaweco AL Sport. I restricted myself to the five most high-end pens that I own, realizing full well that I do not own "real" high-end pens like Scribo, Nakaya, Namiki, etc.)