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Noblesse Oblige Rollerball Review


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8 replies to this topic

#1 ganzonomy

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Posted 01 December 2007 - 04:30

Disclaimer: This review may contain content about a company whose logo looks like a Birdsplat. It also contains non-fountain pen content, but serves as a practice run for the 149. In any event. Enjoy and excuse me whilst i put on the nomex bodysuit.

Well, I decided to wait till the honeymoon phase of owning a nice pen was over, so after receiving my 1998 Montblanc Noblesse Oblige in late November 1998, I wrote obsessively with it. 9+ years later, the honeymoon hasn't quite ended, however I have formed some opinions about the pen that I'd like to share. As a general note, It's a rolerball, so I can't give nib info, but bear with it.

Anyway, the first thing that is noticed about the pen is that it does not share a great deal of looks with most typical montblancs. Instead of having a modified cucumber shape of one form or another, It takes on a cylindrical approach. The posting area is perfectly flat, with solely a gold ring around it. The cap stands out from most other Montblancs in that its mini-mountain doesn't look a great deal like a mountain, nor does it protrude a great distance from the penclip's ring. In essence, while some montblancs have the mini-mountain, some have something that's flat but has prominence above the ring, this logo just seems to be on a compressed, almost invisible mountain; as if to say "I'm a montblanc by name and logo, but not by spirit". As for the body and color, it's the iconic precious resin we've grown to love and hate with gold plated rings and penclip. As a bonus, the price for it was relatively inexpensive by Montblanc Standards, it was purchased new in 1998 for $119 including tax.

Fortunately, what this pen lacks in typical Montblanc flair and excess, it makes up in with ease of use and stunningly high quality. When I say ease of use, I mean the balance of the pen. Regardless of whether the pen is merely uncapped, or posted, there is a seemingly natural balance facilitates multiple writing angles and maximizes pen balance. The pen is just at ease being held perpendicular to the paper as it is being held at an angle to simulate oblique writing. The only disconcerting thing is is why the pen feels so light. It's weight doesn't match its quality, in essence being of high quality but weighing almost nothing. While I know after years of use the quality the pen possesses, when others feel it and haven't used it as intensively, from a psychological standpoint they think "THIS IS A MONTBLANC?!", which can both be positive and negative. Positive as it's arguably one of Montblanc's best kept secrets, and negative because in the wrong hands it's lack of empirical presence means that it can exude an air of "this kid's only using it for the name and isn't interested in what it truly is". If you want measurements, I can provide them, I haven't had time to take out a ruler lately due to college, but whatever the pen lacks in presence, it more than makes up for in writing experience.

As for writing experience, this pen is unbelievable. Initially, I was put off by it's skinniness... It's much skinnier than a meisterstuck rollerball of the same length, but the dynamics of writing are much easier. I will attest this to the fact that there is a greater proportionate weight closer to the bottom of the pen than at the top of the pen (The cap weighs next to nothing), and that this provides a more solid base for writing while also allowing for a better hand to pen to paper flow when composing due to the lack of top-heavy weight to provide undue inertia. Another positive while writing is that due to the pen's rollerball orientation, to avoid excessive ink-splotting, one must write with a reduced amount of pen to paper pressure, thus making it a great aide when transitioning from ballpoint to fountain pen. In addition, the noblesse after 9 years has held its consistency in terms of being a writer that's easy on the hands. Many people complain that the resin on their MBs cracks with time, and a large enough crack can be sufficient to actually physically hamper a hand by potentially having the skin get stuck in the crack. I am happy to say that for the lovely patina that has developed, there are no full-on cracks in the resin to hamper such an experience.

The price point here is rather reasonable. Perhaps because it was a very low-cost pen to Montblanc (in 1998 it was only $119 for the rollerball), they couldn't see it as a viable line and ultimately discontinued it. Nevertheless, a pen of reasonably low cost is exactly what Montblanc needs to regain some of its lost standing. A fountain pen and a rollerball pen line that's deadbolt reliable, modern looking, and all pens sell for less than $250 is exactly what is needed for Montblanc to be able to shed some of its elitist image. While the Starwalker and Boheme may be a step in the right direction, it's still not uncommon to spend over $400 on a pen that on this forum is gaining a reputation for leaking miserably. Montblanc needs to bring back this pen and fast if they want to be able to shed some of that elitist image and gain newer younger customers who want the name of Montblanc, some of the traditional and iconic appearance of a Montblanc, but don't want to spend an exorbitant sum of money on a writing instrument. The only reason my parents got me it for my bar-mitzvah was because it was reasonably priced, and that seems to be something Montblanc has lost track of: A good, reasonable quality pen that isn't overly elitist or excessively modern / futuristic.

To put it bluntly, this is exactly what Montblanc needs to bring back if they wish to reverse their image somewhat of being an overpriced boutique. It's traditional looks, reasonable price (the whole line was under $200), beautiful writing experience both in feeling and smoothness, as well as quality sufficient to not have resin cracks has made this pen a true winner in my eyes. While it may not be as authoritative as the 149, as ornate as Solitaire, or as rare as a Limited Edition, but this is precisely a pen that Montblanc needs to revive if they want to make themselves more accessible. Elitism is a great thing, but even the nobility must oblige to the needs of commoners in one form or another if they wish to survive.

-Jason
My pen checks and cracks... my strat's nitrocellulose finish checks and cracks. Could that mean that the fancy precious resin is the same stuff that Fender uses to cover their guitars?

-Just a thought....

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#2 Sallent

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Posted 01 December 2007 - 05:35

You nailed it right with Montblanc, great article, i enjoyed reading it. You are right, I have put off buying a Mont blanc because of that. I just have a hard time paying $600 or more on a fountain pen when i could buy a Pelikan M800 or M1000 for less than half of that and get the same or better quality.

Plus the other day when i went to a retailer of Montblancs i was put off by the salesman's insinuations about the status and class i would aquire if i bought one. I buy fountain pens because they are beautiful, comfortable and i like them, not because they will give me more class or make me appear wealthier.

Take it from someone who lives in a community where most people make 350,000 +, believe it or not if you look at the driveways here, most people are here driving Nissans and Toyotas and wearing JC Penny clothes on their days off of work because they feel they have nothing to prove to others (there are a few exceptions though) . People who buy something to make them appear better or classier are either wannabes that want to fool others or have poor self-esteem.

Anyways, getting back on topic (i appologise for getting slightly off topic)


If Mont Blanc came with a line of pens at $200-250, i might give them a second thought. I have written with some before, borrowed from a friend, and they seem like decent writters, and some look real nice, but i have trouble paying $600 or more for what is just a merely decent to slightly excellent fountain pen. I hope i dont go to Mont Blanc hell for these blasphemous remarks or have Montblanc fans write me tons of hate mail for the next month. crybaby.gif

PS: Congrats on your bar-mitzvah!!!!

Edited by Dr Ozzie, 01 December 2007 - 05:56.

Ball-point pens are only good for filling out forms on a plane.

#3 ganzonomy

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Posted 01 December 2007 - 06:13

My Bar-Mitzvah was 9 years ago, and the pen is 9 also. They're both '98. While I am a fan of Montblancs, I'm not a fanatic type who will make you rot in the lake of fire down below for your opinion. The truth is simply that Montblanc needs to rearrange their priorities. Absolutely the royal solitaires, the solid golds, the platinums, are worth the many thousands that they are. Just the materials necessary justify it. However to make a normal, resin-based pen at most costs $30 to produce. The reason I buy fine pens is that they write, and they represent a facet of me. I don't care about the perceived status i'll get because i can show the world the exorbitant amount of money I spent on a pen. When it boils down to status, does it really matter if my Montblanc 149 is any better because it's solid gold or even platinum instead of "precious resin"? If so, then I'm on the wrong planet and wondering the priorities of modern society.

On a more relevant note, when you find a pen that just "fits", the honeymoon is never over. Pens, even rollerballs (gasp!) do to an extent become personalised to the owner. The owner's body oil seeps into the little scratches in the resin and sort of gets a "biological attachment". These same oils can also, if abundant and acidic enough, make natural relicing in the resin and thus give the pen a natural character all its own that ties it to the owner. As such, when you find that rare pen that just "fits", the honeymoon never ends, it just becomes stronger and stronger. You can't buy that aura, it just comes naturally. And besides, a pen is for writing with, if you have to spend $160,000 on a pen that looks like it fell out of Liberace's pen case to feel like an upscale human being, then obviously you're compensating for something; what it is, I don't know.

Once again, my 9 year old noblesse oblige, RAWKS, and it's a shame Montblanc is too money-driven and fetished on numbers to give the people what they really want: just a flat out good pen with a birdsplat on it that does its job without costing as much as a payment on a Range Rover. (Still a Mont Blanc fan, just not one of the types that blindly idolizes).

Edited by ganzonomy, 01 December 2007 - 07:05.

My pen checks and cracks... my strat's nitrocellulose finish checks and cracks. Could that mean that the fancy precious resin is the same stuff that Fender uses to cover their guitars?

-Just a thought....

#4 Brian

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Posted 01 December 2007 - 07:04

QUOTE(ganzonomy @ Nov 30 2007, 08:13 PM) View Post
my Bar-Mitzvah was 9 years ago, and the pen is 9 also. They're both '98. While I am a fan of Montblancs, I'm not a fanatic type who will make you rot in the lake of fire down below for your opinion. The truth is simply that Montblanc needs to rearrange their priorities. Absolutely the royal solitaires, the solid golds, the platinums, are worth the many thousands that they are. Just the materials necessary justify it. However to make a normal, resin-based pen at most costs $30 to produce. The reason I buy fine pens is that they write, and they represent a facet of me. I don't care about the perceived status i'll get because i can show the world the exorbitant amount of money I spent on a pen. When it boils down to status, does it really matter if my Montblanc 149 is any better because it's solid gold or even platinum instead of "precious resin"? If so, then I'm on the wrong planet and wondering the priorities of modern society.

On a more relevant note, when you find a pen that just "fits", the honeymoon is never over. Pens, even rollerballs (gasp!) do to an extent become personalised to the owner. The owner's body oil seeps into the little scratches in the resin and sort of gets a "biological attachment". These same oils can also, if abundant and acidic enough, make natural relicing in the resin and thus give the pen a natural character all its own that ties it to the owner. As such, when you find that rare pen that just "fits", the honeymoon never ends, it just becomes stronger and stronger. You can't buy that aura, it just comes naturally. And besides, a pen is for writing with, if you have to spend $160,000 on a pen that looks like it fell out of Liberace's pen case to feel like an upscale human being, then obviously you're compensating for something; what it is, I don't know.

Once again, my 9 year old noblesse oblige, RAWKS, and it's a shame Montblanc is too money-driven and fetished on numbers to give the people what they really want: just a flat out good pen with a birdsplat on it that does its job without costing as much as a payment on a Range Rover. (Still a Mont Blanc fan, just not one of the types that blindly idolizes).


This is a great and thoughtful review. Thanks for the reflection, the observations, and making the point that it's really about the goodness of the product that counts. After all, it is only a pen and what good is it if it can't even function in its role as a natural extension of your hand, and ultimately to what we convey with our thoughts onto paper.

Best regards and I look forward to your review of the 149.


#5 alvarez57

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Posted 01 December 2007 - 08:01

To be honest: I usually don't read reviews that don't carry a photo because I am a very visual person ( I load my reviews with photos). Yours was delightful to read with a lot of personality ( wink.gif ). That's why I love so much my Nakata with the Urushi lacquer: it is NOT flashy nor blingbling, yet, it has an excellent nib.

sonia alvarez

 

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#6 greencobra

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Posted 01 December 2007 - 10:21

Interesting thoughts on a decent pen. Although I don't think MB is going to change their marketing approach, it works for them, I do think there is room for a lower priced, quality pen from the company. I think they have a lot to offer but soon are going to price themselves out of an important part of the pen buying segment. The Noblesse, in any configuration, is a super buy when they come up.
JELL-O, IT'S WHATS FOR DINNER!

#7 ganzonomy

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Posted 01 December 2007 - 18:08

Sorry about the lack of photos. I don't have a digital camera. Is there anything I should learn about writing reviews from this first one? (In essence, what's missing, besides pictures, that would make for better reviews for subsequent pens).

-Jason
My pen checks and cracks... my strat's nitrocellulose finish checks and cracks. Could that mean that the fancy precious resin is the same stuff that Fender uses to cover their guitars?

-Just a thought....

#8 alvarez57

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Posted 02 December 2007 - 08:11

QUOTE(ganzonomy @ Dec 1 2007, 06:08 PM) View Post
Sorry about the lack of photos. I don't have a digital camera. Is there anything I should learn about writing reviews from this first one? (In essence, what's missing, besides pictures, that would make for better reviews for subsequent pens).

-Jason



Check reviews by Phthalo, TNS, dupontfan, handlebar and many more. Study them. Regarding the camera, one like the Cannon Powershot (which is the one I use) is good enough. The most important thing is focus and light. There are couple of threads at Pictures that you can get info on.
Welcome again!

Edited by alvarez57, 02 December 2007 - 08:14.

sonia alvarez

 

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#9 Erwin

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Posted 13 February 2010 - 18:26

Very good review! Thanks for sharing!
your pen silently speaks about your character!






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