Being less accomplished at pen photography than Sarj, I have availed myself of some new images taken by Jim Maimoulides.
I'll comment on this pen from the points of view of appearance, writing ability, feel and over all impression.
These pens are constructed as solid sterling silver barrels and caps, sheathing the inner liners, usually of plastic, which carry the threading and such. Classic, for whatever reason, decided to change their previous modus operandi slightly, when in consultation with Murelli, who is both the artisan that makes these pens using guilloche engraving techniques, and also the man for whom these pens are named in tribute for his past work and continued support, they specified a slightly thicker sterling barrel than previously used.
To some degree, the thickness of the sterling pieces was dictated in previous models by the pen they were using as a base for the CP model. The dimensions were fixed and the 'innards' of the pens were supplied by the manufacturer – the CP1 – CP7 were made on base pens from Sheaffer, Aurora, Parker, Pelikan, and Sailor. In the new CP8, Classic decided to base the model on the new prototype they had developed for their future pens, which they called the Legend, a large pen that they could vary dimension as they pleased.
By adding a bit to the sterling thickness, they accomplished something that I had to see to believe – they enabled Murelli to cut to different depths and angles resulting in something that surpassed all previous models in appearance. The thicker engraving then allowed a different polishing regime and the final result is a pen that almost defies the arts of the photographer. They almost glow and sparkle in your hand, and they seem to buff up with a rub or two of a polishing cloth, maintaining their shine. The two patterns selected from among several possibilities are the basketweave pattern called Vannerie, and the repeating wave form called Flamme (a similar pattern was used on the CP-3 Odyssey, but this one is even better).
I received the Vannerie first and used it for awhile before receiving the Flamme. I figured the Vannerie was top of the heap as far as CPs went – until I had the Flamme in my hand, and decided that IT was the best pattern!
Another element of appearance is how the pattern is applied to the pen. It would be logical, convenient and cheaper to stop the pattern at the beginning of the end caps of the barrel and cap, but that wouldn't have looked as nice as continuing it part way up to avoid the look of 'naked ends'.
The clip was patterned after the late pre-war Soennecken pen, which offers more visual appeal than a straight clip.
Because Classic has their pens assembled by Aquila brands in Italy, they can vary the trim as they wish and specify so many with sterling trim and so many with gold. That gives one a chance to choose what colour you want the trim elements to be – the clip, the ring near the end of the barrel, and the section ring. My personal preference is for gold, which I think mates with the larger expanse of silver very well, but I am told that with the Flamme pattern the silver trim may be preferred by some. Not having the opportunity to compare them in my own hand, I opted for my usual gold.
You are going to have to trust me on this, because even Jim's excellent photography fails to show it sufficiently, but the CP8 is a step above all previous CP models in terms of appearance.
The feel of this pen is going to be wrong for you if you ONLY like small lightweight pens. Personally, I am 'ambistylous' and own, use and appreciate thinner pens like Waterman CF or Parker 51s, while also owning and using MB 149, King of Pen, and various other larger weightier pens. Not being a scientist or drug dealer, I haven't got a handy gram scale, but can confirm that while this pen has a weighty feel to it, it doesn't seem to have as dense a feel as the Parker Esparto, which while in the smaller International size of Duofold, had enough weight for the Centennial size and seemed to be made out of neutronium – definitely heavy in the hand.
I'll disclose up front that I am an inveterate poster and always put the cap on my pens when writing. I do this so that I don't have to try and find it when I am finished writing, and so (unless I am using a Conklin Crescent filler) it won't roll off the desk. The fact that the threads for this pen are carried not in the sterling but in the inner plastic liner means that you have to firmly seat it to post securely, but it also means that you can post without fear of marking the end of the barrel, a consideration I often see raised by anti-posters. Having said all that, I also tried this pen without posting and found that the balance either way was perfectly fine with me.
The filling mechanism is a generic converter, which operates as well as most converters. It means that the pens are easy to fill and flush, but hold less ink per fill than some other filling mechanisms allow. I am advised that Classic is experimenting with a piston filler, so for all the people who declare that no 'real' pen can have anything else, there will probably be a piston filler option for you with some Classic Pens models in the future.
So, finally – writing. Classic is using two tone 18K Bock nibs made for them to their specification in Germany. I understand that they intend to expand the range of nib choices, which started out at Fine, Medium, Broad and for those paintbrush fans, Broad Italic. I am a 'Fine' kind of guy and so I contacted Classic when I ordered my CP8s and asked them to send off a couple of nib units to Richard Binder, one to be made into an XXF and the other to be a Fine cursive italic. With Richard you know you will get what you ask for and that it will write first time. I am told that these sorts of choices may well be added to the standard range eventually.
Both nibs were smooth from the beginning and I loaded each one up as I received the pens to go with them and used them every day at the office to get the feel of them. The XXF was just as I wanted, a crisp clean precise nib for fast note-taking. The italic nib was both slightly more demanding (as to angle of rotation), as such nibs normally are, and more fun with the slight line variation. Classic has also decided to make available a rollerball or ballpoint section to replace the fountain pen section at $200, so you could buy one pen and have several options for what to write with, while buying just one pen.
Overall impressions are uniformly good. This is an excellent pen for those that like flashing and showing off their writing instruments, as well as those like me that just want a superb writing instrument to use primarily for their own enjoyment. The laser cut band information seems just a tad blocky, and I wondered if some sort of script might have given a more pleasant appearance, but that's like complaining because the icing on your cake isn't quite thick enough.
The packaging is modest but classy and it tells you that your money went into producing the best pen possible rather than a lesser pen in a fancy package. The street price for these pens is in the mid $900 range and I am hard put to think of another sterling pen under $1,000 that offers the sort of value this one does. I am going to have these in my daily rotation quite often in the months to come.
The only thing I wonder is how on Earth can they top this? I am told that the CP9 is not yet anything but a gleam in Andreas Lambrou's eye, and so it could be anything (personally, I'd love to see what Murelli could do with the interesting shape of the Waterman Edson, but there are a number of possibilities out there).
I'll finish with one comment on Classic itself. With large pen manufacturers, you either can't find anyone at all to talk to, or you end up talking to a local representative that has to pass on your questions, perhaps to disappear into the ether never to result in a response. Classic Pens is a small business and I found out early on that they are very approachable – you are dealing with real people that not only CAN answer questions but are interested in doing so and in talking about pens. When I had a question about some feature of the CP series, I would just fire off an email to Mr. Lambrou and always received a fast courteous response. One can't underrate this sort of ability to communicate – it is such a pleasant change from what is normally possible with other manufacturers. The images I have included in this review are courtesy of Classic in response to a request from me, for instance.
As only 175 fountain pens and 75 rollerball or ball point pens are to be produced, these will never be a common pen like the so called limited editions of some manufacturers that 'only' produce 15,000, these will stay uncommon, will probably sell out in the relatively near future and will probably be unavailable in the secondary market for some years. While I see some earlier CP series occasionally appear for sale, it seems that they 'go underground' for 6 or 8 years before anyone decided that they want to part with them, and they tend to sell, depending on the model, for close to original issue price or even higher in a few cases. I don't see any pen as an investment, Franklin Mint types to the contrary, but it is nice to know that what I buy will maintain value over the years. I have a complete series of CP pens, but it took me several years to compile because of this tendency for people to hang onto their CPs!