My review of the Verve will be quick and decisive, mirroring my initial impression of the pen when it arrived. My impressions after a few days of use will be provided in blue.
First Impressions (5/10)
I felt confident that the pen would present yet Cross’s usual quality as I opened the shipping container. The white outer box and brown inner boxes were the same as those used for my last purchase, the Apogee. In fact, after my experience with the Townsend and Apogee, I was really looking forward to what I thought would be a greater experience of refinement. I was wrong, as noted below.
Appearance & Design (5/10)
The satiny selenium blue had a dark marine character, like something underwater which both held light yet reflected a portion of it. I could learn to appreciate the color; I kind of liked it. The torpedo shape of the pen was perfect, except that the cap lip was a little bit out-of-round and did not match up exactly with the barrel (see below).
I was disappointed in the smoky plastic lip which surrounded the chromed clip. It reduced the refined, quality-like appearance of the pen as a whole. The flush-sprung clip seemed to be more a stylistic gimmick than a functional clip intended for years of trouble-free service. My fingers felt as if they were pinching the narrow end of the pen just to get the clip to elevate, and I had a difficulty getting the pen to clip to my left shirt pocket. I immediately missed my Apogee’s massive clip. Using the fingernail of my right middle finger, I can left the clip and slip the pen over my shirt pocket easily – a movement some users disliked, admittedly. However, I felt that it was more secure and preferable to the fashionable but cheap clip of the Verve.
I learned after a few days that the top of the clip actually projects out from the top of the pen in order to accommodate thicker pocket material. This was ingenious. However, the clip does not grip tightly, and I was always concerned lest it slip out of my pocket.
Okay. Cap off. I was surprised that the cap wall was not reinforced at the lip, as it is on the Century Classic II, Townsend, and Apogee. I foresaw that, should it be dropped, the cap lip could easily become deformed. A weakness, in my opinion.
Likewise, the silver band on the section had not four but three raised lands which fit into the cap lip to snug the cap to the body. I felt unsure that this was a good design. How many cycles of off and on would occur before the lands wore the cap inner diameter down so that the cap became loose and easily worked loose in the pocket? Planned obsolescence? I hoped not. Likewise, I wondered if the light (and thin?) body of cap and barrel would ding and dent easily.
Laying the Verve next to a Sheaffer Snorkel, I was struck by the similarity in their appearance. The Verve appears to imitate the conical nib of the Snorkel in appearance, and the threaded silver ring on the Snorkel section was visually represented by the silver ring with three lands on the Verve. Very interesting. The similarity seemed intentional, and – with the very classy inlaid nib – also seemed to bear an oblique reference to Sheaffer’s inlaid nibs. What impressed me above all was that the fit and finish of the Verve’s section and nib was superb.
Weight & Dimensions (10/10)
The size of the pen was of more surprise to me than its weight. The Verve was as long as my Townsend and wider at midpoint. I was pleased that it felt really quite comfortable in my hand, much lighter than the Apogee. Whereas the widest point of the Apogee occurs near the nib, the widest point of the Verve was moved back toward the middle of the pen.
The Verve continued to feel absolutely perfect in my hand after days of use. This quality alone would make it difficult for me to part with the pen.
Nib & Performance (9/10)
The nib plating was perfectly smooth on all surfaces, a definite plus for me. The appearance of the stylish nib was the focal point of the pen, and was done very well. I noted in particular that the tipping material was distinct both in size and shape. The generous ball on the end would be ideal for making a stub or italic, and the tipping was actually a tad bit wider than the tines which led to it. Oh, yeah – lotsa material for shaping.
The distance from the tip to the breather hole was longer than either the Townsend or the Apogee, yet while I had hoped for more spring in the nib I was disappointed. The tines would separate a little, but only under brute pressure. There would be no finesse to the action of this nib. I was pleased, however, with flow; it was generous and uniform out of the box. The only limitation was that the nib had uniform tooth; that is, tactile feedback was felt in every direction of movement.
The nib has an incredible “just right” feel as it touches paper. The angle of approach, while nearly vertical (!), feels right. The length from tipping to the place on the section where my hand feels comfortable is just right. I like writing with this pen! It feels natural.
Filling System (10/10)
The orange screw-in converter was included in the box with two black cartridges. I like this converter better than the green push-fit model; it is more secure and it seems a little wider. While I really prefer pistons (e.g., Pelikan, Lamy, etc.), I have learned to appreciate the much-maligned converter. It only takes a second to spin the barrel off to see how much ink is left, and in my experience ink flow rarely becomes airlocked using the converter. If it does, a gentle shake or a turn of the screw instantly restores flow. Likewise, I can’t recall using a full converter of ink except on the heaviest days of use, and I am happy to carry a bottle of ink in my coat pocket. Since I usually carry more than one pen (like three or more), not to worry! My only lament is that the Cross converters hold less than the longer international converter used in my YOL Standard.
Cost & Value (8/10)
I bought the pen during Cross’ 2009 winter sale, at $130.00 plus tax and shipping. During my first impressions, I felt that the pen was not worth $130.00 given design weaknesses noted above. While weight alone is not indicative of quality, my impression of the clip and capping action cost the pen quality points. And the lack of spring in the nib was a letdown. I would have to use the pen for a while to determine whether I wanted to keep it – I was that disappointed, following the inner impression of quality I had anticipated.
I continue to feel that the Verve was not worth $130.00+, yet I recognize that I am relentlessly thrifty. The feel of the entire pen is a joy; its action in when writing is perfect. I just wish it was secure in a shirt pocket, or that I had room in my coat pockets for a pen case. At work there were too many needful things in my pockets besides a pen case.
Conclusion (Final score: 78/60 or 78%)
I really did not intend to write a negative review when I first opened the box, but my feelings were so strong that I decided to write while I was still in the moment. I will leave others the task of providing exact dimensions and more technical review. I wanted reviewers to hear my experience and to weigh it against their own preferences so they could make a decision that was right for them. While I would like to keep the Verve in my collection as a representative of this model, I would have felt better about the pen had its design received more thoughtful, comprehensive attention and planning. I’m afraid the Verve won’t retain its classy panache twenty or thirty years from now. I am reasonably sure, however, that many Townsends will still be serving with a loyal following and that many Apogees will still be appreciated for their style and reliability.
I finally decided to send the pen back. The difficulty of clipping it to pockets and my reluctance to just toss it around a workstation made it a pen I would keep at home, and to me it isn’t that special a pen that it needs to be kept at home. If a Cross can’t go to work with me, it doesn’t need to stay with me at all.