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MONTBLANC as STATUS SYMBOL.... a turnoff for you?


AlexItto

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Still consider myself a newbie in fountain pens. I had been curious about pens for a long time and have always liked nice stationery.

 

Montblanc is one of those brands that are part of the basic kit of luxury items. It's a bit of a stereotype, even. I am a lawyer, and I often see it: Ferragamo Belt (double round buckle), Hermès tie (small print designs)... and a Mont Blanc pen, the finial positioned to be visible above the pocket. The female version will include a Louis Vuitton bag and sunglasses with a BIG Gucci logo.

 

Maybe I'm just jealous (and mostly unwilling to spend so much on any single item), but the aura of status-seeking, wannabe/aspriational nature of some items immediately makes them repelent to me. Plus, Montblanc is probably the only brand of writing instruments that anybody can mention, since their fancy ads are in every lifestyle magazine. I know of at least two Montblanc pen users who purchased a fountain pen and later changed it for a ballpoint because they did not think the fountain pen was "practical"... but they still wanted to own a Montblanc because of what it represents. These are not people who actually like pens.

 

I realize this says more about me than about the people who actually own these things. Being anti-logo can be as posey as the shiniest bling. I was just wondering if any Montblanc fans have any thoughts about this. As long-time fans, were you surprised by the brand's aggresive forays into the luxury item market? How does the copious advertising in mainstream media make you feel? To most real fans this will be irrelevant: you love your pens and period. But surely you have opinions about the strategy the brand has followed.

 

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I just use mine and appreciate them as darn good writers in most any form or fashion. BTW, I have around 20 MBs at the moment, including 5 149s, some telescopic piston celluloid, and a couple of LEs. I've sold several also for various reasons. The ones I've kept I like for various reasons, although I do have a few celluloids I can't write with comfortably for long but appreciate the excellent nibs and also love how the piston in them works. 

 

In all of that, I do not own a single ballpoint or rollerball. I do have a few mechanical pencils, and really enjoy those.

 

I think that the reverse snobbery a lot of FP users show toward Montblanc is as obnoxious as a lot of those who buy them because they are status symbols. I just use mine and ignore the marketing.

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Go to an  MB Boutique. Handle the 146 and 149.  Buy a used model of your preference from a reputable dealer, and use it extensively, in the privacy of your home.  You'll either appreciate its qualities, or not. 

"Simplicate and add Lightness."

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9 minutes ago, bunnspecial said:

I think that the reverse snobbery a lot of FP users show toward Montblanc is as obnoxious as a lot of those who buy them because they are status symbols. I just use mine and ignore the marketing.

 

I couldn't agree more.  I love my MB pens.  I ignore both the marketing as well as the reverse snobbery, getting on with trying and enjoying all the pens I choose to.

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Just as a bit of an aside here, I was doing some research on another brand that led me to read up on what Montblanc was doing in the early years and it seems that MB has always been aggressively market itself.

 

I also completely get where Alexitto is coming from here. I too saw so many (often horridly snobby and rude) people where I come from showing off their Montblancs as bling while signing their checks at the grocery store as if it were a million-dollar contract, that it left me with a subconscious distaste for them. I am sure they are absolutely wonderful pens - otherwise there would not be so many people using them and raving about their qualities - but I also choose to focus my limited wallet on other brands. And I also fully realise that this is purely a personal decision based more on my personal experience bias than on any physical or perceived qualities of the pens themselves. I suppose that if someone were to gift me a MB, I might change my tune!

FP addict thanks to #Penpalooza. Currently can't stop collecting Diplomats.

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...especially that gold-leaf one... I really wouldn't mind someone giving me one of those... 😊

FP addict thanks to #Penpalooza. Currently can't stop collecting Diplomats.

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Can I also take a moment and point out that at their core, MB always has been and remains a pen manufacturer.

 

There are 9! standard grinds offered on the 149(EF to BB, and them obliques from OM to O3B) plus they will make you anything you want. I know the Japanese brands offer a variety of special grinds, but a lot of the pens that seem popular on Reddit and places like that these days use the same off the shelf F/M/B #6 nib units from Bock/Jowo/Schmidt/etc. Sometimes we'll see obliques trickle out of Lamy or Pelikan, but EF/F/M/B are the normal from them also.

 

Lest we not forget too that MB brought was is arguably the best modern flex nib to the market.

 

So, again, I'll say ignore the marketing and look at the pens. Even if they don't personally appeal to you, it's hard to argue that they're not pens for writers and not just pocket jewelry.


And yes, I'll gladly have a snowflake sticking out of my pocket. If people judge me for it, so what, I'll just enjoy writing with my pen. I don't carry one to show off, but carry it because I want ot carry the pens I enjoy using most.

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...With a Calligraphy nib, please. :)

 

The thing, as I see it, is: life is too short, so if you can afford it, why not get the best you can within your possibilities? One would be a fool avoiding something good only because of how it is perceived. Actually, many of the best products come from often-unknown brands (think an artist or artisan) and even cheap ones. But also from big brands.

 

So, smart people will get the best they can afford, irrespective of whether it is expensive or cheap. And that also includes often being discrete, for showing off is also often both the hallmark of distaste, being a wannabee or, worse of all, making others envious and creating enemies. Smart people also have a bad, terrible -I'd say- habit of shining by themselves. Needless to say, smart people -like Rhett Buttler said- "frankly, do not give a damn", about others opinion or about status.

 

Then, there are those who look at the success of others and either envy them, despise them to try to feel superior, or worse, try to imitate them thinking that success comes from the looks, not from your own effort.

 

And these last try to look like those they perceive as successful in the false belief it will make them successful too, or at least will make others think they are successful and make others envy them as they envy their icons. And the brands notice and start putting ever so bigger (and tasteless) logos on their products to the point where you no longer buy the product, quality, design, durability, art or functionality, but just the logo. 'Cos brands know there is a lot of money to be made from fools.

 

As for MB. I reckon they have produced some blinky, showy products for pure presumption, but I have to admit that at the same time they keep producing understated, great quality, discrete and even artistic products for those who do not care about showing off.

 

I have several MBs. My Slimline has served me 30 years without me wanting to use any other pen, not even the Meisterstucks. When I finally went down the rabbit hole it was looking for something cheaper I wouldn't miss if lost. If I add the cost of Jinhaos, Delikes, and other cheap brand I've bought since, I could as well have bought another MB. So, what would have been cheaper?

 

I actually regret having spent that much money on lower pens, which if I had saved, might have bought me a gold-leaf 146 with the bespoke nib, which I consider a very piece of art. Or an Aka-Tamenuri Urushi pen (which I have longed for ever since I was a kid, and I am old).

 

I console myself thinking I would probably have not spent that large sum of money at once and would be wary of damaging such a piece of art, so I may be better off with all the other pens.

 

But, not getting a great MB -or  other great brand- because of what others think? Passing my life longing for good and suffering bad for the opinion of others? Getting something I dislike for the opinion of others? Breaking the bank on something I do not need at inflated prices to impress others? Who's going to suffer the bad, them or me? Who's gonna enjoy the good, them or me? That is totally and utterly nonsense from my POV.

 

Of course, YMMV.

 

I remember once, when I was  in my 20s and already a directive, I went to a high-level meeting to be kept waiting at the door by the secretary because she couldn't think I was the person being waited for. Until someone came out asking if I had arrived. I went there to be sold something. If I was to give them money, should I have also spent money on satisfying their expectations? Or, if they wanted me to buy their products, should they adapt to me, or me to them? When you dress to impress others you are sending the message "I will go to any stretch to satisfy your snobbery". When you don't you are sending the message " I do not care about my looks, I let my acts speak for me".

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27 minutes ago, txomsy said:

..With a Calligraphy nib, please. :)

 

Exactly! 

 

Y'all have been raving so much about how great the calligraphy nibs are that I'm almost tempted! 

 

FP addict thanks to #Penpalooza. Currently can't stop collecting Diplomats.

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9 minutes ago, txomsy said:

When you dress to impress others you are sending the message "I will go to any stretch to satisfy your snobbery". When you don't you are sending the message " I do not care about my looks, I let my acts speak for me".

 

My wife can be particular about appearance, although she finds it a burden at times, having to live with this position.  Once, when she was beautifully dressed for an occasion, I complemented her, and she responded saying, 'You have to play the part.... you get more done that way.'   She and I would have our differences on this issue since I've tended to have your point of view, not giving a hoot really, or so I thought, about what others thought of my appearance.  I began to realise soon enough, that I did care.  However,  I defended my own perceived message to give.  I therefore felt that putting myself together for work or occasions shouldn't be about what others think, or an uncomfortable effort in this interest.

 

I have now softened on the issue in that I now feel that both extreme attitudes (I don't care what others think vs it's all about what others think) are each, really just sides of the very same coin.

 

As a professional, having to deal with clients/patients/colleagues, I've now realised that my intended message may not be received as such and it's unfair to simply not care about this.  Your appearance is an expression of yourself.  How you choose to present yourself is an act in itself!  It's a fundamental act that's always present throughout an encounter with someone else.  It would be silly to disregard it completely and I doubt any of us genuinely do.

 

I'm definitely one for being discrete and not showy.  However, this doesn't mean that I do not care about my looks either. 

 

This brings us back to the pen we wish to use professionally or for others to see knowing it will likely be eye-catching or whatever reason.  It's certainly understandable that some may choose to include the pen they use as a part of their appearance or deportment.  A valid social concern may be abused, over-emphasized or given way more importance than it should be.  However, it doesn't take away the validity of a fundamental social concern.

 

I think the first symptom of its validity is how contentious a topic it is and how much MB have succeeded marketing their brand with this in mind.  They are by no means the only brand that does this.  It's just that they've done it well, and more importantly, they produce genuinely great pens. 

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19 minutes ago, maclink said:

I'm definitely one for being discrete and not showy.  However, this doesn't mean that I do not care about my looks either. 

 

A friend of mine is a professional stylist and she did help open my eyes to the fact that one's outward appearance is a form of communication. I was always someone kind of in the 'middle lane' - not too showy, not too shy - so I never really thought about it too much. I just got dressed appropriately to the occasion, both out of respect like my parents taught me and a love for nice/pretty things, and that was it. The biggest problem with saying that you don't care what you look like and people should respect you for your character instead is that people seldom get to the second half of that statement. All they see is: you don't care about how you look. And that is not generally perceived as a good thing, but rather that there are probably a lot more things that you don't care about. It's human nature to make judgements on first appearances about whether you would like to go to the effort of getting to know someone or not. And I think you're exactly right about the extremes being two sides of the same coin. They both put up a wall.

FP addict thanks to #Penpalooza. Currently can't stop collecting Diplomats.

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3 hours ago, AlexItto said:

The female version will include a Louis Vuitton bag and sunglasses with a BIG Gucci logo.

 

You left out the Hermès scarf. 

 

I am still fairly new to fountain pens (about 3 years) and at the very beginning I resisted the MB brand because of some of the attitudes you mentioned, and because I didn't know any better. After dipping my toe in fairly early on with a vintage MB pen, I now  have a few vintage MBs. I also have a 146 from 1978 or so, and a 149 from 1989 or so. Both I bought online for significantly less than new ones would have cost, and both are indistinguishable (except by experts) from current models (and both I have had re-ground to better suit me). So you don't have to hock your jewels to buy a Montblanc pen, if you like them (or if you want to impress someone).

 

I don't care much about what MB does with their business as long as it's honest, although I am glad to see a true fountain pen company (with other divisions) remain independent and relatively prosperous (I presume). 

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17 hours ago, AlexItto said:

Maybe I'm just jealous (and mostly unwilling to spend so much on any single item), but the aura of status-seeking, wannabe/aspriational nature of some items immediately makes them repelent to me.

 

To me, I find Montblanc branding repellent because of my deep-seated distaste for my first boss, who had a low pay grade middle management government job, and was out of his depth managing the organisation's IT function. He carried his Montblanc (rollerball pen, I think) as if it would get him respect from others, or at least make colleagues overlook his shortcomings and incompetence.

 

I've never liked Montblanc since that time some decades ago. While not every Montblanc user is like that, of course, but I personally don't want to ever be seen carrying a Montblanc pen, and so I never bought one; there are so many alternatives in luxury pens (in Pilot's, Platinum's, and Sailor's product line-ups, even though they all also make and sell very cheap pens) to enjoy. Whereas I don't personally have any problem with young buck wannabes wearing Tag Hauer or Omega watches, driving BMW and Alfa Romeo cars, etc. for appearances (as well as functionality of those perfectly competent products).

I endeavour to be frank and truthful in what I write, show or otherwise present, when I relate my first-hand experiences that are not independently verifiable; and link to third-party content where I can, when I make a claim or refute a statement of fact in a thread. If there is something you can verify for yourself, I entreat you to do so, and judge for yourself what is right, correct, and valid. I may be wrong, and my position or say-so is no more authoritative and carries no more weight than anyone else's here.

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4 minutes ago, Paul-in-SF said:

You left out the Hermès scarf

 

Oh, but I do have one of those!! 😅 (The huge advantage being that they don't have showy logos!)

FP addict thanks to #Penpalooza. Currently can't stop collecting Diplomats.

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I tend to not like MB's marketing, or their overly-blingy LE pens (some of which are appallingly ugly).  And honestly, a few years ago a guy in my local pen club had me try his 146 one night and I was completely underwhelmed with how it wrote.  Another time I tried his 149 -- which did have a nicer nib than the 146, but was too large and heavy a pen. And for the price of a 149, I bought TWO Pelikan M405s (including a limited edition color) and got different nibs on them for variety. 

I DO really like some of their inks -- I'm very fond of MB Lavender Purple, and  picked up a bottle of the Beatles LE Pop Purple ink when that was still available (and actually kinda liked the look of the related pen -- the striped one -- but couldn't afford it); and I just am kicking myself that I didn't buy a second bottle of the Leo Tolstoy LE ink while it was still available.  And recently, I picked up what I think were pretty much full bottles of Permanent Blue-Black (I think *not* the earlier IG formula) and the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Encre du Desert at an estate sale; love the Blue-Black and liked Encre du Desert *way* more than I expected (since I don't tend to care for red-brown or burgundy inks).

Ruth Morrisson aka instainedruth

"It's very nice, but frankly, when I signed that list for a P-51, what I had in mind was a fountain pen."

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Of course we do talk about marketing now in the context of MB, but back in the day what major brand didn't advertise?

 

Parker and Montblanc are my two brands of choice in this hobby-Parker has come into the picture for me a lot more recently but going down the rabbit hole of things like Vacumatics and also modern Duofolds(and 75s and 45, and of course how can you not love the 51?).

 

Parker had a huge advertising budget back in the day. So did Sheaffer and the other big brands.

 

Was a blue diamond arrow clip on a 51 sticking out of your pocket not a status symbol in the 40s?

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I used to love Magnum ice creams. They tasted nice. 

 

Then they started advertising them as a lifestyle, not an ice cream. Perfect little family, eating them in their big houses on their expensive sofas. 

 

Then it got worse. The price went up. They were no longer in the Funny Feet or Feast bracket. They got notions, and marketed themselves as luxury ice cream. Fancy packaging that goes straight in the bin - what's the point in that? Then there was the double choc layer with jam in it. They called it coulis 😕. Then they produce a gold chocolate and now a pink chocolate. They call it ruby! 

 

It got to the stage that the marketing was too much, the adverts were destroying my experience of the ice cream and when I  went into the shop I thought....ah whatever, who am I kidding. I bought and ate the damn thing.

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No one seems to notice or pay any attention to my MB pens and I have 20 or so and most in regular rotation. So, status symbol? — I don’t think so. Same with watches — I have an Omega Speedmaster, two Rolexes, including a Submariner, and more. No one ever notices. 
 

I buy watches and pens because they give me a great deal of joy. 

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The way I see it, Montblanc's branding allowed the company to flourish and survive when many other great pen makers collapsed. Now they have the capital and resources to continue making great nibs on one of the most solid and dependable lines of pens around. Yes, that comes with the unfortunate cost of the status symbol baggage (also literally sold by MB), but to have the chance to retain things like the bespoke nib program and one of the largest ranges of readily available nib options is worth it to me. And really, the 14* series isn't nearly as ostentatious as people make it out to be when you compare it to some other models that are out there, which are more in your face full of bling. The snowflake has its own bling factor, but a lot of the pens that people use are much less "understated" than a Montblanc is. 

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