The Meisterstück

I saw a wonderful video on NGeo a few days ago about the new Ferrari 599 and how they test it on their racetrack before delivery. Well, that has always been a desire – owning a Ferrari, but well, I own a number of bright red Ferrari micro models though, now consigned somewhere to storage boxes in the garage, for want of display space.

People have many desires in life – and I have my share of them. Decades ago, I carried this ‘so very true’ saying always in my wallet – wishes are desires, be careful of what you desire, you just might get it. (Remember the Midas touch story?)

Well, I desired a foreign sojourn, I got it, too much of it actually, I wished for many things like a Mont Blanc, Jaguar etc that I got…a few remain like the Ferrari, the space ride, skydiving, piloting a plane and so on..Who knows….But for now, I will pen a little on the Mont Blanc.

Lets start with a Fun Fact - Montblanc pens are tested by hand in absolute silence; their craftsmen listen for the "melody" of the pen's nib on paper. And a rumor - Mont Blanc gifts Amitabh Bachan a special pen every year on his birthday. ...I don’t know if that’s true though.. If you have one, check for authenticity – check the ring that holds the clip, you will find a serial number embossed on the ring.

Now a question: On the nib of Mont Blanc fountain pens there is a number, 4810. What is its meaning? Answer: It is the height of the Swiss mountain peak, Mont Blanc, in meters; the Mont Blanc is the highest mountain peak in Europe

Meisterstuck – is German for masterpiece, the name of MB’s most popular range. The first pens came onto the market under the name ‘Rouge & Noir’. In the USA MB is also popularly known as the ‘Power Pen’. The company started business in Hamburg around 1909 as the Simplo Filler Company; a couple of years later, Simplo adopted "Montblanc" as a trade name. Their first products were safety and eyedropper pens using hard rubber barrels and caps and US-made gold points. After WW II, they had to resort to steel nibs for a while. Famous users include Johnny Depp - Rolling stones, Anne Frank – she wrote her diaries with a Mont Blanc, John F Kennedy, E Hemmingway…the list goes on.

Airlines have a policy of offering upgrades if available, selectively, and well, the better dressed you are, the higher the possibilities. If you have a Mont Blanc in your shirt pocket, well you may be in luck. Those who travel alone, are smartly dressed,
carry quality luggage, and belong to that all-important frequent flyer scheme stand the best chance. People who have "Rev" in their passport, or who fill out documentation with a Mont Blanc pen are also likely to be favored.

Well, I have a Mont Blanc fountain pen, the
Meisterstuck, with a platinum trim, gifted by a dear friend; I have a ballpoint Mont Blanc as well. But if you ask me which pens I like writing with, I’d say it is the US made Sheaffer Steel Targa (I was always enamored by the Sheaffer nib), the German made Diplomat and the extra heavy Rotring Lava…On the other and, the pen I have used the most - My trusty green Parker 21 (a pen launched in the 50’s in USA, the $5 pen) – once used by my dad (I think he got it in the 50’s when he passed his MBBS exams) and thence gifted to me – I must have written many miles of text using this pen, I still have it, though it has been retired. Those days, I used a color of ink that only one other person, I know of (my friend Venu) uses – the color being turquoise blue – I don’t know if Parker makes that color anymore.

There was also a time when the Chinese hero pen ruled the Indian roost, Alas, i never had one to savor.

Ah! Well, talking of inks – I was at the Office depot asking for a bottle of ink and the guys helping in the aisles there had no clue whatsoever as to what I was talking about. They had fountain pens for sale, but using ink cartridges. It was different in the UK, there ink and ink fillers were always available. Here, they showed me cartridges and I kept saying ‘no, no, a bottle of ink’, attracting quizzical stares back – and I thought, am I from the Stone Age or what? Eventually the manager was summoned and he said – ‘we stopped carrying ink years ago, suggest try some art shop’ – I did exactly that and got a bottle of Sanford (A Parker Company) ink – made in India…

One happy MB user states - I must admit it is very durable. Mine has been "lost" in a car for several months in 100+ degree weather (so has been baked for a loooong time) and worked fine, except for needing a refill. Recently it went through the washing machine (thank goodness not the dryer) and again, all it needed is a refill.

In Octopussy James 007 Bond has a Mont Blanc fountain pen - Contains a mixture of Nitric and Hydrochloric acids, and an earpiece listening device that works in conjunction with Bond's wristwatch

Did you know that there are pen hackers – I didn’t know what that lofty term meant, until I found out that it meant, putting a MB refill in a cheap pen and you have the decent results, and that reminded me of the college days when we used to fit 555 filters to Charminar cigarettes, but that’s another story though.

People say an MB is usually a status symbol, it writes no better than a $10 Parker pen etc, well, in a way all that is OK, because today, 99% of your work is tapped away on a keyboard compared to a couple of decades ago when it was laboriously and legibly (handwriting maketh a man….remember what our parents said?) written on bond paper. Those were the real hey days of Mont Blanc. Today; what would an executive or a president do with a fountain pen? Sign a cheque or a peace treaty at best?? Or just clip it to adorn his shirt pocket? This is all beautifully explained by Dejan Sujic in the linked article, be sure to give it a read, because, it is a classic, in writing style & text compilation!

Pranay Gupta has a great article, and he calls the Mont Blanc, hand candy….
An oft repeated rumor – Montblanc pens have a trademark on their caps of a finely-crafted white star. It is said that the Montblanc pen was designed by a Jew for Adolph Hitler so that, without knowing it, Hitler carried the Jewish Star of David in his pocket.
Refuted though as - The Montblanc Company is a German company that was founded in the early 1900's under a different name, and then became Montblanc in 1910. According to "The Montblanc Diary and Collector's Guide" written by Jens Rosler, the first pens with the white star on the cap were produced in 1914, long before Hitler's rise to power. The white star represents the snow-capped mountain Montblanc which was also, black at the bottom, white at the top and the greatest among its peers." It does resemble a Star of David, but we have found no evidence that the resemblance is intentional. The famous star or "snowflake" motif on the cap derby was also meant to be identified with the peak of the mountain.

MB and India - For the deskbound there's nothing like owning a classy writing instrument. And Mont Blanc has always been aware of this. "Exceptional things are limited, without limits, life would have no exception," proclaims the first page of the Mont Blanc brochure. In India, the company is represented by Entrack, owned by former Test cricketer Dilip Doshi. Entrack is the sole distributor of Mont Blanc pens and has exclusive outlets in top five cities in India. Says Rashmi Asnani, manager, Mont Blanc, "We don't see Waterman as real competition because Mont Blanc is a lifestyle brand while Waterman is exclusively pens."



Interesting article. Why dont you post it in Recca as well?

Maddy said…
Thanks KP for dropping by,
come again...
diyadear said…
wow such an interesting post on a "fountain pen"?? wow mr maddy, u rock!!
Dr.Rudhran said…
?seen the new gandhi one
Kadambari said…
Not much of an ink pen fan though, but tried a few pens to gift the spouse on our wedding anniversary. I liked the Sailor pen. The sales assistant told me that the nibs of the Sailor pen are very unique unlike the Western models - who are all supposed to share the same nib maker.

Haven't googled much on this, and cant be sure of the authenticity of this claim.
But the story worked, and husband seemed happy :)
Maddy said…
thanks kadambari..
the sailor is a pen I have not much idea about. it does look like the montblanc though!!
some users say it is as good if not better than an MB