Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Montblanc Masters for Meisterstück L'Aubrac Review

I am opening the year with a review of the Montblanc Masters for Meisterstück L'Aubrac Fountain Pen that I purchased by total chance just yesterday. (Note to my readers: I have now expanded my blog scope to fountain pens, too. I hope that this will be a welcome variation).  I found only a few reviews online so I think this might be useful to potential buyers of this Montblanc or similar ones. Particularly, I also compare it with other fountain pens like Nakaya and Graf von Faber Castell. Again, I didn't see many comparisons of Montblanc vs Nakaya on the internet (just some marginal ones) so I think it would be useful to clarify my experience with both.  As a general background I do have several fountain pens and I started getting some more last year. I try to limit myself to those that I can use daily. Or almost. I am also trying not get too addicted ;) 

Introduction

For the winter holidays and New Years I bought myself a present: a Nakaya Makie "Folding screen of flowers" which is one of the most elaborate (and consequentially expensive one). The attempt was to get something really nice for daily use and limit my appetite for buying more. Some sort of buying "grail." (I also asked family and close friends to buy me a pen as a holiday present. As a result I received a Graf von Faber Castell Anello Wood fountain pen and a Montblanc Heritage 1912 Fountain Pen.)  I was not pleased with the Nakaya Makie (which came with an M-Flexible Nib) so I was looking for another special fountain pen and when I had the chance to try the last one in the shop, I said yes! this might be the ultimate pen for me :) 

Before this and the Heritage I had no Montblancs in my modest collection, mostly because I wanted something truly special and I have always assumed that Japanese fountain pens (I own some Sailors and another Nakaya but with the Music Nib) would be more unique.  I have had to reconsider my view on this, although it is that of a non-expert, everyday user point of view. 

Sorry if the photos are not high quality, just iPhone 5 photos with no fancy macro capabilities. They should still give a good idea of this pen and a fair comparison with the others. 


Packaging 10 out of 10

The packaging of the Montblanc l'Aubrac is inspired by the iconic knife manufacturer. The outside box has a woodgrain motif:




The pen case itself is made of solid wood and includes the brochure of this special edition that is also available here 





The details of the box are in line with the special edition 








Appearance and design: 10/10

The appearance is inspired by L'Aubrac knifes, distinctive without being too flashy or busy. The Silver finish stands out yet the wooden body makes it light and gives the pen an elegant look.  



The barrel is made of granadilla wood and the finish and inset dots are solid silver.


Construction and Quality 10/10 

The construction and finish are of very high quality - like you would expect at this price range but I have seen more expensive pens with a less ideal construction. 





The Nib should be the same or similar of a Montblanc Meisterstück 146


Weight and Dimension 10/10

A major issue with special and limited edition pens is that in many cases they are not really made to write with but are rather solely for collection purposes. (Some are truly huge and impossible to use, I would say.) This is not the case with the Montblanc L'Aubrac: thanks to the wooden construction it has a reasonable weight. Dimensions are similar to a Meisterstück 146 (so I am told) and are of the same length as the Nakaya or the Grav von Faber Castell. 




Now to the writing samples:




Nib and Performance 10/10 

Here is the true surprise for me. As an amateur collector, I have been told by professionals that once you own a Nakaya you see a huge difference that leaves the "standardised" Montblanc far behind. This was in the back of my mind as Montblanc pens are more mass produced than other handmade, boutique brands, and it might disappoint. 

In this case, the Montblanc Masters for Meisterstück l'Aubrac (with M Nib) has a much better performance than the Nakaya with Medium Flexible Nib and a tie with the Graf von Faber Castell Anello Wood (which, at a much more reasonable price point offers a wooden body fountain pen of amazing performance). At the risk of discovering that the nib is very similar I would say that the Meisterstück l'Aubrac gives a better performance than the Montblanc Heritage 1912 (which might be purely from small difference on the nib: both in the example below have a Montblanc M Nib). 





Filling System & Maintenance 8/10

The pen uses a piston filler system that is perfectly fine but the missing ink window can leave you without an important indication on when to refill. 




Cost and Value: 10/10

This is certainly not a bargain and not a pen for everyone but, in the extreme world of fountain pen limited and special editions it is certainly worth the price, thanks to the very special finish and amazing writing performance that, in my experience, easily leaves more mythically acclaimed pens like the Nakaya far behind. 





Here is a comparison with the Nakaya Nib 



In terms of design the Nakaya is certainly fantastic: 



The Graf von Faber Castell Anello provides good value at a  much more reasonable price.



Graf von Faber Castell Nib: 



The Montblanc Heritage 1912:




The Nib  of the 1912 Heritage seems similar  to the L'Aubrac or is it exactly the same ? :)




Family photo size comparison 





The Nakaya and the Montblanc l'Aubrac share a similar size.


The Graf von Faber Castell size vs the Montblanc l'Aubrac. Cleary slimmer :) which makes it ideal for daily use.


Montblanc Heritage 1912 vs. Montblanc L'Aubrac. The Heritage is smaller due to the retractable nib mechanism.





Mother of Pearl Montblanc Logo.


A closer look at the writing samples:
Disclaimer on the Nakaya: it could well be that I am not that proficient in using the M Flexible Nib or that simply I have been unlucky with the nib.  That said, at this price level one would expect not just perfection but ultra perfection. Something definitely missing in terms of consistency...Sometimes it writes amazing, sometimes it seems to be fighting with the paper!




What do you think of these samples? Let me know in the comments! 


Here is a comparison with the Nakaya Nib:


Conclusion. As I said in my introduction, this review is from an average user experience, one that lacks an in-depth knowledge of the tiny yet important differences of nib customisation, henceforth just judging the "out of the box" experience. The Montblanc Masters for Meisterstück L'Aubrac offers good value and an outstanding writing experience. This is not limited to this model; Montblanc in general, in my experience, is very consistent. More expensive models like the Nakaya Makie folding screen of flowers certainly have a more sophisticated design requiring more handmade, artisan work to be produced, hence the more stratospheric price level, yet do not necessarily offer you a better writing experience.

In fairness other Nakayas with a Music Nib are working very well but on this particular one the M-Flex Nib was a big disappointment. I will certainly get it customised to have a better ink flow to match the Montblanc. I'm sure this is possible but again, at this price level I expected more. The feedback on this nib is also considerably higher than in an M Montblanc. 

The Montblanc l'Aubrac comes close to being my very favourite fountain pen together with the Graf von Faber Castell that also offers an amazing writing experience. 

Another important point: I like simplicity and both Montblanc and Graf von Faber Castell offer very easy to understand Nib Sizes. All this flexible - non flexible - stub and what else confuses me a lot ;)  I like simple choices that simple write well out of the box. This is for a daily user who is looking for a consistent and outstanding writing experience without too much fine tuning. 

I would be very interested in your experiences comparing  Montblanc with other brands. Feel free to let me know through the comments ! Thanks for reading. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

ABC Typewriter 1960










A more detailed description:

In 1955 the Koch's Adler Sewing Machine Company of Bielefeld, Germany, launched its first typewriter, a portable machine that immediately stood apart from all other typewriters of the 1950s. The reason was its slender brilliant design, the work of the Bauhaus pioneer Prof. Wilhelm Wagenfeld. Neatly bringing together all the modern features of a typewriter of its time, the ABC was made to look good from every perspective and on any decor. Adding even more to the fantastic lines, the ABC was produced in different bold color combinations.

The machine on offer was made in 1960 and features a glossy pinkish-orange color with 44 ivory keys (88 characters). This model was made just after introduction of the ribbon selector device (with a lever at the right side of the machine, see picture 3), offering two-color plus stencil. Another nice feature of this ABC is a red triangle on the right carriage handle which warns the typist of the page end approaching.


Brand: ABC
Manufacturer: Koch Adler Nähmaschinen Werke A.G. – Bielefeld, West Germany
Designer: Prof. Wilhelm Wagenfeld (1900-1990), Bauhaus pioneer
Serial Number: 3-59116
Year of production: 1960 
Production period: 1955-1963
Keyboard: german QWERTZ
Weight: 4 Kg




Saturday, April 6, 2013

Smith-Corona "The Ghost" Typewriter



"The Ghost" typewriter (a.k.a. refurbished and chromed Smith-Corona)has arrived. Before you feel WOW about this note that, despite the very high price tag, it present the symptoms of the "skipping spaces randomly" syndrome. But in terms of look it is as nice as pictured in the various online photos and I am even hopeful to be able to contact somewhen next week one of the only typewriters repairs in Zürich that might fix the space skipping issue.  In terms of writing comfort I did hear a lot about this Smith-Corona model and, not because of the space skipping, I have to rate this as pretty much average. Just in memory of previous ill judgments on the olivetti valentine I did try it again side by side and I have to say that the Valentine is way better. It might be because both the two Valentine I have are in very good conditions (the one I use in my office was totally new and unboxed for the first time). In terms of precious typewriters the  Gold Plated Royal Quiet De Luxe is also way better. 

Sorry for sounding a bit negative / too frank on this ! Perhaps the look compensate some of these deficiencies !

With hindsight perhaps typewriters in their original state are not better either...or simply better ?! 

What do you think? Feel free to let me know though the comments !