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 ;)
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.