Fountain Pen Review – Aurora Optima Monviso 360 LE

If you are anything like me, I feel like I have a pretty good handle on the world of fountain pens. From the elegant Montblanc models, bulletproof Pelikan’s, to flamboyant Visconti’s and Montegrappa’s, there aren’t many brands I am not familiar with. Aurora was one of those Italian made brands I had heard about, but for whatever reason had never dabbled in.

And what a mistake that was! Within a few hours of reading I learnt about their incredible in house nib production, skillful creation of ebonite feeds and gorgeous proprietary celluloid ‘Auroloide’. I was hooked, I had to have one, and the Optima Limited Edition Monviso 360 fit the bill perfectly.

What is a/the Monviso you ask? Well, true to their roots, Aurora named this limited edition after the highest mountain of the Cottian Alps near their hometown of Torino. The black and white is meant to reflect the colours of the mountain and its vegetation. An interesting choice from Aurora and one I see a connection to with their brand, not just another random limited edition (*cough* Visconti *cough*). Does the pen do the mountain justice? Let’s find out…

Where the inspiration for this Limited Edition comes from
Product Specifications
Name: Aurora Optima, Monviso 360 Limited Edition
Colour: Black and white spotted pattern
Materials: Celluloid barrel and cap (‘Auroloide’), Palladium trim.
Nib Size & Material: Factory Stub 18 karat 750 gold nib.
Filling Mechanism: Piston filler with special reserve resovoir.
Measurements: 126mm capped, 123 uncapped, 152mm posted. Posts securely. Weighs 21.5grams.
Price: RRP $795USD – street price around $600USD
Available: Sold out, though you may get lucky and find one NOS on eBay. Only 360 produced.

What Makes It
Gorgeous material. No matter which way you look at it, the material is a real winner. Different in many ways to the Nero Perla in that it has much more black in the mix of colours. The flecks of white have a lovely pearlescent shine and contract spectacularly.

Details, details. Every part of this pen exudes provenance and craftsmanship. From the lovely scroll work on the nib, to the red ebonite feed, stunning trim clarity and quality of materials; it is immediate to see real care and attention has gone into making this pen. A nice retro style stamp adorns the barrel and what looks to be a hand engraved LE number adds a touch of personalisation. No corners have been cut on this pen and the designers have thought about every feature with a useful clip and excellent piston mechanism. Full marks.

A writers pen indeed. As the Monviso is part of the Optima line, there is no question this is a pen for those who are serious about writing and not just having a flashy writing instrument. The weight is fantastically balanced and does not tire the hand, the girth perfect and the line variation achieved by the stub nib is fantastic, with long writing sessions the order of the day with a high ink capacity of 1.1mL. Posting a fountain pen is usually cause for concern; not so on the Monviso, perfectly balanced and deep posting to allow for those who like a bigger pen. I was dubious about the long section length prior to purchasing the pen but these thoughts quickly dissipated once my hands grabbed a hold of it. The section is one of the most comfortable I have used.

Feels like a well kept secret – From the box, to the pattern, to the nib choices on offer (I think 8 or 9 in total), quality and writing performance I wondered why I managed to snag this pen at a good price. Given the limited quantity of 360, I would have imagined this flying off the shelf. You bet your bottom dollar if this had a snow capped symbol on the top there would be a rush to grab it. I think it is better this way, a guilty pleasure for those who have been around the fountain pen block a few times.

What Breaks It
I am scraping the bottom of the barrel here, but here goes…

Stub nib was SHARP to start with. Many people will talk about the notion that Aurora nibs leave the factory with a reasonably moderate flow and a hint of ‘tooth’. Whilst I haven’t written with many Aurora nibs to confirm whether this is true, I can say that this stub nib was most un-stub-like upon inking it up for the first time. It really is on the sharp size of stub and in reality writes more like an italic, maybe even a cursive italic nib. The sharpness meant that it took some adjustment initially to write with this nib (and I’ve used my fair share of stubs and italics), and in the end led to smooth it somewhat on some micromesh to round out some of the sharpness. The result was more of a cursive italic that was much better suited to everyday writing duties…just.

My advice would be not to choose the stub nib if you are looking at the nib as an everyday writer, it is simply too finicky. That being said, once you have the nib set up the way you like it, WOW does this nib sing! The line variation, not from flexibility, is fabulous and it does indeed feel special.

It ain’t cheap. There are countless articles on the internet about how small the Optima is, and correlate size to value of the RRP. Hogwash I say!

The pen really isn’t as small as claimed. I have regular sized hands and it is the perfect size for me unposted. The posted size will make this pen accessible to most people except those with large hands. Perhaps as the larger metal pen becomes the norm in fountain pens today this influences opinion, however, you will see a size comparison photo and I will let you be the judge of that.

With all that said, the RRP is nearly $800 USD is right up there. Too much, in fact. The street prices asked by dealers across Europe and the USA seem to be about the right price, especially if you have a coupon for an additional 10% off. Definitely be on the lookout for a deal on these pens.

Overall Verdict
As a writing instrument, this is one that will both excite you and not trade flamboyance for unreliability typical of other Italian made pens. Excellent execution of the concept and a highly useable writing instrument mean this pen is a big THUMBS UP from me. This is my first, and won’t be my last Aurora.

Price will be the ultimate determining factor in the purchase of this pen (if you can find one), but I will say the Monviso may be one of those pens in a few years time you wish has snapped up. For a slightly cheaper and readily available option, check out the Nero Perla Optima from Aurora, it may save you the heart ache of missing out.

Cheers!
Manllectables

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